On December 21 and 22, one of the oldest pantzerdivisies of the Waffen SS, 2nd Pantserdivisie “Das Reich” joined forces to overwhelm Baraque de Fraiture. Led by Heinz Lammerding, Das Reich took the crossroads on December 23 after a fierce battle. (Lammerding gave the order on June 10, 1944 to attack Oradour-sur-Glane. More info: click here. )
The N15 road , was of crucial importance to Hitler: it was one of the main roads to Bastogne and Liege. The intersection was held by small units, led by Major Arthur Parker. The intersection is also now known as “Parker’s Cross Road”.
With the release of Baraque, the gateway to Manhay was fairly simple. The N15 winds through dense forests.
The pantserdivision, led by Lammerding, wanted to secure Manhay, Malempré and Vaux Chavanne and then take Grandmenil. The Americans weren’t at full strenght after the battle of st. Vith.
On December 23 at 21.00 armored Grenadiers headed towards Manhay. Lammerding had a captured Sherman tank and led the platoons of the 4th SS Panzer Grenadiers towards Manhay. Due to a shortage of fuel, many of Lammerdings tanks remained in the woods near Manhay. During the attack a strange accident occured: Sergeant Ernst Barkmann was suddenly behind a column of tanks, wich he thought were German. The triangle marking on the back, betrayed the identity of the American tank. After disabling some Shermans, he drove to Manhay, wich caused great panic among the Americans who were totally surprised.
Barkmann: “We were at the crossroads (Manhay). The left side led to Grandmenil and Erezée, wich was our goal of the attack. From this side three sherman tanks came on us. I drove in the direction Liege (road to Bra) and later turned again, to join the others and tried to make radio contact. As I drove back to the crossroads I tried to count the tanks I saw. I gave up: it must have been 80 tanks or more. We had no choice but to drive. American soldiers jumped aside, they did not notice that we were German! When they discovered our German tank, we heard their tanks start behind us and the tanks focused on us. Fortunately there was a tank standing in the way, so they couldn’t shoot. Then an American jeep drove our way and the crew member, an officer with a signal lamp, wants us to pull over. We stepped on it and the jeepdriver was in a critical situation. He drove the jeep in reverse. A wild chase begins and eventually we hit the car with our right crawler belt and driving over the jeep, while the occupants tried to jump out. Because of the hit the side of our tank ends in a ditch and hitted a Sherman. Then all hell broke loose outside, as the Americans started to shoot at us. The driver tried to start the engine again. After a few attempts the engine starts and we drove away. We drive towards Liège (direction Werbomont) as we discovered that we were haunted by the Americans. We shot at them and disabled them. A little later we heard panther tanks drive into Manhay. The Americans thought that these were Tiger tanks, but Tigers weren’t in this region at all. (See also: “Tigers, Tigers!”)
Battered and injured, Barkmann finally pulled back after he had destroyed seven tanks, two tank destroyers and other equipment . SS Sergeant Major Franz Frauscher destroyed five Shermans that Barkmann passed. On the U.S. side many casualties were counted during the attack. The Americans pulled back to Grandmenil.
In Malempré and Odeigne a fierce battle was fought and the Americans had to retreat.
* Because of the complex situation, we’re going to expand this story in the future.