4th Armored Division

 
 

III Corps, 3rd Army, 12th Army Group


10th Armored Infantry Battalion

51st Armored Infantry Battalion

53d Armored Infantry Battalion

8th Tank Battalion

35th Tank Battalion

37th Tank Battalion

22nd Armored Field Artillery Battalion

66th Armored Field Artillery Battalion

94th Armored Field Artillery Battalion

25th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (mec.)

24th Armored Engineer Battalion

46th Armored Medical Battalion

126th Armored Ordnance Battalion

144th Armored Signal Company

504th Counter Intelligence Corps Detachment

704th Tank Destroyer Battalion

489th Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion (s p) Automatic Weapons

The liberators of Bigonville

24th Dec. 1944


Combat Command R (Reserve)


37th Tank Battalion

Company A: Capt. John A. Whitehill

Company B: Capt. James H. Leach

Company C: Capt. Trover, Lt. Charles Bogges

53d Armored Infantry Battalion

94th Armored Field Artillery Battalion

177th Field Artillery Battalion (155mm How)

318th Infantry Regiment, 80th Infantry Division (Supporting Bn.)






Interview by Capt. L. B. Clark

at 37th Tk. Bn. CP,  Chaumont, Belgium, 5 Jan 45


RELIEF OF BASTOGNE POCKET

SOURCES: Lt. Col. Creighton W. Abrams, C.O. 37th Tk. Bn.; Maj. Edward Bautz, Ex. O. 37th Tk. Bn.; Capt. William Dwight, S-3 37th Tk. Bn.; 2nd Lt. John A Whitehill, C.O. Co. A 37th Tk. Bn.

MAP REF: Bastogne, 121, France and Belgium; 1:50,000

CIRCUMSTANCES: Interview by Capt. L. B. Clark at 37th Tk. Bn. CP, Chaumont, Belgium, 5 Jan 45. Battalion was in reserve about 3 miles behind the line held by 137th Inf, 35 Div. Bn had not been engaged with enemy since 27 Dec when last elements were pulled into BASTOGNE. Bn had received no artillery fire in present location, although Bn's tanks spread out at approximately 50 yd interval throughout valley, standing out against snow, offered fair target. One EM was killed and 3 wounded by fragmention bombs from single--plane night raid 4 nights ago.


BACKGROUND:  The 37th Tk. Bn. was operating during this action under control of CCR. As far was known this was only second time that CCR had a tactical mission (first time in BRITTANY), In the 4th Armd Div, the commitment of CCR means that the division has committed its reserve; it is not used, as CCR of the 6th Armd. Div. occasionally is, as a combat command with one of the letter commands in the reserve role. Except for transmission of orders from division and the prescribing of the route to be followed in shifting from east to west flank of the division, CCR apparently had very little to do with direction of the action of 37th Tk. Bn and 53rd AIB. Col Blanchard, was ordering an attack north after the 37th had made contact with 101 AB Div elements. Decisions were made by Lt Cols Abrams and Jaques without consulting CCR (Maj Bautz and Capt Dwight both said this).


When the 4th Armd Div was ordered on 8 Dec from XII Corps reserve around FENETRANGE to move north to the vicinity of ARLON to meet the German counter-offensive which started 16 Dec, the 37th Tk Bn was in line, attached to 87th Inf Div. The Bn had been in reserve with the 4th Armd Div around MITTERSHEIM from 9 December.


On 14 December "A" Co was attached to the 347th Inf near ACHEN. Around noon of the following day the rest of the Bn was ordered to move up and bivouacked near ACHEN. That night, 87 Div ordered one Co attached for the 345th Inf and one to the 347th Inf. B relieved A and was attached to 347, took part in the capture of GERSHEIM and WALSHEIM in GERMANY. (this was the Bn's first fighting in GERMANY) Company A was actually the first company in the division to enter GERMANY. C was attached to 345. (The day before the relief of A, the company's commander, 1st Lt Charley Walters, was seriously wounded in action.) D's light tanks were used during this period to haul up supplies to the other companies. During the period of attachment to 87th Div the Bn advanced about 5 kms inside GERMANY.


At about 181300 Dec the Bn received orders to withdraw to MITTERSHEIM. It was to be relieved in line by the 762 Tk. Bn (separate BN, 762 guns, colored personnel) but did not wait for the relief and closed at MITTERSHEIM about 1700. Then it received orders to start move at 190800 to vicinity of ARLON (?). The march began at this time and was over the "inside" (eastern) route of the two taken by the 4th Armd Div. Leading elements arrived vicinity of MIEX-LE-TIGE (5415) about 200200 and Serv Co closed about 200730.


On 23 December, 37th moved from area around MIEX-LE-TIGE through ARLON (6122) north on route N4 to turn-off east through PERLE (5936) to the area around the cross-roads of FLATZBOURHOF cross-roads during the night. Capt Trover, C/37 Comdr, was killed and B/37 lost eight tank commanders from this fire. Armored strength of the medium companies of 37th Tk Bn at this time was as follows:

A Co   9 Tks,  1 assault gun

B Co   7 Tks,  1 assault gun

C Co   5 Tks,  1 assault gun


Personnel was so short that even some of the tanks present were without bow gunners.


CCR's objective on 22 Dec was the town of BIGONVILLE (6041), two kms north of the FLATZBOURHOF cross-roads.


The plan was for the team A/37 and A/53 to attack north into town, taking the eastern of the two main streets through the town. The B tank-infantry team was to take the western street. C/37's mission was to guard the east flank against a possible attack from that direction by the 20-30 enemy tanks which had been reported by the division to the east of BIGONVILLE. This threat never materialized but C/37 took up positions to meet it to the southeast of BIGONVILLE, facing the draw between two wooded hills which, in the CCR zone was only likely avenue of approach for the enemy tanks.


The attack started at 240800 and the A team, meeting only small arms south of town, got well into the town in the first few minutes, the tanks leading. In the town they followed their usual practice for the reduction of infantry-held towns - placing a large volume of fire, both from tank guns and machine guns, on all buildings, and shooting at barns and other inflammable buildings with 30s and 50s in order to start fires with tracers and incendiaries respectively. They received some mortar fire on the outskirts, which ceased when they really got into town, but the volume of enemy small arms and bazooka fire remained fairly heavy. B/37, following the A team, was unable to get into town (?) and went around it to the west and took up positions on the high ground to the northwest. The infantry with it, however, dismounted and fought its way up the street, clearing each house. The Germans, a Bn from the 5th Para Div, fought stubbornly and most surrendered only when they had no more ammunition. They seemed to have neither a defense nor a withdrawal planned. 482 prisoners, including the Bn Comdr, were taken in BIGONVILLE. Two tanks from A Co received bazooka hits but were able to move out under their own power, although they were not in action again before the relief of BASTOGNE. The night before the attack on BIGONVILLE the 37th had 2 EM and 1 officer KIA and 16 wounded seriously enough to be evacuated. On the day of the attack the Bn had 3 EM and 1 officer wounded.


After the town was cleared, which was not until late in the day, the A team took positions on the high ground northeast of town. B/53 joined B/37 on the heights to the northwest and the infantry on both flanks dug in for the night. (Three officers and 39 EM from the 299 Engr Bn, a First US Army unit, who were prisoners in BIGONVILLE, were freed.)


At 242100 orders (CCR's mission) were received from CCR to move to the west. The move was to start at 250100. The route taken was BIGONVILLE, PERLE, HEISTERT, HABA-LA-NEUVE, LEGLISE, OFFAING, northwest to the NEUFCHATEAU-BASTOGNE road and then northeast to an assembly area southwest of BERCHEUX (4143). Leading elements arrived there about 250500. (The march route was ordered by CCR and was chosen because bridges were out on the direct route via MARTELANGE, FAUVILLERS, ETC.). D/37 contacted a Co of combat Engrs in BERCHEUX, an isolated unit of the First Army, which was preparing to make a stand in the town.


At approximately 1100 the CCR column started moving through BERCHEUX, with light tanks leading. The vehicles passed through VAUX-LES-ROSIERS meeting only rifle fire which did not hold up the column. At PETITE ROSIERE, about 2 kms north, there was more resistance. D/37 light tanks went through town firing MGs to keep the enemy down. D/37 was followed by C/704 TD and B/53. The light tanks and the TDs moved up to the high ground (about 500 ft north of the town) while the infantry cleaned up the enemy in PETITE ROSIERE. This took about 2 1/2 hours and the 53rd AIB records 34 PWs taken there. After clearing the town B/53 moved up to the high ground north of town and took up positions to protect the rear and west of CCR as it moved toward  BASTOGNE.


While the mopping was going on, the A team passed through the town and turned east to NIVES. One platoon went down the main street firing everything while the other went west (?) of town. There was only sporadic rifle fire after the tank shelling and 15 POWs were taken. By 1400 (at which time PETITE ROSIERE had been cleared) the C team had passed through NIVES and was at COBREVILLE, one km east of NIVES. Five PWs were taken. The small bridge over the creek south-east of the village had been blown by the Germans (civilians told this to members of the 37th Tk Bn). The battalion's bulldozer, which travels with Bn Hq, was called for by radio, and moved up quickly. It knocked down a stone wall near the bridge site and by 1515 had pushed enough rock fill into the shallow creek to enable the tanks to cross.


The C team led the column toward REMOIVILLE but stopped on the high ground about 1000 yds west of the town, and C/37's tanks supported with direct fire the advance of the A team into town. Under the planned artillery concentration, the fire from C/37 and the fire of all the weapons on the tanks and half-tracks of the A team as it drove into town, the enemy infantry battalion in the town lay low long enough for the attacking team to get well in before reacting with fire. A/53 cleared the center of REMOIVILLE house by house, routing the Germans from the cellars with grenades. Many buildings were burning. When the A team was in the center of town, C/37 and C/53 came down from the high ground and cleared the western edge. The speed of CCR's attack prevented the Germans from organizing and effective defense of the town, with mutually strong points. There was some small arms fire and two tanks hit by bazooka fire (one damaged but not disabled) but the enemy was never able to employ the larger number of MGs and bazookas he had. By about 1700 resistance in REMOIVILLE had ceased; 35 enemy dead were found and 53 AIB records 327 PWs taken.


During the clearing of REMOIVILLE, B/37 moved up onto Hill 480, about a kilometer northwest of the town, covering the approaches from REMICHAMPAGNE, about 3 kms northwest of REMOIVILLE, A/37 was relieved by B/37 in these positions at 1800 after fighting in the town was over and C/37 outposted on the high ground directly north of REMOIVILLE. A crater apparently dug by the enemy in the road just north of the town where the proximity of the stream made it impossible for vehicles to get by prevented and further advance that night. The tanks and infantry of CCR stayed in position the night 25/26 Dec.


Orders for the attack 26 Dec were given to Lt Col Abrams and Lt Col Jaques at the CCR CP at about 252000 Dec. CCR was to clear REMICHAMPAGNE, seize the high ground north of it and attack north across the NEUFCHATEAU-BASTOGNE highway to take SIBRET. (Tac R had reported that SIBRET was strongly held.) The artillery plan for the attack included concentrations on the BOIS DE COHET to the west of  REMICHAMPAGNE (which CCB did not have enough infantry to clean out) and interdictory fire on the road from MORHET about 6 kms to the northesat near where artillery air observers reported tanks. There was to be no artillery fire on the town of REMICHAMPAGNE because it was not known how close elements of CCB were. (Actually, they were at least 2 kms to the east.)


At 0930 CCR started moving toward REMICHAMPANE, with the B team moving across-country to the east of the road. (The ground was frozen and better for cross-country work than it was even last summer, staff officers of the 37th Tk Bn said.) The C team moved west of the road, prepared to support with fire the attack on the town by the B team. Just after the column started moving, 16 P-47s (not prearranged) appeared and bombed and strafed the town and the woods only a few hundred yards in front of CCR's vehicles. With this unexpected support the B team moved into REMICHAMPAGNE against almost no opposition. The town was lightly held and only a handful of PWs were taken and these were dazed by the bombing.


While B/53 mopped up in the town, B/37 moved about 1 1/2 kms to a position overlooking CLOCHIMONT, where B/53 soon joined it. The C team moved to commanding ground a km north of REMICHAMPAGNE, to the left rear of B, faced to meet a threat from the northwest, which might develope from the woods in that area, A/37 flanked CLOCHIMONT to the west and went into position to cover in the direction of SIBRET and VILLEROUX.


By the time CCR's forces had been posted in their new positions it was 1500 and "hundreds" of C-47 transport planes were passing overhead with supplies to drop to the BASTOGNE garrison. This spectacle gave Lt Col Abrams and Lt Col Jaques the idea to disregard their original mission of taking SIBRET and make a dash for the BASTOGNE perimeter, which was only about 4 kms away. Another consideration was that SIBRET seemed to be strongly held and the effective medium strength of the 37th Tk Bn was now 20 and the 53rd AIB was approximately 230 men understrength. The primary mission of CCR was to get to BASTOGNE and Lt Col Abrams and Jaques decided to push north, disregarding the original order. (Apparently Col Blanchard, C.O. CCR, was not informed of this change in the plan. After tanks had broken through to the BASTOGNE perimeter, Col Blanchard called his tank and infantry battalion commanders to ask about the possibility of a breakthrough into BASTOGNE that day. Command decisions reached by Abrams and Jaques.)


The artillery support situation at this time was as follows:

(a) The 94th Armd FA Bn (105) and one Btry of 177 FA Bn (155) were in direct support of CCR. Two more Bns of 105's (the 22 and 253) were available for general support.

(b) On the morning of 26 Dec two firing Btries of the 94th moved into position near NIVES: the other Btry of the 94th was near COBREVILLE, where also was one Btry of the 177.


At approximately 1520 Lt Col Abrams radioed back to Capt Dwight, his S-3, to bring C/37 and C/53 up to B/37's position near CLOCHIMONT. He said, "This is it." A few minutes later Capt. Cook, Ln O from the 94 AFA Bn to CCR, received a radio message back at the CCR CP at REMOIVILLE from Abrams telling him to have all available artillery prepared to fire on Assenois on call. Cook radioed division artillery to have them make arrangements for the 22 and 253 to prepare to fire. The 94 was already registered on the target and firing data was transmitted to Div Arty. The artillery plan was for three light Bns to fire battalion 10 volleys with the 155 Btry to fire on the center of the town. Of the 94's Btries, one was to hit the south edge of the town (where the enemy had at least 7  75 and 88mm guns employed in the general area 525536-525537-526537), one was to fire on the woods on the left of the road leading north out of town (approximately 525546), and the other on the woods to the right of the road (approximately 535542). The fire of the other two light Bns was to add to the volume of fire in the town. The fire was to be lifted on call.


Capt Dwight commanded the C team which was to dash through ASSENOIS and make contact with the BASTOGNE perimeter. The cleaning of the town was to be done by B/53 and A/37, following C into town. B/37 remained on the high ground south of CLOCHIMONT covering the move toward ASSENOIS with direct fire. A/53 was in reserve.


At 1610 the assault force was assembled near CLOCHIMONT and moved toward ASSENOIS, tanks leading, half-tracks following. C/37 had a total of 7 tanks, including Dwight's. When he came in sight of the town, 1st Lt Charles Boggess, C/37 commanded, in the leading tank, called for artillery fire and continued moving. As he started down the dip into town, Boggess called for the fire to be lifted, but did not wait for this to happen and continued on into town. During this short but intense shoot on ASSENOIS approximately 360 rounds of 105 and 60 rounds of 155 were fired. One round made a hit on a C/53 half-track on the southern edge of town causing 3 casualties. (The artillery did not come down in a TOT since the artillery had only 30 minutes to prepare for the mission, but the 22 and 253 came in very shortly after the 94 and the Btry of 155's, and a cub from the 94 observed the fire).


A few wild rounds were fired from the enemy AT guns but the enemy infantry allowed the C team to get well into town without opposition. Smoke burning buildings and the dust caused by the artillery which was still falling made the center of ASSENOIS almost as dark as night. Two tanks took a wrong turn in the confusion and stayed in the town. The infantry of C/53 dismounted to take cover from the artillery and by the time it had ceased firing found themselves in a fire fight with the Bn of enemy infantry garrisoning the town. (probably 1st Bn, 39 IR, 26 VG Div - the Bn CP was there), who were starting to emerge from the cellars. They became too heavily engaged to continue on, as planned.


With Boggess' tank leading, the column minus all but one infantry half-track, continued north toward the perimeter. The artillery continued firing on the woods on both sides of the road. In the mix-up in ASSENOIS, a gap of about 300 yards had appeared behind the three leading tanks and the Germans in the woods recovered sufficiently to throw out about 12 Teller mines onto the road (approximately 538557). The half-track driver failed to notice them and ran over and exploded one. There were some casualties and the vehicle caught on fire.


Next in the column was another C/37 tank, followed by Capt. Dwight's. With the aid of some unhurt men from the half-track and covered by the MGs from the two tanks which fired into the woods on both sides, Capt Dwight threw the rest of the mines off the road. He noticed no fire from the woods while he was doing this. The two tanks then continued up the road to where Boggess had made contact with the OPL of the 326 AB Engrs at 1650.


Capt Dwight radioed back to Col Abrams that contact had been made, and Abrams came up to the perimeter with the remaining 2 tanks of C Co and the rest of C/53. B/53 was engaged in clearing ASSENOIS, which was completed by 2000; 428 PWs were taken. By 1830 C/37 and C/53 had taken up positions on the BASTOGNE perimeter. Abrams went on into BASTOGNE to the 101st AB Div to arrange for the trains to get through that night. At 1930 he radioed Col Jaques, who was handling the clearing of ASSENOIS, to send what he could to clear the woods along the road. A/53 was sent up and in a night fight cleared a stubborn enemy force of approximately company strength from the woods. The dense woods east of the road were particularly troublesome. There was close-in fighting with bayonet. Only 4 PWs were taken but about 35 were killed in their fox holes. Capt Frank Kutak, C.O. of A/53, directed the fight from his jeep although he was wounded in both legs. By 0100 on 27 Dec the road into BASTOGNE was reasonably safe, and 40 trucks and 70 ambulances went in during darkness the night of 26-27 Dec, escorted by light tanks of D/37.


The 37th Tk Bn by the time it reached BASTOGNE perimeter was extremely low on ammunition. B Co had nothing but 30 cal ammo left, which was why it took no part in the last stages of the battle. The other companies' tanks had only 5 or 6 rounds of AP left.


The A and B teams of CCR outposted along the road into BASTOGNE until the morning of 29 Dec when the command went into reserve. This was necessary because the woods had been cleared only to a depth sufficient to protect the road from small arms fire. The remainder of CCR stayed on the perimeter until 29 Dec.


The observation of Lt Boggess and Capt Dwight was that the section of the perimeter where contact was made was lightly held - about 15 or 20 men to 800 yds of front - but that German dead were piled up front of the defenders' positions.


Neither Dwight nor Boggess remember being fired at while going through ASSENOIS. They and Col Abrams feel that they would not have gotten through so strongly held a town if our artillery had not been falling at the time.


Battle causalities for the 37th Tk Bn for the period 23-26 Dec were KIA 1 O, 4 EM; WIA 2 Os, 20 EM; MIA 5 EM. Strength of the companies in tanks and officers never exceeded the following figures:

A    11 Tks    2 Os

B     8 Tks    1 O

C     9 Tks    2 Os

D    13 Tks    1 O


The 53 AIB received 210 casualties during the battle to reach BASTOGNE, of which 30 were KIA, 180 WIA. On 22 Dec the Bn was short 150 men; on 26 Dec, 230 men.


The 37th Tk Bn states that there were 7 AT guns, 75mm or larger, between CLOCHIMONT and ASSENOIS and the BASTOGNE perimeter. Also that there was at least one bazooka to every 5 enemy infantrymen.






Battle at Bigonville

From: The Legacy of the 4th Armored Division - Turner Publ. 1990


The last miles to Bastogne were the toughest the division traveled during the war. During the 18-day "Battle of the Bulge," the 4th Armored reported 214 men killed, 831 wounded and 56 missing. The little village of Chaumont near Bastogne changed hands three times in bitter fighting.


The 4th Armored initially attacked with CCB on the left and CCA on the right. When the Reserve Command arrived on 23 December it was employed to the right of CCA with its objective Flatzbourhof taken by dark on the 23rd and Bigonville on 24 December. During these two days the 37th was to lose the popular and courageous Captain Trover, commander of C/37 to sniper fire. Earlier Trover had led D/ 25 Cavalry Troop from the beaches across France before returning to his old regiment, the 37th, in the fall. Acting 1st Platoon Leader Staff Sergeant Fitzpatrick, also of B/37, was badly wounded in the mouth by a bullet, and his fellow tank commander, Sergeant John H. Parks was killed when his tank was destroyed. A German tank-infantry counterattack at Flatzbourhof on 23 December cost then a captured M-4 Sherman with German markings and two self-propelled guns destroyed by the combined fires of A/37 and B/37's Lt. Bob Cook's 3rd Platoon. Leach and his gunner Corporal Yaremchuk recall shooting from behind a railroad track and hitting the rail twice before moving upon the embankment to get a clear shot at the three German tanks.


Here, at Flatzbourhof Lt. Charles Boggess took command of C/37 following Capt. Trover's death. That evening as Capt. Leach, his 1st Sergeant Lewis A. Guffey and Supply Sergeant Walter P. Kaplan were discussing reorganization of B/37 following the loss of Fitzpatrick and Parks. Kaplin volunteered to take Fitzpatrick's platoon as acting platoon leader. Leach knowing Kaplan had not been a tank crewman for months gave him an oral test on gunnery, radio procedures and tactics. He passed with flying colors only to be killed by a sniper the next morning in the Reserve Command assault on Bigonville.


During the fighting in the town, sniper fire from Lt. Rudi Petrikat's 6th Co., 13th Regiment, 5th German Parachute Division, was quite heavy, targeting on leaders and tank commanders. Petrikat was ultimately flushed out and escaped down a draw dodging the fire of Staff Sergeant Max Morphew's tank. His battalion commander, less fortunate was captured. During the final assault to clear the town, Lt. Bob Cook was shot in the chest causing a serious cavity wound, but this did not prevent him from reporting to Leach that he was wounded, that he was turning his platoon over to Morphew, his tank over to his gunner and that he would walk back down the tank column (still attacking and under fire) to seek the medics. As Cook did this he stepped into a doorway and found himself captured by German paratroopers. Subsequently, they abandoned him as the 53rd doughboys cleared the houses.


Soon thereafter, Leach was also hit in the head by a bullet that only temporarily disabled him. Later, he was shot in the arm by another bullet. During this attack, Colonel Abrams ordered B/37 to move to the west and north of Bigonville to prevent the enemy paratroopers from escaping or reinforcing. Leach recalls that our P-47 "Thunderbolt" fighter bombers, thinking us German, made two bombing and straffing attacks on our tanks without hitting anyone.


Thanks, Air Corps for the poor gunnery, thought those in B/37.



German paratroopers in Chaumont fought fiercely. CCB's attack on Chaumont was helped by a battalion of field artillery and an air strike, Elstob wrote.(1)


After the battle for Chaumont, CCB was down to only two platoons of tanks, Elstob said. CCA had been hard hit, too.


"But what would turn out to be the decisive tactical move occurred when CCR was moved early Christmas morning from the 4th Armored's right, all the way across the rear of CCA and CCB behind the front and concentrated on the left of CCB," he added.


CCR had moved thirty-five miles. The area was the Neufchateau - Bastogne road about nine miles northeast of Neufchateau at Bercheaux. CCR was in position at dawn on Christmas Day, ready to resume its attack.


CCR was ordered to attack toward Bastogne, helping CCB on the right and covering the left flank of III Corps' advance. The 4th Armored, without success, tried to shove all three combat commands to Bastogne on Christmas Day.


CCB, together with the infantry reinforcements from 80th Infantry Division, fought a long difficult battle against the stubborn 5th Parachute soldiers who had dug themselves inside the woods and met the mixed American force with small-arms fire - all they had left, Elstob wrote. The Germans fought grimly, in may cases only yielding to hand grenades and the bayonet.


More than 100 Americans were hit; it was well after dark when Chaumont and the woods to the south were cleared. CCB was six miles from Bastogne. Toward evening, the 35th Tank Battalion of CCA was close to the village of Warnach approximately eight miles south of Bastogne. It was now almost nightfall and the roads and fields were icy and snow covered... it was terribly cold!

(1) Peter Elstob


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Order of Battle - 23rd and 24th Dec. 1944

Map retracing route of 4th Armored Division across Europe 1944-45