Air Drop That Failed
Death of two infantry regiments
By Pete House
After the Battle of the Bulge began on 16 December 1944, the 106th Infantry Division received virtually no supplies. Most units were short of everything before the German attack ever began at 6:30 AM on 16 December. The 422nd Infantry Regiment on the left and the 423rd Infantry Regiment in the center were virtually cut off by the Germans by 8:30 AM on 17 December. Their main supply route across the Our River at Schoenberg was controlled by the enemy 1st Army ordered them to stay put. Both 589th and 590th FA Battalions (105 mm howitzers) were with the two regiments. 424th infantry regiment on the right along with the 28th Infantry Division’s 112th Infantry Regiment were ordered to pull back thus saving them.
has been conflicting stories concerning air drops of supplies to both
422nd and 423rd Infantry Regiments. Col. Alan Jones, Jr. provided the
following notes from Division G-3. May not be completely accurate.
December 11051 hours from 423rd. Drop food and medical supplies until
route open. We have no artillery.
December 1345 hours to 423rd. Supplies to be dropped Buchet tonight.
18 December 0215 hours to 423rd. Ammo, Food, and water will be dropped.
18 December 2100 hours to 423rd. Supplies to be dropped at bend in road 1/2 mile south of Schonburg. You will advise 422nd.
19 December 0355 hours from 423. 590 FA Bn has 300 rounds1, casualties moderate, out of contact with 422. Med. supplies and evacuation critical. Motors lost. Urgent escape route be opened. Unable to reach drop point, will display panel.
One of the glider pilots of IX Troop Carrier Command was H. Rex Shama. During October and November, 1944, he flew C-47’s and worked in his Squadron Intelligence office.
Flight Officer Shama’s concern about the lack of information about his Troop Carrier Command’s support of military operations led him to do considerable research over the past ten years, at among other places, the National Archives and the Air Force Historical Research Center.
He found documents that indicated Major General Alan Jones requested a resupply mission from the Air Officer attached to VIII Corps about noon on Sunday 17 December. A snafu2 apparently occurred between IX Tactical Air Command and First
Army G-4 (supply). It was 24 hours before the red tape was cleared and by then bad weather over the target (422nd and 423rd Infantry Regiments) and air base had closed down.
In His new book, ‘Pulse and Repulse”3 H. Rex Shama devotes a full chapter to air resupply of the 106th Infantry Division. Repulse was the name given to the Bulge counteroffensive.
At 0435 hours on 18 December the 106th telephoned First Army’s Air Section and IX Tactical Air Command asking that ammunition be dropped at two specific locations. At 0550 the 106th telephoned an additional request to IX TAC for bandages, plasma, morphine and 8,000 rations.
At 0550 423rd Infantry requested 81 mm, 60 mm, and 105 mm ammunition (wonder if this was cannon or artillery rounds?). At 0610 they requested more medical supplies, bandages, and Carlisle dressings. Division sent a message to the 422nd and 423rd Infantry with instructions to display a fifty foot square orange panel at the drop points. Does anyone remember this?
In England at Welford Park (home of Shama’s squadron) the weather was expected to be satisfactory on 18 December for morning operations. Over forty aircraft of the 435th Troop Carrier Group (C-47s) were loaded with parapacks and cabin bundles for a battle resupply mission. Twenty-one actually took off.
They were to fly to Florennes, Belgium where they were to be briefed for the specific final route and drop zone locations. The lead aircraft was advised to divert to Liege because of increased fighter operations at Florennes. All the aircraft were then diverted to Druex, some fifty miles west of Paris.
The planes and their crews were parked at Druex for the next four days due to bad weather. On 22 December all plans to resupply the 106th Infantry Division were canceled and first priority went to the 101 Airborne Division at Bastogne.
Of course the remnants of the 106th Infantry Division and 7th Armored Division withdrew from St. Vith on 22 December from tremendous pressure by the Germans. St. Vith and Bastogne were the pivotal road hubs for the Germans to succeed in their march to Antwerp. The six days the 106th held St. Vith ended the German capacity to succeed.
Based upon Mr. Shama’s research apparently Division Commander, Major General Alan Jones did all he could to save his two combat teams.
1 At daylight A Battery, 590 FA Bn only had 3 rounds.
2 Means “situation normal all fouled up”.+
ordered from Eakin Press, P0 Drawer 90159, Austin, TX,
|Page last revised 11/23/2006|