AFTER ACTION REPORTS
In 1945, probably early in April, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph F. Puett, former commander of the 2nd Battalion, 423rd infantry Regiment, 106th Infantry Division wrote or dictated a report to a member of the staff of the Adjutant General, 106th Infantry Division. Colonel Puett must have made the report shortly after he was freed from a German prisoner of war camp.
The report or "Certificate" as it is titled is quoted verbatim with notes added by O. B. Patton, formerly 2nd Lieutenant commanding 2nd Platoon, Company F, of Puett's battalion.
The accompanying notes by Patton are in no sense an attempt to contradict Colonel Puett but only to add Patton's personal recollection of the events recorded and comments by historians who have written about them.
In the report and notes, comments in parentheses are by the original author.
Those in brackets are added by Patton. A list of sources referred to by Patton in his notes appears at their end.
Subsequently, on 17 April 1945, Colonel Puett with Captain Joshua F. Sutherland, former Battalion Surgeon, 2nd Battalion, 423rd Infantry Regiment, 106th Infantry Division, was interviewed by John G. Westover, who identifies himself only as "Historian," and the interview was recorded under the title of "423 Infantry Regiment in the Ardennes Battle." The content of the interview seems to be an expansion of the earlier report by Colonel Puett and is quoted here following the first annotated report.
O. B. Patton
FIRST REPORT BY LIEUTENANT COLONEL JOSEPH PUETT
"C- E- R-T- I-F-1-C-A-T- E
MOVEMENTS AND ACTIONS OF 2nd BATTALION 423D INFANTRY
FROM 16TH TO 19TH DECEMBER 1944
On 16th of December
1944 the battalion was billeted with Cots G, H, and Hq Co at Born
Belgium and E and F Co at Medell, Belgium in Division Reserve. At
approximately 0700, the Bn was alerted for immediate movement, upon
receipt of 30 2 1/2 ton trucks, furnished by Division Headquarters.
At approximately 08301 the Bn was ordered by the Commanding General to proceed to the high ground just South of Auw Belgium and to extricate the 589th FA Bn and to release the trucks upon arrival at this point.2
Just before receipt of this order, 2nd Bn patrols had reported the fast withdrawal of Cavalry and Engineer units from their positions between Andler and Auw. This was reported to Division. Two of my patrols had skirmishes with German patrols about 11/2 miles to the North of our positions at Schonberg, with our receiving two casualties.3 This was reported. At 0845 4 the Cavalry and Engineer units came streaming from the North through Schonberg retreating towards St Vith. At 09005 stopped the Commanding Officer of the Cavalry Troop and ask him if he were going to make a stand. He informed he that he was, and that they were laying a mine field at Andler. I informed him of my orders to move and also told him if he let Schonberg fall into enemy hands that two Regiments would be cut off. He said that he could hold - he knew till late the next morning. However, this officer proceeded on toward St Vith. Those facts and conversation were reported to Division, and I ask if there were any change of orders. There were none.
The 2nd Bn was withdrawn from its dug in positions defending Schonberg and entrucked and proceeded to the high ground just south of Auw at 2200.6
During this time there had been no let up of the vehicles and men of the Cavalry and Engineer units retreating toward St Vith. This was reported to Division as late as 2200 as telephone communications was broken for the move. The move was made in complete blackout with a drizzly rain and without loss of a vehicle.
The Bn arrived at
the 589th Bn CP at 0030 17th December and detrucked and the trucks
released as ordered at 0045.
We endeavored to divert the enemy's attention from the FA Battery by a patrol in force but then discovered that the Battery was so stuck in mud that it was impossible to get out but three trucks, with aid of bulldozer. This would be impossible to do by daylight. Permission was then granted the Artillery Battalion Commander by Division to destroy guns and equipment at 0615, just before daybreak.
Upon arrival at the 589th Area patrols had been sent out and one patrol to our right flank had the mission of contacting the unit on our right, the 422d Infantry whose rear was about 2500 yards to our right flank. This was done, and contact was made with Cannon Co 422d Infantry. This patrol also discovered 3 German Tiger tanks.7 on the road that lead off of our right flank toward the East.
At 0530 our patrols
to the front reported that the activity of the enemy it seemed that
they were getting ready for an armored attack along the road that
ran south from Auw into our positions. All units were alerted and
all Anti-tank weapons had been dug in.
A few minutes after this action it was noted that German Armor was approaching along road to our front. In this engagement I noted 4 more tanks that were knocked out and the road practically blocked by them. Enemy infantry were riding these latter tanks. Along our left enemy Infantry attacked at the same time as the tanks, however these attacks had been beaten off by 0830. In this action we had lost 2 of the three 57MM Anti-tank guns and 2 of the 4 guns of the attached TD platoon.8 These had been hit by enemy Armor in place about 8000 yards to our left flank on high ground. We had suffered only 5 dead and 10 [or 15? Original illegible] wounded in this attack. Communications with Division had been lost at 0645. Three batteries of the 589th FA Bn had gotten out. So to obey orders not to get heavily engaged and with both flanks exposed, I ordered a withdrawal to Schonberg at 0845 and immediately sent reconnaissance to Schonberg. At 0930 this patrol returned with two members of a five man patrol which I had left in Schonberg. Their members of a five man patrol vehicle had been destroyed by enemy fire with the other three casualties.9 These men had come on foot from Schonberg, and stated that German armor in force had arrived in Schonberg at about 0300 17th December and had knocked out the last two vehicles of the withdrawing 589th FA Bn as it passed through Schonberg, and that German armor was also there hub to hub on the Bleialf-Schonberg road from the junction of the Radscheid road into Schonberg.10 This was the road we had to travel in our withdrawal.
The patrol I had sent out to Schonberg confirmed this. They were fired on just before they reached the junction of the Radscheid-Bleialf-Schonberg road.
that I was cut off from any withdrawal in that direction to west to
St. Vith by at least a German Panzer Division, and from 10 prisoners
we had captured learning they were from two different Panzer
Divisions.11 I didn't think
I had the power to try and break through them. I had no
communication with Division as my only radio had been hit early in
the morning. 1 decided to withdraw to the rear of my Regiment (423d)
which way was clear, and place myself under command of Regiment.
This I did and by his 12
order formed with the rest of the Regiment formed a perimeter
defense, my Bn facing West and southwest. This was accomplished by
1430 17th December and remained in these positions until 1000 18
elements were fired on at the cross roads of cut off road [Engineer
Cut-off?] and the Auw-Bleialf road at 1110.14
"E" Company deployed to the left of our advance, and attempted to
push enemy to south and clear road. It was very open country and "E"
Company encountered very heavy MG, Motor [mortar?] and rocket fire.
In the meantime the 3d Bn had been committed to our right [north] but could not advance across the road. 17
We continued to attack till dark with all companies committed. By dark on [at] about 1900 the Bn had suffered approximately 300 casualties and had no 81 MM ammunition and only 2 rds per mortar of 60 MM ammunition. We had lost 5 heavy MG's and 4 light MG's. We had 375 rds of ammunition per MG left and 16 officer casualties. 18
At dark we consolidated and dug in for the night.
At 2330 orders were
received to pull out and cross Auw-Schonberg road about 1000 yards
to north of our engagement and assemble in rear of 3d Bn
19 This was accomplished by 0400
of 19th December along with 1st Bn.
During the reorganization I sent out patrols to our front and right. At 15151 [1515?] these patrols returned while I was in conference with regiment commander of 422d infantry and informed me that to our right about 1500 yards were 35 German tanks and several self-propelled artillery pieces. And to our front were strong German armored forces,21 and that 2000 yards to our right front German artillery was going into position facing our formations. I immediately went on reconniancense [reconnaissance] to check this information and when I returned was informed by the Regt Commander 422d Inf [Colonel George L. Descheneaux, Jr.] that he had ordered all arms destroyed and had sent an immersery [emissary?] to the enemy to surrender, in order not to waste lives needlessly. I then ask permission to withdraw my Bn, around the draw to our left and join my Regiment. (423). This was denied as it might cause the 422d to be shot up needlesly.
I then gave orders that anyone in my Bn could try to reach American lines in small groups who so desired. About 50 took advantage of this.
At 1700 the Germans came up and took us in custody.
At the time of my return from reconnainance [reconnaissance] I had only 387
men left in the Bn and 14 officers, 3
heavy MG's 2 light MG's and 2 60 MM Mortars with 3 rds each.
A TRUE COPY: (s) Joseph F Puett
(s) Vollie L. McCollum JOSEPH F. PUETT
A / VOLLIE L. McCOLLUM Lt Col, lnf
CWO, U.S.A. Bn Comdr 2d Bn 423d Inf
Asst Adj Gen till 19th Dec 1944."
1. Time given seems unlikely. Must be either 1830 [6:30 pm] or 2030 [8:30 pm].
My guess is 2030 [8:30 pm] . See Note 6, below.
2. Presumably just after receiving this order, Puett sent 2/Lt Patton with a jeep patrol to locate 589th FA Bn. Patton reached 589th late that night via Schonberg-Bleialf road to Engineer Cut-off, through Cut-off to Bleialf-Auw road, then northeast to 589th just south of Auw, evading a German patrol in vicinity of Engineer Cut-off. He picked up a guide from the 589th and returned to Schonberg by same route. Saw no enemy on return trip. [See Eisenhower, pp. 200-202, for earlier account of this].
I wish Col Puett's account shed more light on the order he received from General Jones to leave Schonberg late on 16 December and go to the assistance of 589th and 590th FA Bns near Auw. Cole [p. 156] says "Apparently General Jones intended that the battalion should turn north to Andler and push aside the enemy along the Auw-Andler- Schonberg road. Puett, however, got on the wrong road and turned south, leaving the northern approach to Schonberg open." Eisenhower [p. 2001 says Jones "intended to close the gap between the 422nd Infantry and the cavalry at Andler and cover the open northern flank of the 422d. But in the 'fog of war,' Jones' intentions seem to have been misconstrued by the battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph F. Puett."
I do not believe
Col Puett either "misconstrued" his orders or "got on the wrong
road." His report indicates exactly what he thought about leaving
Schonberg in the hands of retreating cavalrymen and he reported
those thoughts to General Jones, asking if there were any change in
his orders. Puett says "There were none," and that indicates to me
Jones knew what route Puett intended to take and made no objection.
Note that Macdonald [p. 123] does not say Puett "got on the wrong
road" and he alone of these three historians cites correspondence
with Puett [p. 663] as one of his sources. Cole also says [p.156]
Puett's battalion ultimately found its way through the dark across
country to the 589th FA Bn, and that is wrong. The battalion truck
column followed the same route from Schonberg to Auw as I had
earlier, guided by an artilleryman. I brought back for that
purpose. Where Cole got his "cross-country1' notion is beyond me; I
do not believe it was possible to take a convoy of loaded trucks
across country from Schonberg to Auw.
4. "0845" here must mean 8:45 pm .
5. "0900" here must mean 9:00 pm 121001.
6. "2200" is doubtless correct. Puett says in his next paragraph, "This was reported to Division as late as 2200 as telephone communications was broken for the move." If 2200 is correct here, the later times cited in Notes 1, 4, and 5 are correct.
7. I doubt these were Tiger tanks. I was there and I thought they were tanks but post-war reports prove me wrong. The left flank of the 106th Div was attacked by the 294th and 295th VG In! Regts, 18th VG Div, reinforced by a German Corps unit, 244th Assault Gun Bde. Some of the division's 18 18th Tank Destroyer Bn was doubtless also present but 18th VG Div had no tanks. German assault guns and TD's were generally a tank chassis mounting guns or howitzers of various caliber. They looked like tanks to us and we were likely to call any German tank a Tiger.
8. Tank destroyers with us were
probably 3-inch guns towed by half-tracks of the 820th TD Bn,
which was attached to 106th Inf Div.
10. Most sources say elements of 18th VG Div did not reach Schonberg from Andler until about daylight 17 December. MacDonald [p.318] says the regiment [293d ] of the 18Th VG Div "supposed to move from Bleialf to Schonberg....were slow to push through little groups of Americans they encountered along the road, so that not until nightfall [17 December] did the German pincers actually close at Schonberg." It made small difference to us. I think we knew of but one bridge back over the Our River at Schonberg and Germans from Auw seized that early 17 December.
11. Puett's estimate of German forces blocking his withdrawal from Auw to Schonberg seems high. There may have been other German units spilling into our sector from the north but most sources say the pincers closed behind his battalion and the two U.S. regiments on the Schnee Eifel consisted of the three reinforced regiments of the 18th VG Div Perhaps prisoners taken by 2nd Bn had been drafted into that division from hospitals or other units and claimed they still belonged to those units.
12. Colonel C.C. Cavender, CO, 423d lnf Regt?
13. This order must have been Col Cavender's reaction to an order from Division to 422nd and 423rd Inf Regts at 0215 on 18 December to leave their Schnee Eifel positions and fight their way out of German encirclement, destroying the enemy on the Schonberg-St. Vith Road [MacDonald p. 339] . According to MacDonald the order was ambiguous: the two regiments were "to destroy enemy by fire from dug-in positions south of Schonberg-St. Vith road." Col Cavender [423rd] and Col Descheneaux [CO, 422d lnf Regt] , says MacDonald, concluded they were to attack southwest across Bleialf-Schonberg road to the Our River downstream from Schonberg in the vicinity of Setz, there to dig in and put fire on the Schonberg-St. Vith road north of the river. Cavender and Descheneaux, said MacDonald, thought this was to support a relieving attack by 7th Armored Div moving southeast from St. Vith. According to MacDonald, Gen Jones, CG 106th Inf Div, named no overall commander for the attack. Cavender made no attempt to assert his seniority but he and Descheneaux coordinated a plan by which the two regiments would attack 18 December in column of battalions, 423rd Regt leading.
14. Some time before 2/423d Inf moved out 18 December, Lt Col Puett gave 2/Lt Patton another patrol mission. With 11 men of his platoon and 16 men of the regimental 1&R Platoon with an SCR 300 radio, he was to move west from the regimental perimeter to seek contact with the Germans. Patton set up a patrol base in a building near the intersection of the Bleialf-Auw road and a farm track leading northwest toward Schonberg; sent the 1&R Platoon group up this farm road, three men north toward Auw and six men south toward the Engineer Cut-off. About 1100 Dec 18th, the get-away man of the 1&R patrol returned to report a large body of Germans encountered, the remainder of the patrol lost. The patrol to the north returned, reporting no contact with Germans. The patrol to the south reported Germans moving north on the Bleialf-Auw road [perhaps from 293d VG Regt] and Patton set up an ambush. One or two Germans entering the ambush were killed but others escaped and simultaneously Puett's battalion emerged on the Auw-Bleialf road, turned southeast and encountered more Germans near the upper exit from the Engineer Cut-off, killing four and capturing one. Returning what was left of his patrol to the regiment, Patton reported to Lt Col Puett, bringing with him a rifle taken from one of the dead Germans, a semi-automatic weapon, the first such encountered. It was probably a Gewehr 44. [More on this in Eisenhower, pp. 251-252].
15. This was 3rd Platoon, F1423 Inf Regt, commanded by 2d Lt Bertsche. It fought with the Engineer Task Force Riggs and shared in the defense of St Vith.
16. In this attack F/423 encountered hastily dug-in German infantry in heavy woods. Patton was slightly wounded, not seriously enough to go to an aid station. [More on this in Eisenhower, p. 252] .
17. Puett does not mention that other sources say at dusk Col Lavender cornmilted 1st Bn, 423d Inf on Puett's left [north]. It made no headway and was pulled back to Oberlascheid during the night, leaving A Company behind, unable to withdraw. [MacDonald p. 340] .
18. Patton's notes on this action, written in January 1945 while a POW, add some details at platoon level [he commanded 2d Platoon, F Co]:
"After morning patrol [Note 14] rejoined platoon with F Company and led it in attack toward Bleialf-Schonberg road. Slight wound - grenade splinters in hand and wrist. About 1500 reached road but could not cross it. Many German trucks, assault guns and half-tracks with multiple AA guns. Infantry accompanying. Asked for support by Bn heavy weapons company but messenger reported none available; Capt Zullig, [CO F/423] and Schnitzlein [2/Lt, CO 1st Platoon, F Co] with his platoon were separated from company and 1/Lt Brownell [F Co Exec] was in command. Another messenger sent asking for help returned saying Brownell badly wounded, 1/Lt Dempsey [CO, Weapons Platoon, F/423] in command. No help, H Company [Heavy Weapons] fully committed. Messenger wounded while returning; sent him to aid station. About 1530 went to company CP to ask mortar support and found Dempsey wounded. Returned to platoon with Thompson [messenger] . German MG and mortar fire. No contact with E Co on left, heavy enemy fire from that direction. 1 LMG and 1 60mm mortar with plaLoon but little ammunition left. H Co trucks and jeeps moving north behind us under mortar and artillery fire. Messenger from F Company 1st Sergeant [Dunbar] brought order to pull back from road and dig in. Went with Thompson to tell men in woods to fall back. About 1600 hit badly, both legs. Thompson got an H Co jeep to take me to aid station [Radscheid?] . Some time that night Doc Sutherland [Bn Surgeon] said regiment had orders attack Schonberg. Medical orderly stays with wounded who cannot walk. Next day--maybe two days--Germans found basement aid station." [More on this in Eisenhower, p. 253.].
The medical corpsman, Kenneth Hunt, who stayed with the wounded in the abandoned aid station told his story in a letter of 6 October 1987:
" .... I was a medic with the 423rd medical detachment, regimental headquarters. During the first few days of the Bulge we had established an aid station in an abandoned stucco house in the Schnee Eifel area, a few miles from Geroldstein. I don't remember if we were in the town of Radscheid or not. On both the 16th and 17th 1 spent most of my time helping carry litter cases to the aid station from various positions on the field. I was exposed to enough cold and snow to develop frostbite in both feet. By December 18th, we were treating about 25 or 30 wounded Americans. We had also captured 4 Germans who were only slightly wounded. What I remember about them is that they were very young, about 16 or so. They were smiling and joking among themselves. The war was over for them, they were going to an 'American rest camp.' Most of our men had severe wounds. Some had been hit in the stomach or chest. It was also on the 18th that the 423rd regiment was attacked on all sides. It was evident that we were surrounded and in an untenable position. It was either on the 18th or early 19th that Colonel Cavender [CO, 423rd Inf Regt] gave orders for the regiment to move out and try to escape the pocket. Major Fridline [Gaylord Fridline, CO, Medical Det, 423rd Inf Regt] was now faced with a problem, what to do with the wounded. We were cut off from the battalion field hospital so they couldn't be sent back there. And many would not survive the ordeal of moving with the regiment. The best decision was to leave them in the aid station with enough supplies to last a few days and to return for them as soon as possible. Major Fridline asked for two medics to stay with the wounded. It was no problem for me to decide to stay behind. My feet were really giving me trouble. I knew that I could never keep up if we had to make a forced march. have forgotten the name of the other medic who volunteered. I do remember that he was Jewish and I thought that it took a lot of courage for him to stay behind since he knew that he would be captured by the Germans. Several doctors also offered to to stay behind, but the Major knew the regiment would need all the medical help it could get if they ran into trouble ahead. I was disappointed that we wouldn't have a doctor with us, but I was confident that some one would be back for us in a day or two. Major Fridline made sure that we were left with plenty of bandages, plasma, and drugs. He told us not to spare the morphine to relieve pain. The cooks gave us several cases of "C" rations, K' bars and about two dozen loaves of bread. There was a well and pump out side the house so we had plenty of water. The house we were in had only one story, but it had a large warm basement with a wood burning stove. All the wounded stayed down there. It was easier to care for them when they were all in one spot. The 4 Germans were there, too, and they kept smiling and talking to each other. They looked forward to chow time. They really loved those C' rations. I remember that among the wounded Americans were two officers, a first and a second lieutenant [First Lieutenant Donald Brownell, Executive Officer, Company F, 423rd Infantry. He died of his wounds a few days later. Second Lieutenant Oliver Patton, CO, 2nd Platoon, Company F, 423rd infantry] . They were both litter cases but they didn't give us much trouble. One of our men had a severe stomach wound which was bleeding. We discovered it is hard to find a vein of a person who has lost a lot of blood, but we gave him several pints over a three day period. Another patient had a broken arm and was in a lot of pain. He complained that his bandage was too tight and asked me to loosen it. I did but soon discovered that this was a mistake. His arm was badly shattered and the pain was unbearable. I gave him a stiff shot of morphine and tightened it again. It was not long after we were left behind that the proverbial hell broke loose outside. We heard rifle and machine gun fire and saw artillery flashing. Soon we heard vehicles, tanks, and trucks going along the road. I looked out the window and saw the entire German army passing by. Our patients in the basement could hear but not see the commotion. 'What's going on out there?' they asked. 'Those are our men,' I replied. 'They'll pick us up as soon as they can.' It was not until the 4th day that we heard a loud knock on the door. By that time our supplies were running out and our morale was low. Some of the men were in very bad shape. Luckily, or perhaps miraculously, we hadn't lost anybody, but there was plenty of moaning going on. I was hoping some nice Germans would come by and take everyone to a clean hospital. As I was going to open the door I was glad to see that our red cross flag was still flying outside and straightened the band [medic's red cross arm band] on my arm. As soon as I opened the door I fell a rifle barrel in my stomach. It was held by a German sergeant, and next to him was a SS officer. They ordered that I raise my hands while they searched for weapons. When they discovered that I wasn't armed, they relaxed a bit. The sergeant said, 'Don't you Americans know that you should be home for Christmas?' He laughed sarcastically. Those were the only English words he knew. 'Do you have any wounded Germans inside?' the officer asked. 'Yes, four.' 'Let us see them.' We went into the basement. When the men saw the Germans they were silent. Even the German patients looked grim. 'How have you been treated?' the officer asked. One of the Germans replied, 'The medics treated us just like their own men. They even gave us white bread to eat. The next four days which followed were among the saddest in my life. The Germans tossed the American wounded in a truck without regard to the seriousness of their wounds and drove off over an unpaved road. I am sure that many of them did not survive that trip ...."
19. According to MacDonald [p. 340] this must have been in response to the last message from Division received by 423d ml: "Attack Schonberg; do maximum damage to enemy there; then attack toward St. Vith. This message is of gravest importance to the nation. Good luck."
20, 3d Bn on 18 December had pushed northwest along Bleialf-Schonberg road to within half a mile of Schonberg. Dupuy [p.126] says, here parts of F Co,422nd Inf and F Co, 423rd !n# drifted into their perimeter [the night of 18-19 December]. After dark, says Cole [p. 168] what was left of 1st and 2nd Bns joined 3rd Bn. By that time, he says, the regiment had some 300 casualties including 16 officers [note these are same casualty figures reported by Puett in 2nd Bn alone]. Cole adds that 81 mm mortars were out of ammunition, most of the machine guns were gone, there remained few rockets for the bazookas and rifle ammunition was low.
Jack Sulser says the part of F Co, 423rd Inf, mentioned by Dupuy [p.126]: "... was made up of five members of our machine gun section, including S/Sgt Wilkinson, Sgt Hererra and myself, and four men from our mortar section, including Pfc Hobbs and Pfc Howard Smith. However, we had no machine guns or mortars; only personal weapons. Wilkinson, Hererra and I had M-1's, the others had carbines or pistols. During the fruitless attempts to regain Schonberg the next day [19 Dec] , Wilkinson and Hererra and others were wounded and went off to an aid station. The 'reserve platoon' Dupuy refers to [p. 139] with Capt J. S. Huyatt's L Company, 423rd Inf consisted of six F Company men, of whom I was the only NCO. Capt Huyatt was leading yet another assault on Schonberg when he heard my group under fire from the rear. He and his runner hurried back, and we counterattacked. After we drove the Germans off, according to a note I wrote in the margin of Dupuy's book in 1949, I counted 26 German dead and one American, not necessarily all from that skirmish. The American's head had been blown cleanly off; John Kline told me last year that he remembered seeing the headless American when his Company H group came out of the woods behind us after the surrender. After the rest of Huyatt's 'command' rejoined us in the woods above Schonberg alongside the Bleialf road, we were discussing what to do next when a German-American pair in a GI jeep with white flag arrived with written order from 3rd Battalion CO, Lt Col Klinck, to surrender. We smashed our weapons against trees and marched off with our one German escort toward Bleialf, joined along the way by numerous GI's and Germans. I found some of our detritus when I revisited the spot in 1955."
21. These Germans must have been on the Andler-Schonberg road. It is possible German tanks moving south across the Sixth Panzer Army boundary in search of roads had reached Schonberg but I think these armored vehicles were assault guns and tank destroyers of 18th VG Div, pushing through Schonberg toward St. Vith. Since I remained in the abandoned aid station, probably at Radscheid, I can make no comment on Lt Col Puett's account of the death of the 423d Regt.
SOURCES OF NOTES
Cole, Hugh M. The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge. US ARMY IN WORLD WAR II. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1965.
Dupuy, Colonel R. Ernest. St. Vith, Lion in the Way. The 106th Infantry Division in WWII. Washington, D.C.: The Infantry Journal Press, 1949.
Eisenhower, John. The Bitter Woods. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1969.
Hunt, Kenneth. 437 Grayfriars Lane-Inverness, Palatine, Illinois 60067. Letter 6 October 1987 to Dr. Ralph Tomases, 707 Foulk Road, Wilmington, Delaware 19803. Dr. Tomases [Dental Surgeon, 423rd lnf Regt] sent Patton a copy of Hunt letter 14 October 1987.
MacDonald, Charles B. A Time for Trumpets: The Untold Story of the Battle of the Bulge. N.Y. William Morrow and Co., 1984.
Moll, Dietrich. Lieutenant Colonel, Staff officer, 18th Volksgrenadier division. English Copy MS #B-688, Historical Division, Headquarters, USAREUR. rid. [A personal account of the operations of 18th VG Div, 1 September 1944-25 January 1945, apparently a post-combat interview by U.S. Army historians].
Patton, Oliver B. 2nd Lt, 3rd Plat, Co F, 423d Inf Regt, December 1944. 4817 Morgan Drive, Chevy Chase, MD 20815. Personal notes and recollections.
Parker, Danny S. Manuscript "Study." An order of battle, U.S., British and German forces in the Battle of the Bulge. MacDonald includes an extract of this in his A Time for Trumpets, noting it is drawn from Parker's war game, The Last Gamble. Tokyo: Hobby Japan, 1984. In Parker's Battle of the Bulge [Below, p. 313] , he refers to this war game as Hitler's Last Gamble, published by 3W P.O. Box F, Cambria, CA 93428, 1975.
---------------. Battle of the Bulge, Hitler's Ardennes Offensive, 1944-1945. Philadelphia: Combined Books, 1991.
Sulser, Jack A. Sgt, Machine Gun Section, Weapons Platoon, Company F. 423rd Inf Regt. 917 North Ashton street, Alexandria, VA 22312. Personal notes and recollections. Sulser says, "Rereading [in 1992] the pertinent passages of Dupuy's Lion in
the Way makes it clear to me that he had a copy of Joe's paper [1945 'Certificate' by Lt Col Joseph Puett] when drafting his book published in 1949. Not only the details but many of the words are the same."
SECOND REPORT BY LIEUTENANT COLONEL JOSEPH PUETT
NOTE: My copy of this report is a Xerox copy of an original typed on both sides of five pages of 8-1 /2 x14-inch paper. Obviously, more than one person has annotated the original. I have indicated in the copy below what I think are those made by the original interviewer (line-outs, strike-outs, and insertions); omitting what appear to be by a later reader whose attention was fixed on reference to -units of the 106th Division Artillery. Parentheses shown below are in the original. My interpretation of interviewer's changes are in brackets. I think the interviewer, "John G. Westover, Historian" was probably a member of an Army historical unit, charged with obtaining first-hand reports from U.S. Army officers and enlisted men recently liberated from German POW camps.
":423 Infantry Regiment in the Ardennes Battle
obtained from an interview with Lt Colonel Joseph F. Puett, 0288767,
CO, 423-2, and Capt Joshua F. Sutherland, 01726875, Bn Surgeon,
423-2, at Camp Lucky Strike (near St. Valerie-aux-Caen), France, on
17 April 1945. These officers are liberated prisoners of war
awaiting shipment to the United States. Their statement was given
without any of the records of their unit being at hand, but the
historian furnished a 1 /50,000 map of Germany, sheet 21, and showed
the the officers a copy of the 106 Division After Action Report for
December 1944. As prisoners they had been in a camp with many other
officers and men of the 106 Div and had discussed the events which
had occurred many times. However, it is to be remembered that this
is the first combat by the units of the 106 Div and there was no
merging of this with any other combat experience. Puett had no
difficulty in giving his story or remembering the events which had
taken place, but frequently said that the snap did not conform to
the terrain. He was bitter in his feeling toward the events which
had taken place as he had prepared for fifteen years to lead a
bat-talon in combat--an experience which had lasted only a few days.
He felt that the ground was defensible against any force which could
be thrown against it--had the units- ["units" lined out and
"defenders" inserted] been properly disposed. He denounced as
foolhardy the positions given to the two regiments [422d and 423d
Inf] and the order which forbade any change in the positions taken
over from the previous units [2nd Inf Div]. He believed that the two
regiments would have been capable of withdrawing if they had done so
on the night of the 16th. 'end that [lined out] The order of defense
in place showed a lack of understanding of the enemy strength and
position of that time.
John G. Westover, Historian
On the 11 Dee the 106 Div relieved the 2nd Inf Div in place from their positions to the E of St. Vith. All three regiments were committed with Div res. consisting of 423-2 and a Bn from 424. ["Lt" inserted] Col Puett was the commanding officer of ther 423-2, then at Born, Belgium. On the morning of the 16 Dec (0645) 423-2 was alerted for a move. At 0800 ["Lt" inserted] Col Puett received word from Div that trucks would arrive at Born, load the Bn, and take them to an assembly area NE of St. Vith. This was accomplished by 1000, at 1030 Puett reported to the Div Commander [Maj Gen Alan Jones] and was told to remain alert, for further developments. About 1330, Puett was told by the CG to move to the vicinity of Schonberg (953888) and set up a defensive position which would defend the junction of the Auw-Andler Schonberg Rd and the Bleialf-Schonberg Rd. The move to this position was completed by 1500 and the men began digging in. One platoon of TDs were attached.
While at Div and
waiting for assignment of his unit, Puett discussed the situation
with many of the officers. Everyone believed the attack then being
received to be a local one except Major General Jones, the Did,
Cmdr. A general officer from a higher headquarters (name, rank, and
organization of this general officer are not recalled by Puett)
visited the 106 CP but insisted that the attack was a mafl [lined
out. "of local nature" inserted.
At. approximately 2100, 16 Dec, 423-2 was ordered to move to the high-ground just south of Auw to extricate the 589 FA Bn which was being attacked by the enemy. Puett ["had been" inserted] by Div ["Comdr" inserted] that he
should not get heavily engaged. The trucks previously used in moving the Bn were again used. Driving was blackout and the men detrucked at (003890) after a move to the SE from Schonberg to the road NE to Auw. At this detrucking point the trucks were released and did not remain with the g [lined out. "battalion" inserted]. The companies immediately formed defensive positions on either side of the road. The Germans at this time held Auw and the roads were fled with their traffic. A small attack was launched on the left. of the road leading into Auw [;`but did not go far" inserted]. Btrys B and C- [°`A 589 FA Bn" inserted] were able to withdraw with ease, but A ["C° inserted] was unable to do so. The btry was located in a draw at (002896) and was badly bogged in a muddy area. Whenever motors were started in the area, rng and mortar ["fire" inserted] fell within the urea. [lined out, "nearby" inserted]. Toward daybreak it didn't seem possible for the btry to be withdrawn and Puett still had in mind his orders not to become heavily engaged, so Lt Col T. Payne Kelly asked and received permission to destroy the guns in the Btry - [lined out, "C" inserted] position. This was done. The other Btrys had already withdrawn.
During the night a patrol had been sent to make contact with the 422 Regiment at Schlausenbach. Enroute the patrol ran into three enemy tanks. In a small engagement the patrol leader was killed but the patrol continued on to meet the AT Co, 422. They then returned by a circular route which brought them back farther to the S. The information that there were enemy tanks at the RJ (010889) influenced Puett to put AT guns on his right flank during the night. Twice during the night the enemy made attacks S from Auw. These were at 0230 and 0430. All of the Div arty was received [lined out, "fired" inserted on call and with small arms and automatic weapons fire they were turned back. A patrol to the left went to Laudesfeld and found Germans there. Two prisoners were captured and they reported the presence of a panzer CT and an infantry CT ["in Laudesfeld" added].
At 0600 a radio order from the Div Cmdr was received ordering 423-2 to withdraw through Laudesfeld. Puett told the general that this was impossible. He was then ordered to withdraw through Schonberg. The last of the 589 FA Bn was then pulling out and a motorized patrol was guarding it. The 590 FA Bn was to follow in column. The motorized column advanced to the RJ at (957867) but after most of the 589 FA Bn had turned W on the road enemy tanks approached in large numbers and fired on the RJ. The last few vehicles of the 589 were set ablaze and the 590 FA Bn was unable to get through. Lt Col Kelly, who was at the rear of his column of 589 vehicles did not get through. Puett made a reconnaissance of all roads to Schonberg and St. Vith and found that all were blocked either by enemy armor or mud. German columns were found to be moving N from Bleialf, almost far enough to make a junction with those coming S from Schonberg.
By 0600 Puett realized that his unit was cut off by vastly superior enemy forces including a large amount of armor. As daylight approached (app 0700) the three enemy tanks which the patrol going to the 422 had observed, began to move W on the road to Auw. At the sane moment fifteen to twenty enemy tanks with infantry riding on them began moving S from Auw. The 423-2 with their attached TD platoon took them under fire. The three tanks moving W were taken under fire by two 57nun guns of 423-2 and all of them were destroyed and burned. Another TD and a 57mm gun were on the Auw road and tool-, the tanks moving S under fire. Four of these burned and probably many others were hit. The attack ceased within twenty minutes but from the direction of Hills 549 and 651 came flat trajectory fire which destroyed a TD and a 57mm gun and damaged another TD so that it could not fire.
About this time Puett decided to join the 423 Regiment. He knew that he was cut off from Div, he had no communication with them as his radios had all bee damaged, and that to remain near Auw would mean immediate ruin. He therefore withdrew [lined out, "moved the 590 FA and his Bn"] to the E in good order and only had one casualty in the withdrawal when an ammunition truck was hit and blew up. During the fighting he had lost 1 TD, 1 57mm gun and had 2 KIA and 10 WIA. His force was still in good fighting shape.
The 423-2 reached the 423 Regiment by
1200. As Puett had no communication with Div he placed himself
under the command of his Regimental Commander, Col C.C. Cavender.
His troops were faced to the VFW to guard the rear of the encircled
regiments; on his left (S) Puett had physical contact with 423-1 and
on the right had patrol contact with the 422 Regiment. [inserted,
"The line was along the high ground ? of the Alf R from Buchet to
Early on the morning of the 18th (0430) 423 Regiment received a message from 106 Div which Puett said he heard was seventeen hours delayed because of channel jamming. The message said there was a panzer CT on the Schonberg-St Vith road with its head two or three n1iles E of St Vith. The 423 was to withdraw to the high ground S of this column and do as much damage to it as possible. The regiment should then withdraw over the Our River. The 423 was to inform the 422 in case they should not have received the message to withdraw.
Word was sent to
the 422 in regard to the move and both regiments began their march
at 1000. The 422 was on the right and moved independently of the 423
and no liaison or contact kept between these units to the knowledge
of Puett. In the 423 CT the order of march was 2nd Bn, 3d Bn, 1st Bn
and the 590 FA Bn. Route of march was
Halenfeld-Oberlascheid-Radscheid. Just beyond Radscheid at the RJ
(971862) heavy opposition was encountered. The fighting began at
1030 and by 1130 all of the 2nd Bn was committed. The enemy was
entrenched on the hill S of Radscheid and E of the Bleialf [word
missing?] (app 968850) and brought heavy fire on the CR. To get
vehicles across this position Puett had to send most of his force
toward Bleialf while yet pushing W. A few vehicles did move beyond
the CR but did not get far. As 4232 pushed S the enemy gave up
their ground gradually. Around noon Puett called for help from the
regiment but none was forthcoming until 1630 when 423-3 was
committed on the right flank. Unfortunately, this Bn went too far to
the right to aid 423-2 and left a considerable gap. Because of this
it did not relieve any of the pressure from Puett's force and he
could not concentrate further. He therefore kept his force pushing
to the S to hold off the Bleialf enemy.
Several hours after
dark the 423 Regiment [lined out, "1st and 2nd Bns" inserted] fell
back to Radscheid leaving only a security guard at the RJ. At 2300 *
["they" inserted] again moved, this time to the NW to try for
contact with the 3d Bn. The small trail which was selected for the
motor transport to move on was too narrow and muddy so that all but
a small number of vehicles became bogged and lost. Contact with. the
3d Bn was reestablished. During the night a message came from Div
which said For the good of the nation ..." the 422 and 423 will
attack Schonberg and then head W. This message was not received by
the 423 until daylight so they set the time of the jump off as 1000.
Puett figured that it was yet possible for an escape to be made.
This was despite the fact that no mortar ammunition remained in any
of the organizations and that the mgs were limited to two belts per
gun. In second Bn there were now only 19 officers and 405 men and in
preparation for the trip all of the wounded were left behind.
The men of 423-2, though new to combat, had fought skillfully and courageously throughout. By the 19th the men felt that they were seasoned soldiers and could no longer be classed as green."
Page last revised