At the Siegfried Line in Belgium

On the evening of 11 September 1944 elements of First Army were on the German border. Several V Corps patrols crossed the Our River and stood on German soil, where they gazed curiously at concrete pillboxes and hunted for souvenirs before they returned to their own lines. Next day the advance was halted all along the First Army front until the artillery ammunition needed to assault the Siegfried Line could be brought up, supposedly a matter of only a few days. By 11 September, Medaris' 71st Ordnance Ammunition Group had brought enough ammunition forward in its big trucking operation to establish a sizable army depot near Liège. At Liège for the first time since D-day army had a good railhead close to the front, and shipments began to come in almost immediately by rail. But a serious famine in all kinds of supplies, an aftermath of the fast pursuit, was about to affect all the armies. On the First Army front the halt at the Siegfried Line was to be a long one.1

In the army area around the Liège railhead Ordnance units found shelter as cold weather came on in schoolhouses, factories, and other buildings abandoned by the Belgians for lack of coal to heat them. One unit, the 51st Ordnance Group, found temporary billets in a moated château that the Germans had used as a "baby factory" —a home for unmarried Belgian girls who had children by German soldiers. Ammunition companies of First Army, like those of Third Army about this time, began to use roadside storage as fields became muddy, or they stacked their ammunition along village streets. These companies remained at the Siegfried Line during October and November when only limited gains could be made, such as the capture of Aachen by VII Corps on 21 October. The VII Corps then became First Army's northernmost, since XIX Corps passed to Ninth Army. When V Corps was pulled north to protect VII Corps' right flank in the Hürtgen Forest, VIII Corps was brought from Brittany to hold in the Ardennes.2

The Supply Famine

In late summer and early fall of 1944, First Army was feeling acutely the shortage of Class II and IV supplies—weapons,


trucks, and parts—which had been neglected in the rush to get rations, gas, and ammunition forward. More tanks, jeeps, light armored cars, rifles, mortars, and grenade launchers had been needed ever since the summer hedgerow fighting. During August and September the most critical shortages were medium tank engines, tank tracks, and tires. In the period of fast pursuit the tanks, described by Ernest Hemingway as "smashing around like so many drunken elephants in a native village," had suffered badly. First Army's precious supplies of tank engines and tracks, brought up over the beaches with so much effort, had been expended in the job of refitting the tanks of XV Corps when it passed temporarily from Third Army to First Army control late in August.3 During October, because of the transportation crisis, trucks of all kinds became extremely scarce, and the stock of spare parts, as well as engines for trucks and jeeps, reached the lowest level of the whole European campaign. The assault on the Siegfried Line brought shortages in artillery matériel—gun tubes, equilibrators, and recoil mechanisms.4

Communications Zone opened Ordnance Base Depot O-619 in Cherbourg on 20 August and O-644 in Paris in October. Theoretically army placed its requisitions through a regulating station, which forwarded them to the theater's chief Ordnance officer, and Communications Zone sent the supplies in replacement vehicles, or, later, by rail. But First Army supplies either did not arrive, or, if they did, they were the wrong supplies. On one occasion near Liège, the army supply battalion simply took the locomotive off one end of the train, put it on the other end, and sent back the whole trainload of supplies. During September First Army received only 9.8 percent of its total requirements for Ordnance spare parts and assemblies. And even in early October there were no tires or tank tracks and parts in ADSEC depots, although these items had been critical for months.5

It is debatable how much better Communications Zone could have done, granted the sheer speed of the advance from St. Lô to the German border; the strain on truck transportation imposed by the destruction of rail lines by bombing; the failure to clear the ports; and bad guesses in the United States as to battle losses in tanks and the number of trucks and all kinds of vehicular spare parts that would be needed. Ordnance supply officers at Communications Zone, when taken to task by 12th Army Group, maintained that with the exception of a very few critical items their troubles were "purely transportation"; that the supplies were still afloat off the coast of France because G-4 did not give them a high enough priority for unloading. Their position was supported by Col. Waldo E. Laidlaw, Ordnance officer of the New York Port of Embarkation, who reported to 12th Army Group headquarters at


Verdun on 25 September that fifty-six ships containing Class II supplies were being held offshore because they could not be unloaded.6

These explanations did not satisfy First Army Ordnance officers, who stormed 12th Army Group headquarters repeatedly for help on supply. Some of their complaints were received with reservations: First Army had a reputation for asking for the moon. On the other hand, First Army Ordnance men felt that there were times when Communications Zone actually hindered supply. During the first two weeks in September, at the height of the pursuit, Communications Zone moved its entire 11,000-man headquarters from Valognes to Paris, up-anchoring its operations and creating a major tieup in communications, transportation, and supply in general. Brig. Gen. Royal B. Lord, who was Lt. Gen. John C. H. Lee's chief of staff at Communications Zone and who had ordered the move, justified it on the necessity for better communications facilities than were available in Valognes. General Sayler agreed, emphasizing the need for closer liaison with the rear echelon in England. Eisenhower and Bradley sharply disapproved of the "stampede to Paris."7

One COMZ effort that was for a considerable time more of a handicap to Ordnance than a help (however useful to other services) was the operation of the Red Ball Express, which was extravagant of trucks, parts, and tires at a time when they were precious. First Army Ordnance accused COMZ depot men of the sin (unforgivable in Medaris' eyes) of not knowing what they had. The depot men on their part complained of the difficulty of determining what was wanted, because nomenclature on many army requisitions differed from nomenclature on depot stock cards. Whatever the cause, this stumbling block forced Medaris to place liaison men at Depots O-619 and O-644 to identify "lost" parts. At times both First and Third Army Ordnance Sections had to send their own trucks back to ports as well as to COMZ depots. On 4 October, for example, 25 First Army Ordnance vans with 100 drivers went all the way back to Cherbourg to pick up supplies. This' was much too reminiscent of Sicily.8

Local Procurement

Experience in France and in the Mediterranean had taught Medaris an important lesson about supplies. He expressed it in two sentences: "Never base a plan of


action on the theory that you will have enough. Base it on a probable scarcity and be ready to manufacture the supplies not on hand."9

Late in August he instructed his maintenance companies that fifth echelon repair would have to be the rule rather than the exception and that every available man would have to be used to place back in service as much equipment as possible. As army shop facilities were necessarily limited, Medaris then turned to French factories. Paris provided the first real opportunity for local procurement since very little had been possible in Normandy, where the few existing factories had been destroyed. On 6 September Medaris sent four officers to Paris to scout the possibilities for rebuilding tank engines; repairing and retreading tires; buying civilian cars; and obtaining oxygen and acetylene for gas cylinders.10

Though civilian cars were in short supply, considerable help came from purchases such as gas cylinder fillings and special helmets for tank crews, which are worn to protect heads from injury within the tank. A French helmet of pressed aluminum with a leather insert was approved by First Army's Armored Section and 278 had been delivered by mid-September. But factory output was severely limited by lack of electric power and materials, especially materials for rebuilding tires. The most immediate result of this effort at local procurement was the First Army contract to overhaul—not rebuild—tank engines. One afternoon Col. Nelson M. Lynde, Jr., Medaris' maintenance officer, and Col. Floyd A. Hansen, his executive officer, drove to Paris in a jeep to look for a site for an automotive dump. Along the way Lynde noticed the large Gnome-Rhône factory, which manufactured engines. He was immediately interested because he had 200 unserviceable tank engines that he had brought over to the Continent, having been unable to get them overhauled in England. He had carried the engines across France on tank transporters, awaiting the time when Ordnance companies could obtain enough parts by cannibalization to do the work. He found out that Gnome-Rhône was willing to take on the overhaul job, and after the first engines the company sent back to Ordnance for testing were found to be satisfactory, Gnome-Rhône was given a contract to overhaul the 200 engines at $500 an engine. The contract was filled in about two weeks, and First Army Ordnance got the tank engines in late September, the only ones it was to get for four months. After the engines were completed, Communications Zone took over the contract.11

When Communications Zone became operational in Paris the second week in September, its Ordnance Section's Procurement and Fiscal Division (later renamed the Industrial Division) undertook an engine rebuild program, contracting with other firms in and around Paris for both tank and truck engines. Truck engines were more and more in demand as the effects of Red Ball continued to be felt. But it took a long time to get the French shops started. Obtaining coal and electricity, training the workers, and above all,


finding the parts (especially bearings) needed in rebuild involved a long and arduous process. No real results were possible until early 1945. For most of the autumn of 1944 the Gnome-Rhône plant was the only factory in production.12

In Belgium where big manufacturing centers were close behind the front and where industrialists would presumably be far easier to work with than German firms would be after First Army moved into Germany, Medaris started a local procurement program on a grand scale. At Liège he negotiated a sizable contract with Fabrique Nationale des Armes de Guerre, which had extensive metalworking facilities and also, as holder of all Browning patents, was able to make small arms and small arms parts as well as parts for heavy artillery carriages. Help on tire manufacture, recap and retread, came from the Liège plant of Engelbert and Company, which could handle work on tires and tubes of all sizes, even those for the huge tank transporters, especially after the capture of Malmédy brought into army stocks fifty tons of German buna and two tons of Japanese gum rubber.

During October, as these contracts began to bear fruit, other services, especially Quartermaster, began to take advantage of local facilities, but Ordnance was the leader and continued local procurement on a scale unheard of at army level. In spite of shortages in raw material, fuel, power, and skilled labor, and the destruction wrought by German V-1 bombs, between September 1944 and February 1945 First Army Ordnance obtained from firms in Liège and from others as far west as Brussels more than a thousand different badly needed items, some of them in considerable quantities. In November Medaris assigned the administration of this ambitious program to the 185th Battalion of the 72d Ordnance Group as its sole mission.13

First Army Improvises

During the halt at the Siegfried Line First Army Ordnance even managed with the help of civilian resources to improve some of its matériel. Combat forces had complained that 60-mm. and 81-mm. mortars, which had been scarce ever since the hedgerow battles in Normandy, were inaccurate. At the request of Colonel Lynde, COMZ sent 1st Lt. George L. Herter to investigate. Herter was energetic and inventive. By living with the mortar crews of several infantry divisions he found out the faults of the mortars, corrected them in two models, and had the models tested


in combat. First Army then contracted with J. Honres Artillerie, a manufacturer near Liège that had formerly made the Stokes Brandt mortar, to rebuild all mortars according to Herter's specifications. This project, completed between September and December under the supervision of Herter and three inspectors from the 25th Ordnance Battalion, greatly improved the accuracy of the mortars and all but eliminated maintenance troubles. J. Honres Artillerie also manufactured from captured matériel more than 200 complete 60-mm. mortars and mortar sights.14

An important artillery item was also improved. Gas check pads had been wearing out at an alarming rate—a repetition of the experience in Italy, where the life of the pad was estimated at only about 300 rounds. An examination of two German gas check pads found with 155-mm. guns emplaced in the Maginot Line had revealed that they were quite different from their American counterparts, which were made of wire mesh, paraffin, and asbestos, and were so fragile that they had to be handled carefully. The German pads were made of synthetic rubber, were tough, and seemed to have an almost indefinite life. Tested in an American gun, one lasted 1,800 rounds before it was cut by a defective split-ring. Fortunately, the manager of Engelbert and Company was familiar with the composition used in the German pad and could duplicate it. Molds for all calibers were machined and production started at five per caliber a day. The new pads were cheap and relatively indestructible; their life exceeded that of the tube.15

Manufacture and Improvisation in Army Shops

Many of the items procured in Belgium were truck engine parts needed for First Army's own engine rebuild program. Medaris early planned a big assembly line operation in his own shops, for his experience had left him with little faith in supply from the rear. First Army's requirement for truck engines had been estimated at 800 a month. In the five months after D-day First Army had received only 562 from COMZ—actually the number was 162, for in July First Army Ordnance Section had turned in 400 to base depots because there was no transportation to move them. Later, when Medaris sent truckloads of damaged engines back to Paris, he found that they were disappearing into COMZ stocks—until he began sending them back under armed guard, two men to a truck, with orders to release damaged engines only in exchange for good ones. COMZ's engine rebuild program was just beginning to get under way in mid-December and any real increase in production had to await a big shipment of parts from the United States later in the month.16


First Army rebuild of engines and other major assemblies for trucks, such as carburetors, starters, generators, axles, and transmissions, had began the second week of October at Verviers, a town at that time less than 12 miles from the front lines, which had been selected as headquarters for the main shop battalion because it was as far forward as the battalion could move until First Army crossed the Rhine. At Verviers Ordnance found two excellent buildings, each large enough to accommodate the complete shop of a heavy automotive maintenance company, with room to billet the men. There were also some valuable legacies from the Germans, who had used the town for rebuilding their own equipment. The two companies selected for the rebuild job, the 868th Heavy Automotive Company and the 900th, found benches, engine stands, shop racks, and even double-decker beds and wall lockers. Base shop equipment such as rigs and dollies they had to improvise, since they had only fourth echelon equipment. Working long hours, sometimes under blackout conditions, frequently in danger from buzz bombs, and constantly plagued for lack of certain parts that could not be obtained locally, the men made a remarkable record, rebuilding 783 major assemblies during October, of which 304 were engines.17

A good deal of work was done in First Army shops in the neighborhood of Liège on gun tubes, recoil mechanisms, and other artillery parts, because in the assault on the Siegfried Line artillery was playing an important role as it had in Italy. One major Ordnance effort, for which the artillerymen were grateful, was aimed at keeping the very few M12 self-propelled guns shooting. The M12, made by mounting the old 1918 French GPF 155-mm. gun on a tank chassis, had been developed by the Ordnance Department and accepted without much enthusiasm by Army Ground Forces, which had authorized the manufacture in the United States of only a hundred. First Army had three battalions and at first had been doubtful whether they would be of much use. But the mount proved to be remarkably sturdy and "the old GPF tubes," the Artillery officer reported, "again spoke with authority on French soil." The M12's had been able to keep up with the armored divisions in the race across France as no other medium or heavy artillery could. They were especially valuable at the Siegfried Line because they could be brought up to within a few hundred yards of the strong concrete fortifications, closer to the target than had hitherto been possible for heavy artillery.18

This employment in direct fire made possible a somewhat bizarre repair job on the tube of an M12 received one day in November in an Ordnance tank maintenance shop in Maastricht, Holland. The


tube had been hit on its side about six inches from the muzzle. No replacement tubes were to be had, and the gun was badly needed. At the suggestion of the maintenance officer, with the concurrence of the artillerymen and the corps Ordnance officer, the problem was solved by sawing about a foot off the muzzle end of the tube, and the gun was returned to action.19

In the reduction of Aachen the M12's were invaluable. On 18 October one M12 battalion at a cost of only sixty-four rounds neutralized an observation post and nine buildings—one of them a movie theater occupied by a company of German infantrymen, all of whom were either killed or wounded. The German colonel who had commanded the city afterward spoke of the M12's with "considerable consternation," according to a G-2 report, swearing that a shell from one of them had pierced three houses before exploding and wrecking the fourth. The M12 carriages were so scarce (there were no replacements) that it was a real loss when one of them was put out of action by the enemy in October. First Army Ordnance men salvaged the gun, recoil mechanism, and top carriage, and installed them in a cargo carrier M30, an outstanding feat of improvisation, for the piece went back into action and worked well. The crew promptly dubbed it "Miss Carriage 1944."20

Frustration at the Ports and Depots

Shortly before midnight on 3 October a telephone call from Colonel Ray, Medaris' ammunition officer, to 12th Army Group headquarters at Verdun gave warning of a crisis in ammunition supply. Ray was thoroughly angry. The day before, First Army had received a TWX from 12th Army Group granting for the period 5-13 October somewhat larger expenditure rates for scarce artillery ammunition than had hitherto been possible. That same day General Hodges had jumped off for Aachen. Then Communications Zone had placed zeroes opposite requisitions for virtually all of the ammunition. As an example, Ray cited the case of the HE shell for the 105-mm. howitzer M3. The 12th Army Group had authorized 25,000 rounds but COMZ had been unable to fill requisitions. What was the use, Ray wanted to know, of authorizing expenditures if the ammunition was not available? He believed that 12th Army Group did not in fact know what was available or what effect the expenditures would have on stocks in reserve.21

Ray was a little hard on 12th Army Group. General Moses, Group G-4, had suspected that COMZ's figures on availability were too optimistic and had simply decided to call its bluff. COMZ was the real culprit, for it had counted as assets stocks on ships still afloat off the Normandy beaches and ports, placing too much confidence in a program it had begun the last of September to accelerate unloading. Communications Zone could not deliver for two reasons: at Cherbourg higher au-


thority gave priority to troop debarkations, and at the beaches autumn storms had virtually stopped operations. There were thirty-five ammunition ships offshore that could not be unloaded. These facts were brought to light at the next 12th Army Group allocation meeting on 9 October, which because of the crisis was attended by the ammunition officers of First, Third, and Ninth Armies.

As a result of this meeting and a high-level conference held at 12th Army Group on 11 October, two steps were taken to see that the armies were supplied. First, 12th Army Group sent a planeload of officers to Paris to get authority from General Lee to speed up unloading; second, it declared a moratorium on supply to the armies until stocks were built up in COMZ depots at Soissons, Liège, and Verdun. The end date of the buildup was set at 7 November on the following basis: 10 days to set up priorities and get the ships berthed; 10 days to unload; 4 days for shipment to COMZ depots; and 8 days for armies to place requisitions and start receiving.22

Not only the ammunition shortage but the very critical shortage of Class II supplies, especially trucks, was threatening to delay the November offensive. The supply conference General Bradley called on 11 October brought together representatives of SHAEF, 12th Army Group, and First, Third, and Ninth Armies to find a way out of the crisis. Bradley later remembered with some amusement that when Patton, accompanied by his chief of staff and G-4, arrived and saw Medaris he immediately sent for Colonel Nixon, warning his chief of staff to be on his guard against Medaris and Wilson, the First Army G-4. "I know them both," he said, remembering II Corps, "they once worked for me."23

As the conferees explored the supply situation, it became plain that there was little that could be done for the moment, beyond prodding Communications Zone to step up port operations. During most of the fall of 1944, shipping was the bottleneck. To make way for such high-priority items as weapons, tires, antifreeze, and spare parts, virtually no general purpose vehicles were shipped in November and December; the War Department had cut down on shipping because of the theater's inability to unload. Ships were actually being returned from the ETO partially unloaded; by mid-November some 36,000 tons of supplies—the unloaded cargoes on some thirteen to fifteen vessels—were being set up for return to the United States.24

General Bradley, impatient with what he called Field Marshal Montgomery's "tardiness" in the north, believed that the remedy for the ammunition shortage lay in opening Antwerp, the port nearest the front lines. Captured early in September, Antwerp could not be used until the Germans had been cleared from the approaches to the Schelde estuary. But opening the port (the first vessel docked there on 28


November) helped ammunition only indirectly. Buzz bomb attacks by the enemy made the harbor too dangerous for ships loaded with explosives, so that very little ammunition was ever landed there except 90-mm. antiaircraft shells for the defense of the city. The diversion to Antwerp of other classes of supply did free Le Havre and Cherbourg to handle more ammunition than had hitherto been possible.

By January 1945, it had become all too plain that there was not enough production in the United States of badly needed mortar and artillery shells. This fact came out in answers to Eisenhower's urgent cables in the fall of 1944, in the findings of the Bull Mission that he sent back to the States in November, and in the investigation by General Somervell when he visited the theater in January, accompanied by General Campbell. Somervell came home convinced that all the resources of the United States ought to be directed toward supplying the European theater with the critical calibers of ammunition it needed. By then, time was running out. Production started up, but the effect would not be felt in the theater until April, when expenditures were dropping. Again, ships were turned around and sent home unloaded—completing the cycle of frustration at the ports.25

Using a great deal of German ammunition, some of it fired from captured German guns, and employing tanks, tank destroyers, and antiaircraft guns (all of which had fairly plentiful stocks of ammunition) as artillery, the armies somehow managed on their scanty rations until COMZ stocks were built up. At the end of November enough ammunition had accumulated to allow VII Corps, which was pushing slowly to the Roer against strong defenses, to fire reasonable amounts of nearly all types, though V and VIII Corps were still inadequately supplied.26

By mid-December, thanks to the belated buildup, the level of Ordnance general supplies in the armies was the highest since D-day, with the exception of a few items like truck engines. In the case of First Army, the Ordnance Section took a good share of the credit for bringing supplies forward from depots. While admitting that there was some improvement in rail transportation during November, Medaris' staff attributed most of the improvement in supply to its active liaison with COMZ and its continued use of army transportation and army drivers to haul supplies to the front.27

This view was supported by Maj. Gen. LeRoy Lutes, Director of Plans and Operations, Army Service Forces, when he made a visit to the European theater early in December. He found 53 percent of the scarce Class II and IV items far back in Normandy and Brittany, and noted that


Medaris was employing a hundred men as field agents to follow up First Army shipments. To General Somervell, who backed up Lutes's findings on his own visit to ETO a month later, the worst reflection on Communications Zone that came to his attention was the fact that Medaris was forced to have "100 bloodhounds ranging over the entire Communications Zone in order to locate the items for and fill his requisitions."28

The Battle of the Ardennes

At half past five on the morning of 16 December, a black winter morning, German artillery shells began to light up the sky all along the broad front held by VIII Corps in the hitherto quiet region of the Ardennes. Later in the day shells from long-range railway guns similar to Anzio Annie began falling on supply dumps in the rear, at Roetgen, Eupen, Malmédy, Verviers, and St. Vith—not only in the VIII Corps sector but also in the southern half of the V Corps front; by nightfall there were indications that a strong German counteroffensive was under way in the lightly held section between the two corps.29

Danger at Malmédy

The first Ordnance units threatened were those at Malmédy, supporting V Corps in its drive to the Roer dams. At Malmédy were the headquarters of the 86th Ordnance Battalion and the 100th Ordnance Ammunition Battalion; several miles to the east near Waimes was ASP 126, operated by the 57th Ordnance Ammunition Company. By the morning of 17 December it seemed quite possible to First Army headquarters that this ammunition supply point, which was strung out for three miles along a hard-surfaced road running northeast out of Waimes, would be overrun by the enemy. Medaris ordered the commander of the 100th Battalion to get ready to blow up all mines, bangalore torpedoes, grenades, and other items likely to be of use to the Germans, and to evacuate, if it was not too hazardous to men and equipment, the rest of the ammunition, especially scarce artillery and mortar shells. Reports that came in to First Army were more and more alarming. Shortly after noon, Colonel Ray took off in his jeep to supervise the evacuation.30 (See Map 8.)

As soon as the commanding officer of the 100th, Maj. Alfred G. Garr, received Medaris' order, he sent Capt. John N. Lee of his staff to ASP 126. Lee found the enemy close at hand. Stationing guards around the perimeter to warn him of the approach of the Germans, he sent two officers and ten men of the 57th Ordnance Ammunition Company to prepare mines and engineer demolition materials for the destruction of the ASP. This they accomplished in forty-five minutes, using three miles of prima cord. No matériel could be evacuated because the forty-five trucks arranged for by the Ordnance officer of V Corps could not get through the traffic on the congested roads and never arrived. Neither did Colonel Ray, for he was captured by the Germans near Waimes.

At 1430 small arms fire as well as artil-


lery fire could be clearly heard at the ASP office, and the guards reported that the enemy was about a mile away. Captain Lee drove out to investigate, saw enemy troops supported by tanks, and gave orders to fire the prima cord and evacuate the ASP. With a great roar some 200 tons of explosives went up. The 57th loaded its men, its records, and some primers and fuzes on its own trucks and began to pull out for Depot 125 near Liège—just in time, for the Germans were closing in on their bivouac area.31

Next morning four men who went back to make a final check of the company quarters—Captain Carstaphen, the company commander (who had led a charge that killed thirty-five Germans at Driancourt early in September), 1st Lt. Arnold O. Putnam, M. Sgt. Chester A. McKinney and Pfc. Daniel Barber—narrowly escaped capture. Putnam and Barber were surprised by two German soldiers and forced to get down from their jeep and walk toward the enemy lines, hands over their heads. They broke away and managed to make their way to safety through a hail of machine gun bullets. Hearing the gunfire, Captain Carstaphen ran to the door of the building he had been inspecting, opened fire with his submachine gun, and killed both Germans.32

Pulling the 86th Ordnance Battalion out of Malmédy was an extremely difficult operation, for it was the back-up battalion for V Corps, and its depot company, the 202d, had some 600 tons of stock that had to be saved. Aware of the situation by noon of the 17th, Medaris called on the 72d Ordnance Group at Verviers to provide the lift, and with the help of the tank transporters of the main army evacuation battalion (the 6th) and the trucks of the main depot battalion (the 310th) the job was done by nightfall. The last man out of Malmédy was said to be the commanding officer of the 202d. While the loading was going on, the area was under artillery fire, and some of the men of the 86th got into combat. Members of its heavy maintenance (field army) company, the 514th, took two tank destroyers out of its shops to help stop the enemy. They lost the tank destroyers, but claimed two Panther tanks.33

Malmédy was saved by the valor of a few men from an Engineer combat battalion, the 291st, who defended the roads with such skill and tenacity that the Germans bypassed the town on the south. But by the evening of the 17th the main First Army Ordnance depot at Aywaille was threatened. When Pfc. William Coleman of the 334th Ordnance Depot Company, who had been helping at Malmédy, got back to his company with his truck—after a circuitous 7-hour drive in blackout during which he had a close call from being captured—he was given a bazooka and sent to help hold a crossroads against German tanks.34

Defense of Aywaille

The defense of Aywaille was in the capable hands of Colonel Lynde, who had been sent to the depot by Medaris with orders to


hold out as long as possible in order to buy time for evacuation of the considerable stocks—6,000 tons of bulk stock on the ground and 1,518 vehicles in the vehicle park. Lynde organized a task force composed of the four depot companies and one motor vehicle distributing company of the 310th Ordnance Battalion; the automatic weapons antiaircraft battalion that had been protecting the vehicle park; a company of Engineers; and a Belgian guard company. Some armed with bazookas, others manning depot tanks, these men set up roadblocks around the depot.35

Shortly after noon on 18 December Lynde received word from First Army Ordnance that his task force would be bolstered by the 740th Tank Battalion, due to arrive that evening. The catch in this piece of good news was that the 740th had no tanks. It was one of four tank battalions under 9th Armored Group that had been in training for the highly secret Canal Defense Light (CDL), a project to employ powerful searchlights mounted on M3 medium tanks to illuminate the battlefield and blind the enemy. The project had been abandoned by 12th Army Group and the CDL tanks put in storage. The 740th was to be converted to a standard tank battalion but as yet had not received any Shermans and was being used to flush German paratroopers out of the woods around First Army headquarters at Spa. By the time the commander of the 740th reported at Aywaille, about dark on 18 December, Lynde had received a report that German armor was less than twelve miles to the east. He directed the Ordnance vehicle park to issue to the 740th anything the men could drive and shoot. The tankers found about 15 medium tanks that could be made operable. They worked on them all night and all next morning, and also acquired from the park an assortment of tank destroyers, assault guns, and light tanks, including two new M24's that had just arrived from the United States. Thus equipped, by noon on 19 December they were in position to defend Aywaille. Two hours later, on orders from General Hodges, the 740th was pulled out and attached to the 30th Infantry Division, which was having trouble with advancing German armor.36

The original "Lynde's Task Force" manned defenses until 22 December, when combat forces arrived on the scene. By that time the depot stocks had been evacuated under the direction of Lt. Col. Lyman O. Heidtke, the 310th Battalion commander, who had been ordered to find a suitable spot west of the Meuse River and set up his depot. With the help of the tank transporters of the 6th Evacuation Battal-


ion, whose drivers maneuvered their big clumsy rigs skillfully through heavy traffic, and with the co-operation of Advance Section, which promptly furnished fifty-four additional truck-tractors needed to move the vans, all critical items were behind the Meuse by the evening of 19 December and three days later most of the rest of the stocks had been moved. By that time the temperature had dropped to freezing. The last of Heidtke's vans cleared the hills behind Aywaille only minutes before ice made the roads impassable. As for the Germans, they never arrived, but at one time had been within five miles of the depot.37

The VIII Corps Sector

In the meantime, the prong of the German thrust had penetrated deep into the VIII Corps sector, seriously threatening and in places overrunning the Ordnance units supporting the corps, which were strung out along the Luxembourg border from St. Vith south to Neufchâteau. In this hilly, wooded, snow-covered country the attack was like a nightmare. Before dawn on 16 December, 14-inch shells from railway guns began falling on St. Vith; up ahead on the 106th Division front in the Schnee Eifel, red and green flares flickered over the treetops, a strange light, like moonlight, came down from the low clouds that the German were using as reflectors for searchlights; and German infantrymen in white snow suits advanced yelling (someone said it sounded like the Rebel yell) ahead of white tanks.38

The io6th Division held in the Schnee Eifel for the time being; but artillery shells continued to crash down on St. Vith. A good many of them fell in the area of the 92d Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company. This unit, dispatched to St. Vith only a few days before by the 590th Battalion to support the 106th, was pulled back fifteen miles to Gouvy, but the German tide, flowing north and south around the island of resistance at St. Vith, soon caught up with the 92d. Shortly after noon on the 18th as the men were finishing chow, "all hell broke loose." A German column came up and began directing artillery, mortar, and small arms fire on the company, while panzers poured fire into the shop area. The 92d took off for Rochefort, fifty miles to the rear; but when it reached there two of its officers and sixty-three men were missing. These men had stayed behind at Gouvy to finish shop work on artillery and tanks, and they continued to work under shelling all afternoon. At night under cover of darkness they made their way to a low hillside behind the shop area and held it for five days, setting up roadblocks with wrecked and burning vehicles and killing the German patrols that came up the road.39

On the same day as the attack at Gouvy, 18 December, the Germans overran ASP 128, a few miles north of Bastogne. Here again, the Ordnance men stayed as long as they could. Men of the 619th Ordnance Ammunition Company were issuing ammunition in Subdepot 1 while the fighting was going on in Subdepot 3, but soon they had to pull back to Champion, abandoning


almost 2,000 long tons of ammunition to the enemy. They did, however, manage to take with them stocks of a very important secret item—the POZIT or VT (proximity) fuze. This new fuze, radio-operated and triggered by reflection from the target, had been developed early in the war, but in order to keep the design out of the hands of the Germans its use had been restricted to use by the Navy in antiaircraft fire over water and by a few antiaircraft batteries in England until October 1944, when it was released by the Combined Chiefs of Staff for ground warfare. Eisenhower intended to employ the fuzes in artillery shells for the first time in Europe on Christmas Day 1944, at the beginning of a new drive into Germany. Teams of instructors had been visiting the front for several weeks, and in the comparatively quiet VIII Corps sector, served by ASP 128, a demonstration had been planned for 18 December. The fuzes were evacuated from the dump just in time to save them for an important role in the Battle of the Ardennes.40

The Germans were advancing with astonishing rapidity. Hardly was ASP 128A at Champion established when it too was in danger of being overrun. By 20 December the VIII Corps sector was cut in two. Because of the split and because of his concern for the safety of the Ordnance troops in this precarious situation, Medaris attached the ammunition companies and the 590th Maintenance Battalion to the VIII Corps Ordnance officer, Colonel Walker. On 21 December along with VIII Corps they passed to Third Army.41

The last link between the VIII Corps Ordnance units and First Army was Major Garr, the commanding officer of the 100th Ordnance Ammunition Battalion. Starting south from Aachen on 19 December to check on operations at ASP 128A, he discovered at VIII Corps headquarters that ASP 128A would have to be evacuated. A large rail shipment had been diverted from ASP 128 to 128A, and Major Garr found himself involved in the desperate attempt to shuttle the shipment—no freight cars carrying 45,000 rounds of 105-mm. howitzer and 10,000 rounds of 155-mm. howitzer ammunition—to Bertrix. Arriving at the Bertrix railhead early on the morning of 20 December with the men and equipment evacuated from ASP 128A—2 ammunition companies, a Quartermaster service company, an antiaircraft battery, a platoon of armored infantry with 5 half-tracks, 20 Quartermaster trucks, and 4 MP's—he organized this force for the defense of the railhead, set up his command post in the office of the stationmaster, and began issuing ammunition out of the freight cars to VIII Corps units.

Later on in the morning he coordinated plans for defense with Lt. Col. George H. Wells, the commanding officer of the 5goth Maintenance Battalion, which had arrived in Bertrix from Neufchâteau the day before, setting up its shops and bins in the town square and opening its mess facilities to casuals and stragglers. Wells took four medium tanks and a half-track out of his heavy maintenance shop, manned them with an officer and 20 mechanics of the


553d Ordnance Heavy Maintenance Company (Tank), and sent them out to set up roadblocks at vital junctions; but shortly after noon enemy tanks were reported and the 590th got ready to pull out. Garr was left with the job of defending Bertrix until he could get his freight train rolling again. Sending out his armored infantrymen and antiaircraft battery to take over the roadblocks, Garr persuaded the Bertrix chef de gare to supply him with some locomotives and got his train on the road south about midnight. At Florenville he received instructions from Colonel Walker to proceed to the railhead at Virton, on the French border. Arriving there the next afternoon, he again organized his task force for defense and spent the night issuing ammunition to units of the 28th Division. Next day an advance party of Third Army's 150th Battalion arrived to take over, and Major Garr returned to First Army.42

North of the Bulge

When he returned he found that all of First Army Ordnance Service except the direct support units was pulling back behind the Meuse, roughly in the area from Liège west to Namur and north to Tongres and St. Trond, with the 72d, 51st, and 52d Group headquarters centered around Huy, the new location of First Army headquarters, and the main ammunition depot now located at Advance Section Depot O-610 west of Liège. Medaris had ordered the move on 19 December in order to clear the roads for the tactical troops. The situation north of the bulge was still of the kind described in dispatches as "fluid." For example, ASP 126 near Waimes had been officially evacuated early in the battle, but every day a detachment of one officer and twenty enlisted men from the 57th Ammunition Company was able to return and issue ammunition from one end of the ASP, although it was under enemy artillery and machine gun fire. There is a story that while the Americans were issuing at one end, the Germans were issuing at the other. True or not, it illustrates the fantastic character of this battle.43

Alarming rumors were spreading through the First Army area, and some of them were true. Medaris passed along a warning from G-2 that 150 Germans in American uniforms, in American jeeps, with identification tags and papers, were behind the Allied lines. These were the men of Otto Skorzeny's Operation GREIF sent to spy on vital installations, disrupt communications, change road signs, and generally cause confusion. One of the Germans impersonated an MP at a road junction and directed an entire American regiment down the wrong road as it was hurrying south to fight. At Aywaille on the night of 18 December three of the GREIF men in a U.S. jeep, with GI dogtags and drivers' licenses, $900 in American money and 1,000 British pound notes, and plenty of demolition material, were caught in the 178th Ordnance Depot Company area by three men of the company, S. Sgt. Erling N. Salvesen, Technician 5 John E. Pavlik, and Technician 5 Harcourt W. Swanson. German paratroopers were also dropped behind the lines. None


Photo:  Colonel Bliss salutes Sergeant Salvesen and Technicians Pavlik and Swanson after they received Bronze Stars for capturing three German spies of Operations GREIF

SWANSON after they received Bronze Stars for capturing three German spies of
Operation GREIF.

of these spies did any great damage, but they contributed to the shock and confusion of the sudden enemy attack that had already scattered units and disrupted communications.44

Telephone communications from First Army headquarters were either uncertain or suspected of being tapped by the enemy, and close to the front they had broken down entirely; the last wire communication the 52d Group had with any of its units was the telephone call that ordered the 86th Battalion to withdraw from Malmédy on the afternoon of 17 December. Teletype was out more often than not, and messenger service was all but impossible, what with the constant movement of units, the uncertainty of the battle, and the traffic congestion on the rough and icy roads. Radio was the only dependable means of getting reports and issuing orders.45

Medaris' radio net, which had been extremely useful in the two or three weeks of fast pursuit in August and early September, was not really needed after the Ordnance units settled into semipermanent installa-


tions before the Siegfried Line because wire communications were good and messenger service was excellent. Daily messenger service was maintained between the 52d Ordnance Group and the First Army Ordnance officer and between the group and each of its six battalions. After 1 October, teletype—a tremendous saving in time over delivery by messenger—came into use between army Ordnance, groups, depots, and ASP's for conveying allocations and supply status reports, which were too long for transmission by radio.46 Following the capture of Aachen on 21 October, wire communications became so reliable, except in the remote Ardennes area, that army radio circuits to V and VII Corps were closed down.47

The fact that the Ordnance radio net was not really needed during the long autumn pause at the Siegfried Line did not pass unnoticed at First Army headquarters. Hodges' chief of staff, Maj. Gen. William B. Kean, was critical of Medaris' "radio empire" and finally, about the middle of the second week in December, ordered the Ordnance net taken off the air. There was nothing to do but comply: Medaris issued written orders closing down the net. But at the same time, he issued verbal orders to retain all equipment and personnel.48 By that time he had a number of well-trained men; First Army Signal Service for some time had been operating a school especially for training Ordnance personnel as radio operators.49

When the Germans struck suddenly in the Ardennes, threatening the First Army supply dumps, General Kean sent for Medaris and ordered him to pull his supplies back. Medaris pointed out that he could not because he had no radio net. Kean knew Medaris well, for he had served with him a long time. He said, "I'll bet you could put it back in two hours. Now do it, and don't come back to me." Within two hours, Medaris was sending out orders by radio, and within two days, after operators had been recalled to headquarters and additional equipment procured from Signal, the whole net (except for the previous hookup with corps), was in operation.50

With the aid of the radio net, Medaris got about 85 percent of his depot stocks out of reach of the enemy, and for the duration of the Battle of the Bulge never lost contact with his First Army Ordnance units. He could keep the men from panicking; could pick up the radio and reassure them, telling them where the Germans were and what to do. This kind of central control and reassurance was immensely valuable. And the radio net came to be valuable not only to Ordnance but to G-3, which relied on it at times for information on where the combat units were.51

Medaris' first order over the radio net was: "Evacuate ... but stay in business. Our troops need your service now, more than ever." His men responded bravely. Depot men, even while they were loading up their stocks to pull out, continued their task of supply; at Aywaille, for example, they issued directly to combat units, some of whom were quoted as expressing "no little pleasure at having the Main Army


Depot so handy for the first time since the Normandy days."52 Ammunition men kept ASP's open as long as they could, even while under enemy fire; and maintenance men made repairs on the run. The 590th Battalion, for instance, managed to complete 4,000 repair jobs on the 100-mile trek from St. Vith to Neufchâteau. The recovery crews followed close on the heels of the infantry counterthrusts over the icy, foggy, roads to drag back big guns and tanks that had been knocked out by the enemy or abandoned by retreating units. One crew saved eight huge 240-mm. howitzers, in good working order, that had been abandoned. Another brought back a great trophy—a German 71-ton Tiger Royal tank.53

Every American tank that could be recovered and put back in operation was a triumph, because First Army units that bore the brunt of the first Bulge attacks had suffered heavy losses in armor. Every replacement tank in Ordnance stocks was immediately committed, but there was still a serious shortage—all the more serious because the First Army command felt that tanks would be the determining factor in restoring its position later. There was one resource within the theater—the plentiful Shermans held in reserve by Field Marshal Montgomery's 21 Army Group. On 19 December, Medaris, who knew how ample these stocks were, went to 21 Army Group headquarters at Brussels to appeal to Montgomery's "Q" (Quartermaster—in American terms, G-4) for the loan of a moderate number. He was turned down on the ground that every tank Montgomery had was vitally needed by his own group.54

The next day, 20 December, as a result of Eisenhower's decision to place all American forces north of the Bulge under Montgomery, First Army passed temporarily to 21 Army Group. The following morning, some 300 Shermans were rolling out of Brussels to the shops of Medaris' 72d Ordnance Group at Landres, together with a number of British 25-pounders with 30 days of ammunition. Then began a strenuous effort to get the tanks ready for battle. By friendly agreement between Medaris and the First Army Signal officer, Col. Grant Williams, Signal radio installation and repair teams were already operating with Ordnance tank maintenance companies. With their assistance and that of a few hundred Belgian laborers and volunteers from a battalion of Irish Guards, three Ordnance companies made the tanks battle-ready—U.S. radios installed, tanks combat-loaded with rations and ammunition, and duckbill tracks applied—in the remarkably short time of ninety-six hours. After the production line went into operation, tanks were being issued out the front door of the shop as fast as others came in the back.55

In the realignment of forces that took place on 20-21 December, VIII Corps went to Third Army and First Army received XVIII Airborne Corps. This corps consisted of an airborne division hitherto


held in reserve, the 82d; scattered remnants of the 106th Division; Combat Command B of the 9th Armored; and the 7th Armored Division. Its mission was to hold north of the Bulge. To support XVIII Corps, Medaris took the 83d Battalion that had been backing up the 590th (now far south at Neufchâteau with VIII Corps) and converted it to a forward battalion, stationing it south of Liège; to back up the 83d he used the 178th, which had hitherto been employed only administratively to augment the 52d Group headquarters, as a backup battalion, assigning to it the usual depot, automotive maintenance, and heavy tank maintenance companies. Thanks to Medaris' training program, the changeover was accomplished smoothly.56

A maintenance company supporting 7th Armored Division had already covered itself with glory. On the afternoon of 19 December, Company C of the 129th Ordnance Maintenance Battalion had manned a roadblock on the Ourthe River at Ortho, using three bazookas, two machine guns, twenty riflemen, and a half-track salvaged from a knocked-out antiaircraft unit. Company C held the riverbank under shellfire from a German self-propelled 88-mm. gun and two tanks until early evening, when help arrived. Actions like this, according to the official tactical history of the battle, "contributed mightily to the German decision which turned an entire armored corps from the road west and plunged it into profitless adventures in a side alley."57

Bastogne and Third Army Ordnance

While the action at Ortho was taking place, the 101st Airborne Division was setting up its defenses at Bastogne. Along with the 82d Airborne Division, the 101st had been pulled out of SHAEF reserve on 17 December; but instead of going to First Army with the XVIII Airborne Corps, the 101st had been sent from Mourmelon, its rest camp near Reims, to bolster the shattered VIII Corps front. The division left in such a hurry that it lacked a good deal of its individual equipment, such as overshoes and helmets; its ammunition and grenade pouches were not full; and it had only a few truckloads of 105-mm. howitzer shells.

Brig. Gen. Anthony C. McAuliffe, acting commanding officer of the 101st, was not, however, particularly worried. COMZ had been notified by 12th Army Group to equip the 101st on highest priority, and with the help of Oise Section the division's organic 426th Airborne Quartermaster Company and 801st Airborne Ordnance Company were putting together a convoy of eighty vehicles loaded with supplies. On the morning of 19 December the convoy started east from Mourmelon to Bastogne. The Ordnance company traveling with it was thoroughly experienced; it had been supporting the division since the landing at UTAH Beach, including the drop in Operation MARKET-GARDEN in which fifteen men of the company had gone in by glider.58


After a journey of more than a hundred miles through rain and snow, the convoy reached the division rear area about five miles west of Bastogne near midnight and was told to remain at a crossroads in the woods. The men had just parked their trucks on Highway N4 facing west when a German armored patrol attacked. Two of the end vehicles received direct hits; four more were abandoned by their drivers, who took to the woods. Pulling out in the greatest confusion, the convoy headed west, then south, winding up at VIII Corps headquarters at Neufchâteau next morning. En route the 801st Airborne Ordnance Company had lost several jeeps, trucks, howitzers, and trailers, including a valued British airborne arc-welding trailer. The men did not give up the attempt to reach their division. The commanding officer of the 801st, Capt. John L. Patterson, managed to make his way to Bastogne with two trucks containing 500 gallons of gasoline. He went back to bring the rest of the convoy forward, but by this time the Germans had closed the road. On 21 December, VIII Corps ordered the Ordnance and Quartermaster companies out of Neufchâteau, which was becoming too congested, and sent them ten miles south to Orsainfaing. There they remained until after the Third Army, coming up from the south, had opened a narrow corridor into Bastogne on 26 December.59

The news of the crossroads debacle in the service area on the night of 19-20 December came to McAuliffe in the form of a laconic message, "Evidence indicates service troops have disappeared." He immediately sent a message to corps asking for Quartermaster and Ordnance help. He had already explored the resources in Bastogne itself. Slim stocks of food and ammunition had been left behind by VIII Corps, and the tankers had even discovered eight new undelivered tanks, complete with their Ordnance crews, which were forthwith inducted into Combat Command B, 10th Armored Division. On the first day of the siege a young supply sergeant of the 101st had made a dash to the rear and brought back about 1,550 rounds of M2 105-mm. howitzer ammunition through German shelling and small arms fire. McAuliffe knew by then that his supply route was closed. But he was full of confidence on the morning of 22 December when he replied "Nuts!" to the Germans' demand for surrender. He had received word that Third Army's 4th Armored Division was on its way north to relieve him and he had been promised resupply by air. The first drop, on the 23d, was disappointing, for it did not bring in enough artillery ammunition, McAuliffe's greatest need; at one time on 24 December the airborne batteries were down to 10 rounds per gun and the field artillery units were running low. But the drops on the 24th and 26th (the biggest airlift day, with 289 planes) eased the shortage and on the 26th the 4th Armored Division opened its 300-yard corridor into the town, through which next day a convoy of more than a hundred vehicles, escorted by 4th Armored Division tanks, arrived


Photo:  Tanks of the 4th Armored Division near Bastogne


from Orsainfaing.60

The siege of Bastogne was over, but the battle was not. When the 801st Airborne Ordnance Company arrived in Bastogne over snow-covered roads at dusk on 29 December, it was greeted by an enemy artillery and strafing attack that continued for days. On that fateful day of 26 December when the siege was lifted, the main German thrust toward Antwerp had been blocked by First Army at the Meuse, and the Germans had turned south to attack Bastogne in force. Now the task of stopping them belonged to Third Army, which was battling its way north through Luxembourg.

General Bradley had ordered Third Army to the relief of Bastogne on the night of 18 December. In less than a week Patton turned the bulk of his army, with its guns, supplies, and equipment, from its bridgehead at the Saar north into the new offensive, a trek of 50 to 75 miles over difficult terrain and in bitter cold. From his office window in the city of Luxembourg Bradley watched the Third Army columns as they marched north, day after day, night after night through the streets of the city, the tank commanders at their turrets with their faces wrapped in woolen scarves, the troops huddled in their canvas-


topped trucks, wearing heavy overcoats still caked with the mud of the Saar. This 90-degree movement of an army on very short notice was a remarkable feat of generalship; and it depended to a great extent on what Bradley characterized as a "brilliant effort" on the part of Patton's staff. Patton himself gave his Ordnance officer. Colonel Nixon, a large share of the credit.61

In breaking the news to his staff, Patton said, "You will support this operation even though it is impossible to do so." Nixon himself felt that Ordnance support was made possible then, as in previous crises, by Patton's custom of keeping his Ordnance officer fully informed of his plans and authorizing him to act in his general's name. If information had had to go through orthodox G-4 channels, support would have arrived too late.62

Within thirty minutes after Patton gave his order, Nixon had runners out to block the roads and turn the ammunition trucks toward Luxembourg. He also quickly diverted all incoming rail shipments of ammunition to the northern flank of the Third Army boundary, detailing a maintenance battalion headquarters to help coordinate the shipments. Nixon used every kind of transportation he could lay his hands on to move forward ammunition that was on the ground. By 26 December he had opened at Mamer an ASP to support the two Third Army corps that were attacking to the north, the III and XII Corps, and another near Robelmont to support VIII Corps in conjunction with the rail siding at Virton. Behind corps ASP's, Depot 32 near Audun-Le-Roman, previously scheduled to be turned over to ADSEC, was now heavily restocked and immediately became very active; ADSEC Depot O-611 was instructed to make retail issues to combat units regardless of existing credits. All types of ammunition had to be provided at as many points as possible, since Nixon did not know the exact composition of the troops that had become dependent on Third Army for support.63

First Army tactical and service troops that had become separated from their commands now came under Third Army, with the Ordnance units directly under Nixon's control. Some of the combat organizations were badly crippled, not only from battle losses but from accidents on the icy roads.64 One observer in the Ardennes reported that "you would have thought an armored column had gone mad to watch its vehicles careening off trees, crashing through the corners of houses on turns. The thirty-three-ton tanks spun crazily on the gentlest slopes, sometimes turning completely around two or three times before they came to rest. In a day's move, an armored division might lose several hundred of its vehicles, wrecked, mired, overturned. The maintenance crews blew on their fingers and sweated with their gear as they came up behind and tried to find places to anchor their cables so that they could pull the casualties back onto something on which they could run."65 To


provide better traction, the maintenance companies welded steel "tacks" or cleats to the tracks, scrounging welding equipment from the neighborhood when they lacked it, improvising the cleats, and working night and day. One unit, by cutting steel cubes from the side of the track itself and welding them on the track face, was able to report: "Within a few days every tank on our schedule was equipped and clopping across the ice like a mountain goat."66

Freeing his forward group for work in the north, Nixon turned over all maintenance west of the Moselle and south of Luxembourg to his rear group, the 70th, which got considerable help from a GOMZ base armament maintenance battalion (the 607th) at Nancy on supplies and repair work in the area south of Metz. From his own office in Nancy he sent several men to Luxembourg to act as a forward liaison group and report on troops, installations, and shortages.67

The effort involved in getting Third Army Ordnance support forward in a hurry is illustrated by the experiences of the 841st Depot Company and the 32d Medium Maintenance, both assigned to the forward Ordnance battalion behind XII Corps, the 314th. The commanding officer of the 841st received orders on 21 December to move his entire depot, as well as a pool of combat vehicles and heavy trucks, to Luxembourg at once from Saaralbe (east of the Saar River in France), a distance of a hundred miles. The convoy was on the road by noon—163 vehicles, more vehicles than the company had men, manned by every driver they could borrow. On the way, the convoy was strafed twice by German planes, but incurred no damage and arrived that night at Dudelange on the Luxembourg border. Finding the town covered with snow in the light of a full moon the men parked their vans around the town hall. By morning they had issued 25 tons of parts and small arms and several combat vehicles. That night the 32d Medium Maintenance convoy arrived, having traveled ninety miles from Oermingen (near Saare Union), and set up shop in a school yard on a windswept hill.

By New Year's Day of 1945 both companies had pushed north again, the 841st to the city of Luxembourg (rendering "splendid service" to XII Corps, according to the commanding officer, Maj. Gen. Manton S. Eddy). The 32d had traveled even farther, over a winding road through a forest to the village of Gonderange, where it remained—working in the cold streets, or in cowsheds or any covered space they could find—until the Battle of the Bulge was won and Third Army had moved on to take its place in the movement of all the armies into Germany.68


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