In the night of 24 December to 25 december the Germans tried to break out to Briscol. The intention was to continue to Erezée.
The German threat demanded immediate action. There was insufficient time for the 75th Division to explore the region and advance as a unit. The remaining tactical elements of this division stayed at the Ourthe between Bomal and Grandmenil.
The 289th Combat Team was ordered to set up a defensive line between Blier and Grandmenil.
The 289th infantry was attached to Combat Command B of the 3rd Armored Division. Their mission was to set up a front of about 10 kilometers in the heavily wooded area on the south and east of Grandmenil and Erezée.
This division was ordered on December 25th, 08.00 pm, to attack with battalions on side. While the trucks are unloaded, the 3th Battalion in the southern region was hit by German tanks. The Germans managed to breakthrough with tanks through parts of the 3rd Armored Division and 7nd east of Grandmenil. A soldier of Company K shoots with a bazooka at a tank and stopped this attack. This shot was a turning point in the German advance.
This was what happened:
The third battalion was suspended at 01.30 pm in Fanzel loaded into trucks and brought to Briscol. Their advance is slowly, because traffic filled the roads. The commander of the battalion, Lieutenant Harry H. colonnel Pretty, met a captain of the 3rd Armored Division. This captain says that Manhay has fallen and that enemy infantry and tanks are attacking Grandmenil. That is the part where the 3rd battalion must go.
Lt. Colonel Pretty gathers the companie commanders and available staff officers. They look hastely at the maps and there are oral orders issued.
Machinegun platoons of Company M are added to Riffle companies: A Platoon to Company I and one to company K. In Briscol a temporary battalion command post is set up, until a survey can be made in daylight and more information can be obtained on the situation in the vicinity of Grandmenil.
The anti-tank battalion Briscol has to wait until further notice.
The 3rd battalion should be on the highway as soon as possible, east to Grandmenil.
Company I goes first, followed by Company K, Company L, and Mortar Platoon Company M.
At the point where the path from the woods joins the road (1800 meters from Grandmenil), the battalion has to turn right into the forest. The battalion has to take a defensive position on the higher position on the edge that overlooks Grandmenil: I company on the left, K company on the right and L company is reserve.
At 03.00, the battalion leaves Briscol on foot in the cold night. The moon is shining and the temperature drops a few degrees below zero. U.S. tanks of the Task Force, which had held Grandmenil begin to withdraw while passing the advancing battalion. A tank crew informs the battalion commander that the Task Force is forced to leave the village because of attacks by German tanks and infantry. If tanks are still after them, they were the enemy.
The battalion commander let loose its plan to occupy the forests, south of the road. He places his battalion in Trou Loup on both sides of the road over a length of almost 200 meters over a kilometer away from Grandmenil.
The left flank of Company I is next to a deep and very style slope.
The battalion stopped at the highest point of the hill and hiding in the ditch on both sides of the road.
Artillery to the left of the battalion begins firing on Grandmenil through Time on Target. A rocket is placed wrong and it exploded over the heads of the battalion. There are multiple victims, including captain Jessie Wingo, company commander of Company L.
After a short reconnaissance trip is made in the dark, the companies are back in the trenches.
A group of tanks, with a sherman tank first, is approaching on the road from Grandmenil. The Americans think that it is the last American convoy from Grandmenil, which withdraws. When the tanks started to fire, the soldiers get confused and panicked. The Americans fire on the tanks with bazooka’s, but forget toremove the safety pins. T he tanks, under fire, leave the road and with all their arms they shoot on the battalion. The tanks break through the first defensive line of the battalion and drive towards Briscol.
Richard F. Wiegand, of Company K, creeps forward, so he has a view on the second tank. He loads his bazooka and removes the safety spin. He fires on the German Panther tank and hits the tank in the flank.
The following panther tank tries to pull the Sherman of the road, which fails. The remaining tanks realizes that they are at a disadvantage on the narrow road, without the support of infantry troops. They are pulling back towards Grandmenil and fire continuously on the battalion. The battalion executive officer, Major Eugene O. McDonald, is on its way from the command post in Briscol to Grandmenil as his jeep encounters the Sherman tank with Germans. The tank opens fire, but McDonald escaped with his jeep by driving it in a ditch and turn around. He drives back through the hills.
It is estimated that nine enemy tanks have attacked the battalion. There are also soldiers who reported that no less than seventeen tanks were there.
The executive officer of Company K was wounded by gunfire from the tank and several other soldiers were slain or wounded.
3d Bn, 289th Infantry Regiment, 75th Infantry Division (person unknown; Blue Dolphin Diary)
As ordered, I went forward and my boys were soon marching on the highway to a village by the name Grandmenil. It was Christmas Eve when I arrived in the designated area, and I was preparing to set up a defensive line. The whole evening elements of an Armored Division withdraw from Grandmenil, warning us for approaching German troops.
Another Sherman tank rolled out of the dark and I thought that he might defend. But no, the silhouette that followed, was a stranger, an enemy. To cut a long story short: it was a hell that night. The tanks caused many victims. Some of my boys were slain and many wounded.
Ted Breeden, Company I, 289th infantry regiment:
When I climbed the hill, west of Grandmenil on Christmas Eve, I didn’t thought that we were coming into action. We were taking our positions.
In the village we had just left (Briscol, PA), we walked along U.S. tanks and troops. I remember that someone told an officer behind me, that we should be cautious because the Germans had taken the next village (Grandmenil, BK). We had no maps or compass. We stumbled against the hill.
At the top of the hill, we were awakened by several artillery rockets that fell down on us. Fragments flew around, while I dove of the road. I think i t was our own artillery, because the missiles came from behind us.
When the barrage was over, we continued our journey. George Morrow and I (light machine Gunners) were at the back and were about 10 meters from the road, when a Sherman tank with several German tanks approached and fired on us when they passed us. George and I dived into a ditch and the bullets flewaround us. I had a machine gun with me, but where the tri leg and ammunition have been I do not know. While the tanks disappeared over the hill we stood up and the not wounded began to follow the tracks of the tanks. After about 50 yards we came to a crushed American jeep with the 50 caliber machine gun on it and, as it turned out, ourchristmas post crushed in the mud.
It became lighter and we heard the tanks coming back. We sought shelter in the low part of the road and I still had only a colt .45 as a weapon. One of the tall boys panicing and ran in cirkels. Three of us threw him on the floor and kept him down when the German tanks passed towards Grandmenil. We were about 7 meters from the road, but we were certain that they had seen us. I could see the tank commander and I could shoot him with a gun l, but the consequences would have been too large.
More and more men gathered on the road, but we still had not received orders.
The story of Breeden shows that there were two groups, which were en route to Grandmenil. De groep van Breeden loopt een eind voorop, richting Grandmenil. Breedens group is on front in the direction of Grandmenil. The other group is in Trou de Loup (see the circle on the map)
Daniel R. Shine, Company I, 289th regiment:
The twenty year old Daniel Shine crawls in a ditch beside the road in cold, knee deep water, his M1 rifle tenacious. He can go nowhere.
A few moments earlier, he approached the east with his “rifle company while it was pitch dark. On the muddy road, three tanks show up. If they come closer, the GI’s discover that they were German Tiger tanks. (note: as far as I know this is not correct. In this night there were no Tigers in the area. The Americans were terrified of Tiger tanks and thought that Panzers were Tigers).
The soldiers on the right climb a hill and find protection behind rocks and stones. For the soldiers on the left there is only a ditch, covered with ice.
The tanks are becoming closer. If the front tank has nearly reached Shine, one of the GI’s on the hill goes bezirk and starts shooting at the tank. The tank stops abruptly at an armlength of Shine. The tank turret begins to turn and machinegun fire is sprayed on the American positions.
Shine looks around. There is no possibility of escape. He can only crawl through the mud and hope for salvation or a quick end. The noise of the tank engine, cannon and machine gun makes you almost deaf. Further on, Shine hears the screaming of the wounded.
A few moments later the tanks drove on. Would they be followed by infantry? Shine thought about the last Christmas that his parents and family had spent and suddenly he felt alone and abandoned. Seen through his young eyes, the situation was hopeless.
Paul Frohmader, 75th division, 289th Infantery, Company K:
Paul Frohmader of the 75 th infantery also has to deal with German tanks who attacked on the road of Grandmenil-Erezée. After the attack they decide to follow the tanks in the direction of Grandmenil. Many of the men were afraid to follow the tanks, but Frohmader was more afraid for their own artillery fire. They had been twice fired on during the trip to Grandmenil.
They met their captain who led them through a dense forest and gave the order to dig foxholes. They were just in place when German tanks came back. Frohmader counted them: there were thirteen…..
UPDATE march 11th, 2015:
“Hey Bob! What happend to that leading Sherman tank?!”
Yeah…that is a good question. Each time I was with the battle tour in Trou the Loup, people asked me the same question.
But the Sherman tank disapears out of the story. Nobody knew what happend. We could only guess what happend. For a long time I thought the German crew got out of it and escaped through the woods.
This week I had John and Dee Rodgers from Spokane/Washington in our bed and breakfast. They wanted to know what happend to Johns uncle, John. T. Rodgers, 75th ID, 289th regiment, C company, KIA january 6th 1945. (We will tell his story later on!)
During my research I stumbled on a short testimony of Eugene Broadhurst, S/Sgt. 2d Squad 3d Platoon C Co 275th Engr. Bn, attached to the 75th Infantry Division:
“On December 28, 1944 1 received orders to take my platoon to a burned out Sherman tank that had been hit and was on a narrow road that was cut into the side of a steep hill. It was impossible to get equipment to it and get it off the road. I climbed down into the turret section and discovered four or five bodies there, almost destroyed by fire and also two bodies in the driver section. We had no equipment with which to remove them so we loaded the turret with 500 pounds of TNT, lit the fuse and took off. I am sure whatever remains of the tank is still down the side of the mountain in the deep ravine along side. I never got back to the site to find out. It was not until August, 1991 the “Bulge Buster” came out with a story. This tank had been captured by the Germans and turned around and used against us. Up to this time I had great remorse thinking the bodies were American. Now that I know they were Germans I do not feel so bad. [Cpl Richard Wiegand K Co 289th RCT stopped the lead panzer/sherman of a German tank column, 2d SS Panzer Division on a narrow road which edged a high cliff. He was killed after firing 25 December 1944.”
It is the only source we have, stating what happend to that Sherman.
This mentionend tank is definitely not the tank that was shot by Richard F. Wiegand. The pictures, displayed on this page, were made in january 1945 (and later), meaning the Wiegand tank was still complete after december 28th 1944.
Will be continued when we find more information.
Many thanks to Jay Puckett’s website 75thdivisiondad!
See also: Finding Richard Wiegand