In writing "Stand Your Ground" I chose the persona of one of the 2,000 replacements sent to the 110th Infantry Regiment of the, 28th Infantry Division between November and December, 1944. Most of these young, untested, GIs had just graduated High School when the Allies conducted "Operation Overlord" in June, 1944. The prospect of being a nameless face, thrust into the line a few days before Christmas had to have been one of the scariest experiences faced by a Soldier during World War II. As I stated initially, the 28th Infantry, a National Guard Division activated to serve in the Northern European Theater of Operations, had been badly mauled in the "Battle of the Hurtgen Forrest" along side the 4th Infantry and the 2nd Armored Divisions between September and November 1944.
The named Characters in this story like PVT Leroy "Whitey" Schaller, SGT Morris Pettit, T/SGT J.J. Kuhn, and 1LT Thomas "Kit" Carson, were actually in B Company, 110th Infantry, when it became isolated in Marnach 16-17 December 1944. B Company was the center of the Regiment's line between Heinerscheid and Weiler. The position within the allied line put it directly in the path of the Wehrmacht 2nd Panzer Division when the attack began. Also, the defense of Marnach, was essential because the Regimental Headquarters was in Clerveaux. Any form of an organized reaction to the German Offensive in the center sector would come from this Headquarters. This HQ was key, not because of its location, but because of the coordination that would have to take place between elements moving to contact and the elements already in contact with the Enemy.
On the German Side, the dogged American Defense from the outset, had thrown the key timeline off. The 2nd Panzer Division was scheduled to have Clerveaux secured by the morning of 17 December. The second order effect of the delay in the timeline was the seizure of Bastogne. The German command, having used the Ardennes as an avenue of approach in the invasion of Belgium and France in 1940, knew the few narrow roads leading west could not allow for effective maneuver of mounted forces. Bastogne was key terrain because it was the crossroads of no less than seven routes in the region. If the Allies were to establish a deliberate defense anywhere along the axis of advance these crossroads would allow forces to change mission and move to reduce said defense. Without the flexibility of maneuver, the only advantage the German Army could maintain was speed.
As the Allied line crumbled in front of the enemy attack, remnants of units, and individual survivors of decimated elements would fall into the next line of allies. Such was the case in Clerveaux. The survivors of B Company, in small groups, exfiltrated from Marnach, and joined the defense of the Regimental Headquarters. Though the position in Clerveaux was doomed. The Allied 12th Army Group, under the command of GEN Omar Bradley, was sending new Divisions into the fray. One of those units being brought from rest areas in western France and eastern Belgium was the 101st Airborne. The "Screaming Eagles" departed their rest camp without receiving winter equipment, ammunition basic load, or an objective. Basically it loaded trucks and drove to the sound of the guns. As the convoys moved west directions were given at crossroads. The command groups of the US 1st Army and VIIIth Corps examined maps, focusing on key terrain that was still in Allied hands. One of those locations was Bastogne. The 101st arrived as the 110th defense of Clerveaux collapsed. Paratroopers taking position around the town, encountered GIs from the 28th. Cigarettes and Ammunition were exchanged. Many veteran stories are of 28th Division Soldiers telling the 101st "the entire German Army is behind us." This was not far from the truth.
If the units like B Company, 110th Infantry Regiment, 28th Division had not held out as long as they did, then join up with other units in defense, who knows what story history would be telling now. But the bravery and tenacity of the average GI turned what could have been the largest route since Napoleonic warfare days. The story of what happened in front of Bastogne is the key to the "Battle of the Bulge" but in my opinion the least told. I hope that a reader might see from this story what a GI might have experienced those crucial days. Maybe a reader might read this story and remember something their Grandfather told them about those desperate times and appreciate their sacrifice a little more.
Stay in the Fight
With the new year comes a new shooting season. This year I will be competing as much as my schedule allows. Upcoming posts will have more focus on my training, event reports, and my personal AARs. I also will be posting about friends of mine who have done well in 2010 and deserve some credit and mention. THANKS!!