Chapter 10 -
Battle of the Bulge

16 December 1944 - 25 January 1945

"We are going to attack until the war is over"
- Gen. George S. Patton


The Ardennes Offensive was conceived and planned by Hitler to drive a large wedge between the Allied Armies. This wedge would be both physical and psychological, with the objectives being the port of Antwerp and the destruction of the Allied alliance, respectively. Field Marshall Gerd Von Rundstedt, Commander in Chief West for the German Army, was to coordinate the attack, although he personally doubted the potential for success. Hitler had outlined at different times his reasons for the offensive (10):

  • the enemy front in the Ardennes sector is very thinly manned,
  • the blow between the British and Americans would lead to disharmony,
  • the British and Canadians could be encircled and destroyed,
  • the port of Antwerp was within reach, even in bad weather,
  • the Ardennes terrain would require the use of fewer German divisions,
  • the terrain to the east was wooded and would cover the build-up, and
  • the attack would protect the vital Ruhr industrial area.

In fact, Gen. Patton had anticipated the German attack by late November, noting that "the First Army is making a terrible mistake in leaving the VIII Corps static, as it is highly probable that the Germans are building up to the east of them" (6). Gen. Patton's intuition was exactly right, the Germans were massing for the attack just to the west of the Ardennes area of Belgium and Luxembourg (TAO: MAP 1). The German attack began during the early hours of 16 December 1944. On 17 December Gen. Bradley notified Gen. Patton that at least two divisions would be needed to contain the German attack. The Americans were paying the price for, in Gen. Patton's opinion, sitting still. The next day Gen. Patton met with Bradley in Luxembourg, and on the way home was notified that the situation was deteriorating, and that one combat command of the 4th Arm. Div. needed to move that night.

Unbeknown to the Americans. over 200,000 German troops were at that time attacking from the Eifel area of Germany into the Ardennes forest. Twenty German divisions were involved along a 60 mile front from Monschau to Echternach, with the goal being 100 miles away at Antwerp. On 19 December, while the 945th was recovering from the devastating counter-battery fire from the day before, Gen. Patton was meeting with XII Corps commander Gen.Eddy, outlining plans for the swing to the north. Gen. Patton then traveled to Verdun, France to meet with Gen. Eisenhower, Gen. Bradley and others concerning the Third Army. Ike said, "When can you attack" (6). Gen. Patton replied, "On December 22, with three divisions, the 4th Armored, the 26th, and the 80th". It was the "sublime moment of his career" (6). Although a technically difficult and daring maneuver to swing the Third Army to the battles southern shoulder, Gen. Patton had already set the wheels in motion for the move; only a phone call back to his Chief of Staff Gen. Gay would provide the direction. The 26th Inf. Div. and 4th Arm. Div. would move on Arlon, and the 80th on Luxembourg.


On 20 December 1944 Gen. Patton gave Gen.Eddy the order to move the XII Corps headquarters and artillery at once to Luxembourg (6). The 35th Inf. Div., which was finally out of the line for a rest, was to move to Metz for later deployment. The 945th FAB was located at Erching, France, nine miles due east of Sarreguemines (See Saarbrucken Map, Sheet V.1.). In a "dazzling display of footwork", Gen. Patton was rearranging the composition of his corps (6). Gen. Patton attributed the move to Third Army staff including Gen. Gay, Gen. Mueller, Col. Nixon, and Col. Busch, Quartermaster of the Third Army (7). As of 20 December the XII Corps had the following divisions: 4th Inf., 5th Inf., and the 10th Armored.


The 945th War Diary notes that on 21 December 1944 the "Bn CO & reconn parties left for north at 0930, ..... marched 2245 following 273rd FA Bn." (9). The 945th Daily Journal reports on 21 December that there was a cloudy and overcast sky, but no rain. At 2030 the journal records "March order, close station". The turn to the Battle of the Bulge had begun. Dan Hale and Wallace Bolton recall the convoy traveling with lights on “for a change" (I16 & I1). Steve Giacovelli’s group was apparently not using the full headlights, but the “cat eyes" which provided minimal illumination (I13). Hale says they moved fast and some of the men passed out from exhaustion; D and K rations were used during the forced march. Gino Ricci remembers that it was “the coldest I’ve ever been", and that the M5 tractors needed cleats, and later extensions to get traction on the snowy, icy roads (I20). The extensions on the tracks later hung up on one of the treadway bridges causing much damage.

Rudolf Amschler recalls that around midnight during the march the weather turned much colder and that the mud froze on their boots (I31). Men were riding on the hoods of the M5 tractors trying to stay warm. In the morning the convoy stopped and a kitchen truck provided breakfast and hot coffee. They moved all morning on a four-lane highway towards Luxembourg - tanks, tractors, guns, jeeps and trucks as far as you could see! Wayne Cruser, like most in the 945th FAB, had never heard of the Ardennes forest. He was told by Sgt. Hodnett to ride with Harvey Miller in a tractor with several ammunition trailers behind it (I36). He and Anthony Montini from the wire section tried a different idea to stay warm - they draped their legs over the mufflers at the back of the tractor and covered themselves with blankets. Harvey Miller drove into Luxembourg without any relief - no one was going to wreck his tractor. About half-way to Luxembourg the tractor started running rough, and when Cruser and Miller checked the engine they noticed a large amount of ice around the carburetor. So they fashioned a cardboard shield to direct the heat from the exhaust manifold towards the carburetor - it worked!

The map carried at the battalion HQ by Maj. James Clay notes with blue pencil (used for the overlays) - "Long March to the Bulge". A blue line can be followed on the map to the west as far as St. Avold, then arrows are entered indicating a confused route back towards Metz where the battalion turned directly north. The confusion is noted in the journal as the "Driver Btry "B" turned left at CP instead of continuing straight, losing all of B, A, C, and Hq Batteries except 6 vehicles" (22 December 1944 Entry).

Dale Curfman was glad to move towards the bulge as “we were getting clobbered" in France, and he knew “something was up as we traveled so far" (I40). By 0800 on the 22nd the 945th had regrouped and arrived in Bettembourg, a few miles south of Luxembourg City. The people of Luxembourg were glad to see the Americans (I13). That afternoon the 945th occupied positions at Nommern, well north of Luxembourg City and due west of Echternach (Carte Topographique et Touristique - 1:100,000). Larry Horning dug his foxhole in the frozen ground as the snow fell on the battalion during their first evening in Luxembourg (I17). Hugh Howenstein said it was “as cold as I ever want to be" (I18). The War Diary states only that "vehicle trouble marred march" (9)!


Gen. Patton had hoped to get the XII Corps to attack on the 23rd or 24th of December with the 5th Inf. Div. and 10th Arm. Div. (7). The objective of the Third Army was to stabilize the southern shoulder of the German -penetration, then attack as soon as possible. The relief of Bastogne was a major concern as the 101st Airborne Div. And CCB of the 10th Arm. Div. Were encircled by the Germans. The 945th was fully moved and back in action on Friday, 23 December 1944 with targets supporting the 10th Arm. Div. Gen. Patton noted in a letter to his wife on 22 December that “we now have 108 artillery battalions of corps and Army artillery supporting this attack - in other words, 1,296 guns of 105 or bigger. I don’t see how the Boche can take this much artillery..." (6).

Targets for the 945th FAB included roads, farms, road junction bridges, TOT (time on target) barrages on an enemy battery, and H&I (harassment and interdiction) on several towns within the German lines (Befort, Eppeldorf, Reisdorf, Haller). These towns were south of the Sure River and within 5 to 8 kilometers to the west of Nommern (TAO: MAP IX). Note on map IX that three different American lines are depicted - the line of departure from 22 December, and the front lines on 21 December and 26 December. The Daily Journal notes that the day was "beautiful", and that "Morale is quite high. Many Friendly planes overhead". The battalion moved at the end of the day to Kobenbour after firing 78 HE rounds.

Bob Frey was a radioman for Lt. Lindstrom on several occasions. They carried the radio in the back of a weapons carrier with a canvas tarp for cover. All messages were by voice, not Morse code, and they went directly to the firing batteries and Corps HQ. Frey relates this story that occurred during the battle in Luxembourg: “On one occasion we were observing from the attic of a house on a street where there were several houses built about the same. We were bringing fire on a battery of German 88's and they must have guessed the approximate location from where we were observing because they began knocking the tops of the houses off on the street where we were located. Their guns were quite accurate. Finally they hit the house next to us and the Lt. said that we had better get out of there. Needless to say, it took me a very short time to grab the radio and head for a lower area. Almost at once the house we had been in was hit. I don’t think Lt. Lindstrom had a nerve in his body or else we would have been long gone before then" (I6).

Christmas Eve day broke "clear and cold", and the Third Army had two fire direction centers handling the corps artillery (12). Conditions were perfect for observation, and the battalions fired "salvo after salvo" for interdiction. Several villages received TOT and WP (white phosphorus) fire missions. On this day the 945th fired 549 HE rounds, and 17 WP (9). The XII Corps artillery alone fired 21,173 rounds during the night and day along a ten-mile front (12). Gen. Patton noted that this day was rather discouraging due to stiff resistance on the part of the Germans, in fact he said it was a "very bad Christmas Eve" (6). The XII Corps, although attacking on a front from Diekirch to Echternach and making good progress, was receiving repeated counter-attacks. Most of the 945th targets on the 24th were villages, road junctions and German rocket guns (Nebelwerfers). The Daily Journal notes that Lt. Buck and Lt. Worley went out with the “50th", which was the 50th FAB (105 mm howitzers) from the 5th Inf. Div. Buck and Worley were to serve as “FOs" (forward observers) with the 50th.

On Christmas Eve Gen. Patton sent a personal message and prayer (written by Chaplain James O’Neill) to all of the men in the Third Army. Several of the 945th men still have the wallet sized cards (CARD). On Christmas Day he visited all of the divisions that were in contact with the enemy, and noted that virtually every man received turkey for dinner - cold sandwiches on the front and full turkey dinner in the rear. DeWitt Scarborough remembers the hot meal on Christmas day (I34). Gen. Patton said that "no other Army in the world except the American could have done such a thing" (7). He noted that the morale of the men was surprisingly good considering the cold. Bob Frey and a couple of the men were invited in for dinner by a local farm family, a practice that was not encouraged by the Army. Although they did not speak English, and the men could not speak German, “it was a memorable evening" (I6).

On 25 December the 945th displaced to Eschweiler and used the POZIT (proximity) fuse for the first time. This fuse, which was developed at Johns Hopkins University, used a radio signal to detonate the shell thirty feet above the ground. The 945th fired 674 HE and 4 WP rounds - the highest total so far in the war. Gen.Gen. Patton commented that the new fuse had resulted in over 700 German casualties near Echternach when they were caught in the open. Captured Germans consistently commented on their fear of the new secret weapon of the Americans. The use of the POZIT fuse is discussed on pages 501 and 504 of The Ardennes Offensive. As a forward observer with Lt. Sole, Paul Remillard saw the results of the POZIT fuse and stated that it was “very effective" (I47). Probably the only advantage of being a FO was that you were periodically in a house or other building at night.

On 25 December the first troops from the 4th Arm. Div. Reached Bastogne, but it would be two days later before supplies could be delivered and the wounded evacuated. On 26 December the 945th displaced to the vicinity of Consdorf, four miles southwest of Echternach (TAO: MAP IX). The coordinates for Consdorf as noted in the Daily Journal at 1415 were 995-321, which can be noted on the Trier topographic map retained by Maj. Clay after the war (Trier, Sheet T.1.). It was in Consdorf that 1st Sgt. Buck Carter found out that Bob Frey could play the piano that was located in the converted mess hall. Frey not only didn’t like playing in front of a bunch of guys, he also had to eat last! On a sad note, Frey also received word about this time that his grandmother, who had raised he and his brother after their mother died when he was three, had died back in the states. He was not allowed leave since it was not one of his parents, and it was quite difficult for a young man to deal with so far from home (I6). Wallace Bolton recalls Lt. Mabbit, who would be killed a few weeks later near Echternach, played the fiddle in a “shot-up" farmhouse near Consdorf (I16).

The Daily Journal notes that at 2100 H&I Fires from Coat (182nd FA Group) were fired on Eruzen. The coordinates of 060-390 can be located on Maj. Clay’s map for the city. A later fire mission (H4) was directed at a bridge over the Sauer River (coordinates 983-404). The Daily Journal notes that the weather was clear and cold, and thus the observation aircraft were up from 0850 to 1700. The pilots were Lt. Grawburg and Lt. Eaton.

On this date elements of the 5th Inf. Div. attempted to move into Echternach where E Company, 12th Regiment, 4th Inf. Div. had been holding out since the Germans attacked. The 4th Inf. Div. Had been pulled out of the line for rest and refitting after the brutal battle of the Huertgen Forest in November, only to be hit by the German attack in the Ardennes. The 945th would provide fire support for the 4th Inf. Div. remnants in Echternach until it was captured on 27 December. However, the fighting around Echternach continued for several more days. DeWitt Scarborough states that “Soles and Remillard were on the front constantly" as forward observers, and “Buck arrived about this time" (I34). The life of the forward observers was a demanding and dangerous one indeed.

The war diary notes on 29 December that the “Bn reinforcing 42 FA Bn in support of 12th Inf. Regt., 4th Inf. Div. Tow FO’s with infantry. Total rounds-240 HE, 6WP." Those forward observers were & . The story of the 12th Infantry Regiment is told in the book “History of the 12th Infantry Regiment". This regiment dates back to the Mexican War, with actions at Gettysburg and Normandy. The regiment was honored with a Distinguished Unit Citation for “outstanding performance of duty in action against the enemy from 16 to 24 December 1944". The 12th held against the 212th Volksgrenadier Division at Echternach until it was relieved on 24 December 1944.

The 27th of December found the 945th still in Consdorf, headquartered in an abandoned farmhouse (Photos). The targets continued to be along the Sauer River near and north of Echternach. For example, at 1100 batteries A and C fired 18 WP and 88 HE rounds at tanks located at coordinates 0300-3822. This would place the tanks in Weiterbach, just upstream on the Sauer River from Echternach (see Trier Sheet T.1.). At 1130 a fire mission which was observed by the an air observer from the 945th.

On 28 December 1944 General Lentz, Commanding Officer for the XII Corps visited the 945th command post to present awards; however, he was called away before the ceremony could take place. The bronze stars that were to be presented that day would have to wait. On the 29th Lt. Col. DeLoach presented medals to officers and enlisted men. Lt. Babbitt was assigned as the forward observer with E Company, 12th Regiment, 4th Inf. Div. In Echternach. The next two days saw over 700 rounds fired by the battalion as the weather improved to “clear and cold". Gen. Patton noted in his diary that “There had been rumors for a number of days that Germans, flying captured P-47s, were strafing our troops. We finally decided that for the first of the year no P-47 would fly in the area of either the XII or XX Corps, so that if any attacks came they would be definitely recognized as German planes" (6). This was an ominous warning of what would be the most tragic day of the war for the 945th Field Artillery Battalion.

Snow flurries and continued cold greeted the 945th on New Years Eve day, 31 December 1944. It was Sunday and both Protestant and Catholic services were held at 1000 in the morning. Just past 1530 two P-47s appeared over Consdorf. Although no one knows for certain, the anti-aircraft battalion attached to the 945th may have fired their 40mm Bofers guns at the P-47s. If this is true, they may have been provided word that no P-47s should be flying over the XII Corps, as per Gen. Pattons instructions. In any case, one of the P-47s peeled off, circled, and came directly in on Arthur St. Germain’s gun section from C battery. Two 250 lb bombs careened their way down on the battery, striking one howitzer and having a direct hit on a tent containing several members of one gun section, including Rudolf Amschler. The howitzer was badly damaged, as was the M5 tractor. The effects on the men was much worse - nine dead and one (Rudolph Amschler) badly wounded. Wallace Bolton was astounded years later to find out that Amschler had survived! Bolton states that it was so cold that night that the blood plasma at the aid station was frozen solid.

St. Germain just missed the bombing as he was returning from picking up the mens pay for the section. Others were within a hundred or so yards of the explosions, and when they ran to the scene the only survivor was Amschler who was badly wounded and staggering away from the tent. Lt. Worley stopped him and got him to lie down. He remembered little other than a tremendous concussion from the bomb. Amschler relates his experience as a “special story" within the 945th history. Hugh Howenstine was close enough that he heard the shrapnel hitting the trees. Walter Kline described the scene of the bombing as an “awful site" (I33). As Roy McMahan said, it was during tough times like these that “we got tougher and stuck together better" (I26). Dan Hale simply states that “St. Germain lost his section and Amschler survived" (I1).

Fred Mackey had also missed the bombing of C battery as he was evacuated with a case of pneumonia on New Years Day before dawn. Taken to a hospital in Nancy, where he shared a room with an officer that was also from Hartwell, Georgia (Fred didn’t know him). He was eventually returned to England for recuperation, and didn’t get back to the 945th until they were well into Germany. James Wright turned 21 on Christmas Day and he was not only very cold, but it was “one I will always remember" (I15). One of the gun section that was killed was from California, and Wright’s Aunt knew his mother. He visited the man’s mother when he returned to the states after the war.

Gen. Patton states that “At midnight on the night of December 31, all guns in the Third Army fired rapid fire for twenty minutes on the Germans as a New Years greeting. When the firing ceased, our forward observers stated that they could hear the Germans screaming in the woods" (7). Neither the 945th War Diary or Daily Journal note such firing at midnight. The first entry of the following day said it all for the mood in the 945th - “A new year has begun - ?". Even Gen. Patton wondered in his diary - “We can still lose this war" (7).

The first weeks of 1945 were relatively static for the 945th as the Americans continued to hold the southern shoulder of the bulge. Gen. Patton was also ready to attack from Diekirch north (near the base of the bulge), but Gen. Bradley still wanted to pour more troops into the area around Bastogne. The German counter-attacks began to lessen in frequency, as Gen. Patton feared that the Germans were escaping back out of the bulge - a thought which infuriated him! On 8 January 1945 Gen. Bradley asked Gen. Patton if the Third Army could attack towards Houfflaize in an attempt to cut off the German retreat out of the bulge. The attack would not kick-off until the 13th, and it would be the 16 January before elements of the 41st Armored Infantry Regiment (U.S. First Army) made contact with the 11th Arm. Div of the Third Army - thus eliminating the bulge.

During this period the 945th generally fired between 75 and 150 rounds per day, with a variety of targets including pillboxes, German batteries, and the usual harassment and interdiction missions. Lts. Eaton and Grawburg continued flying for observation - weather permitting. On 4 January Cpl. Jimmie Powell, A battery, won the “Atlantic Sweepstakes" - a 30 day leave to the United States! Lt. George Soles joined him on a 30 day leave. They left on 7 January 1945. Several men were also sent back to the “Nancy Rest Area" including Capt Cecil Morris. The fire missions were still across the Sauer River into Germany. For example. On 7 January Battery A fired 24 HE rounds TOT on a town at coordinates 080-392, just northeast of Echternach. The 945th was assigned during this period to the 177th Field Artillery Group, and officers from that outfit inspected the batteries during the next few days (10 January). On 11 January 1945 twenty-five enlisted men were given leave to visit Luxembourg City, an indication of the lull in activity on the southern shoulder. Also on this day several men were awarded the Bronze Star Medal as directed in General Order #3, HQ XII Corps. These included Cpl. William Skinner and 1st Lt. Arthur Kelter.

During January Gen. Patton wrote the editor of the “Stars and Stripes", the Army newspaper, complaining that recent articles were “subversive to discipline" (6). He threatened to discontinue distribution of the paper, and called it a “scurrilous sheet". He felt it was giving the men a defeatist attitude - perhaps it was the photos of the Germans taking the boots off of dead Americans at Honsfeld that provoked him (Stars & Stripes, 12/27/44).

The XII Corps finally attacked on 18 January 1945 across the Sure River at Diekirch with the 4th Arm. Div., and the 4th, 5th, 80th and 87th Inf. Divisions (7). The attack went well, particularly for the 5th Inf. Div. The Daily Journal reflects the intensity of the attack with numerous individual fire missions, usually 20 to 30 rounds per mission. The U.S. Army history notes that the “terrain on which the 4th Infantry Division had defended and over which the 5th Infantry Division had attacked proved to be as difficult as any on which military operations were conducted in the course of the Ardennes campaign. American superiority in heavy supporting weapons, tanks, tank destroyers never had the full tactical effectiveness on this broken ground which normally would be the case. The use of artillery on both sides of the line is one of the features of the XII Corps operations at the Sauer, and in numerous actions German use of the rocket launcher proved particularly disquieting to the Americans. German records note the effectiveness of the American artillery with considerable distaste" (10).

A large reason for the success of the artillery was the courage and skill of the forward observers. The Daily Journal notes that Lt. Buck was assigned at a forward observer with the 87th Inf. Div., 345th Inf. Regiment, and Lt. Lindstrom relieved Lt. Mabbitt. According to Wayne Cruser the FOs changed assignments between the infantry regiments and other field artillery units (I36). The 945th was still firing at 2255 (10:55 pm) on the day of the attack, and kept firing right through the night with missions at 0200, 0210 and 0215.

On 20 January, a Saturday, Cpl. Lawrence Horning and four other enlisted men were issued passes to the Nancy Rest Area. It is interesting to note that a 155mm gun (Long Tom) from the 244th FAB was attached to the 945th for operations. The 155mm gun has a flater trajectory and longer range compared to the 155mm howitzers in the 945th. The Red Cross clubmobile, named “Vicksburg", visited the battalion on 21 January to serve coffee and donuts.

Sometime during this period Lt. Col. DeLoach led a group of fifteen vehicles towards Echternach, and ignoring “6 foot" high signs from the 5th Inf. Div. That said “no one beyond this point in daylight", ran right into a German artillery and mortar barrage from across the Sauer River. DeWitt Scarborough was with DeLoach as the vehicles and radios were abandoned by the battalion in order to escape (I34). Several weeks later the vehicles were found about 50 miles into Germany, abandoned by the Germans, with the “Luxury" stickers still on the radios!

On 25 January the XII Corps was on their objective, the hills east of the Diekirch-St. Vith road. The attack was “exceptionally good, well planned and rapidly executed (7). On 23 January the battalion CO (Lt. Co. DeLoach) left on reconnaissance for the area near Eschweiller, Germany. On this date DeLoach was awarded an Oak Leaf Cluster for his Bronze Star, and several men received Bronze Stars including 2nd Lt. John T. Cope, who was in the hospital recovering from wounds received on 18 December, and 1st Sgt. William J. Hodnett, who would be killed near the wars end. 1st Lt. Robert R. Grawburg and 2nd. Lt. Edward A. Bletzer received Oak Leaf Clusters for their Air Medals. Thursday, 25 January was Walter Kline’s lucky day as he was selected by the battalion for Corps competition to “work his way back to the states on a Red Cross ship and receive a 10 days leave in the states". The next day the Daily Journal notes that Kline “wins the trip home..."! The 25th was also the official date for the end of the Ardennes Campaign.

The USO presented a show for the battalion on 26 January, but it is unlikely that FOs Buck and Mabbitt saw the show as they were being reassigned to the 417th Inf. Regiment of the 76th Inf. Div., a newly arrived division in Luxembourg. Capt. Bean, serving as the “Ln O" or liaison officer with the 87th Inf. Div., was reassigned to 901st FAB from the 76th Inf. Div.

On 31 January Gen. Patton visited Houfflaize, which was utterly devastated by artillery fire (American) in an attempt to root out the Germans. Gen. Patton stated that it was the worst destruction of a town he had ever seen - even worse than St. Vith further east in the bulge.

Chapter 10 Notes

1. Stanton, Shelby L., World War II Order of Battle, Galahad Books, New York, New York, 1984.
2. Weigley, Russell F., Eisenhowers Lieutenants, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana, 1981.
3. History of the 182nd Field Artillery Group, US Army Military History Institute, 204-182FA 1945, Carlisle Barracks, PA.
4. Dyer, George LTC, XII Corps: Spearhead of Gen. Patton's Army, XII Corps History Association, 1947.
5. Blumenson, Martin, "Breakout and Pursuit", U.S. Army in World War II, Center for Military History, United States Army, Washington, D.C., 1961.
6. Bluemenson, Martin, "The Patton Papers - 1940-1945", Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, MA, 1974.
7. Patton, George S. Jr., "War As I Knew It", Bantam Books, New York, NY, 1947.
8. Johns, Glover S., "The Clay Pigeons of St. Lo.", Bantam Books, New York, NY, 1958.
9. War Diary of the 945th Field Artillery Battalion in the ETO.
10. Cole, Hugh M., "The Ardennes Offensive", U.S. Army in World War II, Center for Military History, United States Army, Washington, D.C., 1965.