My company C was sitting in Stavelot, Belgium with orders to defend the town. Here we watched the troops of the First Army retreat and knew this alert would not suddenly be removed like it was in Carentan and Avranches, both in France. This was definitely the real thing as our guys had patrolled the area for German paratroopers only a few nights before but didn’t find any. Two hours before the initial enemy attack came support from one company of the 7th Armored Division arrived to help us in the defense of the town.
The attack came from the 150th Panzer Brigade using either American origin or German equipment disguised as American. The shelling started just daybreak and I was walking to chow with Russ Beamer of Dellroy Ohio. He and I left for the Army together and went all through the war together. I asked Russ, “Do you think we will ever see Carroll County again”? He replied, “Carl it doesn’t look very good now”. The fight was continued from early morning until just before noon. At this time and upon advice from the commander of C company we left Stavelot.
I was driving the command car as John Higgins the regular driver was in the hospital and my 2 1/2 ton truck was broken down and led our company out of Stavelot. As we were going out of Stavelot the Americans had set a huge gasoline dump on fire to keep the Germans from getting the gas. Our convoy went about 10 miles to a town called Spa that was First Army headquarters. Our acting C Company commander Lt. Joe F. Chinlund of 1323 Eddy St Chicago, Illinois told First Army headquarters that we had just got shelled out of Stavelot. They told Lt Chinlund that they didn’t know that the Germans had counterattacked and were that close. With those just written few words I believe our current company C was the very first to come in contact with the Germans in the Battle of the Bulge.
Our company C was relieved of its commitment to defend the town of Stavelot by the 117th Infantry Regiment of the 30th Infantry Division. It was rumored that Germany’s highest armored division was in the area and that our company of 150 men would be completely wiped out if we were to become involved with them. This rumor later became history as the Malmedy Massacre was only about 10 miles away. We left half of our equipment and vehicles in the town as we left and we picked everything up a week later traveling through miles of newly won German territory.
Wesley Hillary was later awarded the Silver Star for his action in the battle. Under intense enemy fire and in an exposed position he continued to operate his 50-caliber machine gun and destroyed three or four enemy half-tracks, knocked out several machine gun positions and many of the enemy’s personnel. Part of the company was now with the 47th Infantry Regiment near Monschau and they prepared a bridge for demolition and guarded it. They were under enemy artillery fire and contacted enemy patrols on many occasions. They also took positions in some other bridges near Arville and guarded them against the Northern thrusts of the German Sixth Panzer Army.
Able Company held a barrier line which ran from south of Liege to Arville to the vicinity of Jalkay south of Spa along with a third section of Baker Company. The line was under attack by enemy aircraft constantly. H and C companies water points which were listed as lost or now located and found to be supplying water for the first and second infantry divisions. Company C had moved into buzz bomb alley at Verviers. The town was under fire by the German railroad guns and approximately 150 German paratroopers who spoke English and carried forged documents disguise as Americans, were in the city.
On Christmas day as the 101st Airborne Division battled in encircled Bastogne, the battalion was relieved of its assignments to the First Army and V Corps and was sent to the Third Army’s VIII Corps. By the 27th the move to the southern flank of the bulge was completed and A company reinforced a bridge at Bokair to carry a class 40 load. The following day the battalion CP was moved to St. Renig, France.
On December 29 our battalion went into direct support of the 87th Infantry Division and the battalion CP was moved to Bouillon, Belgium and later to Herbeaumont, Belgium. Work with the 87th consisted of just about every type of engineering work possible. B Company quickly constructed a barrier line to protect the divisions left flank on New Year’s Day 1945. A company constructed two bridges both over the divisions MSR. The gap was 40 feet the first day and the remaining 20 feet was bridged with a single span timber bridge with a 30 class capacity. They teamed up with the infantry for the construction of a second bridge, the span was 110 foot class 40 triple single Bailey bridge. Extra outposts were setup between the bridge and the enemy. Company C and their direct support was given the job of clearing the roads from St. Hubert to the front. The Germans had just withdrawn from the area and as usual left minefields, obstacles and booby-trapped items. Besides the roadwork, roads were covered with thick layers of ice and snow. During this operation in this area T/5 Leland Aring of company C was awarded a Bronze Star for his work in clearing booby-trapped items.
Baker Company continued to work on the divisions MSR during this period. The entire unit was constantly with the members of the 87th division. The 87th pulled out alone on January 17 and our battalion was now to give support to the paratroopers of the 17th Airborne Division. This was an extremely hard task due to the fact that the divisions engineers the 139th engineers A&B battalions had few trucks or heavy equipment. This left the entire responsibility of the job ahead directly to the 202nd Engineer Battalion. While with the 17th Airborne Division our division constructed two bridges in the forward area a 30 foot class 40 single Bailey bridge by company C on January 21 and a 60 foot class 40 double single Bailey on January 27 by company B.
The same problems that were faced when with the 87th were again faced with the 17th. The hardest job was clearing the remains of the city of Houffalize. The city when in enemy hands was under heavy attack by allied aircraft and the roads were impassable because of huge craters and rubble from bomb buildings. Heavy snowdrifts covered the entire area and besides all these obstacles mines had been placed throughout the entire area. A company was in direct support of the division and that it had established their CP in Boulangerie, Belgium and the battalion advance CP was located in the same town.
All other companies worked constantly in the divisions’ forward area under enemy observation and mortar fire. In one case Andy Yoder of A Company was credited with taking an entire town alone with his bulldozer. He was busy doing his work, as advanced elements of the 17th Airborne Division move cautiously in. Relieved of duty of the 17th Airborne Division our division continued to work in the VIII Corps area until February 5 when it was reassigned again to the 9th Army and attached to the XVI Corps, 1153rd engineering combat group.
Suffering that the men endured during the battling in the Ardennes forest is something that cannot be described to its fullest extent. The men themselves are the only ones who will ever know just how miserable life was during that time. No matter how much clothing was put on it was still impossible to keep warm. Trench foot and frostbite were common
The Battle of the Bulge is now finished and what had started out to be the German’s greatest victory had turned into a smashing defeat. The American forces had suffered terrible casualties some 80,000 men were included in their casual list; the Germans have lost some 90,000 soldiers in the campaign which made our heavy casualties look a little less terrifying
In closing please forgive me if the article I have written to you about the events of the 202nd Engineer Combat Battalion played in the Bulge seems a little too long. You see I’m proud of everything our battalion did during this historic period of time besides being honored and thrilled with what my own see company did and what part I had a
I’m proud and honored to have served.
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