Grandmenil, tuesday December 26

This day we saw that Grandmenil was taken by the third battalion of the 289th regiment. In the morning Company K attempt to seize the town, accompanied by tanks. But after tanks were destroyed and several men were killed, they pulled back.
At 13.30, after the Americans left the village, Grandmenil was bombed and shelled with artillery. At 14.15 hours the 3rd battalion attacked again. Between 14.45 and 17.00 hours the 879th FABN shot 240 mortars at enemy troops and equipment when they tried to leave the village.

Grandmenil destroyed. (image from Alan Flemming film)

Harold Lindstrom, 289th infantry regiment, company F; mortar team, 4 th Platoon:
00.00: The 2nd battalion commander is replaced by Thomas A. Gearhart .
Company F digs in on the hill. Lindstrom digs an oblong Foxhole and waits for a possible attack. Medics care for the wounded.

00.30: The battalion commander is warned at 00.30 hours to prepare a company for Task Force McGeorge to support the seize of Grandmenil. Company K is selected for this mission. All phosphorus and fragmentation grenades from the battalion is given to Company K. Due to poor radio communications, Captain Conway gets the radio of the battalion. Company Commander of Company K borrows a spare radio of the Regiment, so the company could contact with the battalion.

Robert H. Mabes , Company M, 289th infantry regiment: That night we attacked. I was behind the approaching troops when our own artillery began to shoot the village. I dropped on the road while shellfragments fell on me. After the firing I heard someone ask if everything was okay. I looked up and saw one of our tanks, it was between two houses. I got the advice to dive in one of the houses during the next firing. At the next attack, I dove through an open door of a barn. I saw movement. Because of the light of the artillery attack, I saw that there were pigs, which were very hungry. I gave them sugar beet during the attack. Later I understood that they do not eat this kind of food…

With Ward Brunner, the other “first Gunner” of our platoon next to me, we opened fire at short intervals. But then Ward fired continuously. I shouted that he burned his gun. But he pointed to striking stones just above and behind my head and I began to fire continuously.

04.00 am: Lindstrom carries, with three other soldiers, the wounded William Hanagan on a stretcher. It is a long walk, which carries them to the place where German tanks destroyed jeeps and half tracks the night before (just for Trou The Loup). The group runs into a defensive position which has a field kitchen. This position is occupied by tank crews and soldiers with light arms.

At 04.30 am the attack begins, lead by Compagnie K.

Bazooka man, looking towards Manhay

At 06.15 Company K is in the village. It is house to house fighting. Intense anti-tank, small arms and automatic rifles results in a withdraw of this company. They reorganize at dawn. Company K is suffering heavy losses.
Company I is put forward to take positions in the forests, south of the highway wich was previously held by Compagnie K. These positions blocked the possible passage of enemy infantry and enables tanks, who are covering the road, to fire.

Paul Frohmader, Company K, 289th:
Company K had no heavy anti-tank weapons, and they were not on a safe place when a German tank pinned them down. Snipers were behind them in the church tower. There was one house between the tank and the Company.
The tank started firing at the house, hoping to force a breakthrough. American soldiers who were in the house, were immediately slained or injured. The walls of the house were so thick, that every shot arose dust clouds. It would be only a matter of time before the wall would collapse.

Grandmenil, Grand rue

After five grenades, a perfect smokescreen was created. They ran down a slope to the original positions. There was fierce shooting. From the woods behind them came German infantry. The group had not slept 40-45 hours and was exhausted. We ran to the main road and that was just in time: German tanks drove upo the main road …
When the group reached the forest, Germans shot at them. It was a hidden group of American tanks. Frohmaders group identified themselves and the shooting stopped.
Eventually they got a piece of forest allocated where they dug in. It was impossible to dig a hole in the frozen ground. Suddenly grenades exploded around us. Robert Logestrom was hit by a piece of shrapnell. That was the end of his war.

Robert F. Kauffman:
Early in the morning the order came for Kauffmans team, who are still in the ruins filled with debris, to withdraw to a small stone barn. This was behind our position on the left. Again it was unknown who gave that order.
Again the team had the cross an area that was sprayed with machine gun fire from the left front. The last few remaining men of the team arrived unhurt at the barn, where allready other Americans had arrived. In total there were a about ten men, who heavily guarded the shed. Behind the barn was a light machine gun, manned by two soldiers.
The roadblock blocked the attack and eliminate two enemy tanks. The Americans lost a self-propelled tank destroyer.

By the afternoon Compagnie L is ordered to return to the higher road. The Company comes under heavy fire after they have left their positions at the roadblock. The fire comes from the southwest and they think the fire comes from enemy tanks which withdrew from the roadblock. In order to avoid the fire the company makes an envelopment to the higher road, but it cost them considerable time.

Tanks in Grandmenil

At 13.45 hours Combat Command B is waiting for the command of Brigadier General Boudinot to attack. Company L still did not arrive at the position of the Battalion.
The battalion commander and the S-3 went straight to the meeting point and at 13.55 hours he received the orders to attack Grandmenil

Robert F. Kauffman: After a night noth sleeping and a few days without eating, Kauffman was hungry. He opens a can of cheese, the least favorite of all. From the second floor, men shouted that a German tank arrives, east of the barn.
Soon there are four tanks approaching and Kauffman hunger is over. Ultimately, no fewer than thirteen tanks were reported, with infantry behind them.
If the first tank stops opposite Kauffman,the men behind the barn open fire. Several turrets focus on the barn. One fired, which killed the two U.S.soldiers.
If the tanks would continue this direction, it would pass the barn and it would be impossible for the men to return to the road and reach the half-tracks. Captain Jordan had a discussion with a young lieutenant. The lieutenant wanted to return to the half-tracks, but Jordan ordered him to remain seated. Eventually it was democratically decided to go back to the half-tracks. It was the only time, Kauffman stated, that an army decision was taken democratically. The men were afraid that, just as in the Malmedy Massacre, the Germans would killed them if they would surrender. (see also HERE)
The German column was fully in sight and the group knew that it would be very difficult to leave the barn.

One by one the soldiers left the barn, passed the bodies of the dead men of the machine gun and passed a fence where the cattle normally stayed. Then they walked along the steep slope, that would bring them to a ascending road. Kauffman knew that if they would reach that point, they could dive in a ditch to protect themselves. The only question was whether the column would not discover them. But they had no choice…

“The burden that you feel you when you must leave a village, you already had taken, is unbelievable.” When the men reached the ditch, they saw that it was filled with new material of troops who had hastily withdrawn. (This material was 289th IR Frohmaders group)

Tanks in the field, outside of Grandmenil

The group reached the half-tracks unharmed. The half-tracks had colored panels so they were noticed as allied by the P38 aircrafts, which were in the air. Kauffman had also heard that GI’s were killed by their own aircrafts.
At that moment Kauffman felt completely exhausted.
He climbed in half track, but was dragged out again before he even sat.
An angry officer pulled Kauffman in a jeep and demanded an explanation of why they were not Grandmenil.
At that time the German column was attacked by an air strike and would eventually retire. The officer told the group that the village would be strafed with smoke and white phospherous by artillery for twenty minutes. Then the group was able to take the village again.

The battalion, reinforced with tanks of Combat Command B, was to attack Grandmenil at 15.00, supported by 2 companies. There, they should to set up a defensive position in order to secure the main road. At 15.00 an artillry barage would be launched at Grandmenil.
The battalion commander protests against the time of the attack. He got permission to prepare his troops in 20 minutes for the attack against a heavily defended position. He is a half mile of his troops. A company is somewhere in the woods on the way to the battalion and the remaining troops were stationed in defensive positions.
There was no time for compromise: the attack would be unconditionally continued. The battalion was to attack at 14.15 pm.
Fortunately the battalion commander and the S-3 meet Lieutenant Thomas S. Eubank on the way back to the Battalion . He has the command of Company L, which is still running in the woods, and is heading toward the main road, one quarter mile to the north.
Eubanks gets his orders: attack Grandmenil at 14.15, reinforced with tanks, preceded by an artillery shelling of five minutes. If the company continues, it will reach the highway at the same time that tanks arriving, heading in the direction of Grandmenil. Company L will be assisting the tanks in the village. Until the village is taken, the battalion has to defend the village at all cost.

Company L is, during the attack, responsible for the left side of the village, including the main road. Similar orders are distributed to Captain Robertson, commander of Company I: they must attack a small country road that leads to Grandmenil-west and are responsible for the right half of the village, including its highway location.
Company K is in reserve and has to follow company I.

14.15 am:
When the battalion commander has issued his orders, the artillery is preparing their actions. The artillery works perfect, and the attacking companies reach the first houses of Grandmenil without heavy resistance.

Lindstrom, F company, and the three others who have carried the injured Hanagan, are armed again. During the retreat from Grandmenil they have left most of their stuff. For Logan, there is no new mortar, but a machinegun. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th Platoon leave the safe place and go through the same forest back to where they previously had hidden..

75th infantry division 289th company L
75th infantry division 289th company L

Underway, they pass vehicle wrecks of company F, which were bombed by their own P-38. There was a rumor that German infiltrators marked the trucks wrong, so the aircrafts got confused.
Companie G and E are accompanying F them. Lindstrom is terrified to go to the battle. He prefers death more than come home disabled.
Captain Oscar Tingley, Company commanding officer, asks for a few volunteers who have to figure out exactly where the Germans are.
A little later, Lindstrom is on a road towards Grandmenil. The Germans were in a heavily wooded area beyond Grandmenil.

The soldiers spread in attack formation. Frank Maresca and the 3rd Platoon approach a fence. Lt Markowitz, temporarily in charge, leads the group as an MP. Then, 200 meters to his left an American artillery shell lands. A second grenade explodes on the other side of the fence. Everyone dropped to the ground. Markewitz urges everyone to leave as hell, what everyone does. The shells fall so close behind Maresca that he almost falls. Maresca and a few others run to a road which is not fired upon. Markewitz screams that they must come back. If they decline, they see a bloodbath … (See also Frank Maresca)
Lindstrom helps with a number of others to carry away the wounded. He describes, like Maresca, the horrors he saw.
After this horrible scene, Lindstrom’s group heads toward La Fosse, where they set up defensive position.
In Grandmenil German machine guns are in strategic places so that they can create a crossfire on each intersection. The company commander and executive officer of the compagny I, Captain Robertson and Lieutenant Frank Donovan, both get almost simultaneously injured. Robertson by a machine gun and Donovan by gunfire. Lieutenant Eugene F. Philips takes over the command of Company I.
The battalion Observation Post, located on the open hill to the west side of Grandmenil, sees a tank platoon advancing from Manhay to Grandmenil.
Artillery fire tries to stop this convoy, and the first tank caught fire. The other tanks pull back to Manhay.
Some Germans tried to retreat to Manhay through the open fields. Again the artillery observation demanded artillery, which caused many casualties on German side. Enemy Snipers infiltrate into the woods, north of the highway, to get control of the battle. Snipers keep the Americans during two days busy between Grandmenil and Erezée. Eventually they were captured. One sniper opened fire with a machine gun on the observation post, but no one gets injured.

Robert F. Kauffman:
Kauffman group is again on its way to Grandmenil, this time in daylight. The whole valley is covered by smoke, giving them some protection. If they reach the edge of the village, again they’re under fire by machine guns.
American tanks and some bazooka’s shoot them and submit their silence. Again, Kauffman has to pass the bodies of his friends Mellitz and Wertman. The body of a man was on a trailer who was abandoned in a previous attack. The other man is beside him.
When the group reaches the first, almost intact, homes, they meet a Belgian woman on the left side of the street. Somehow she has passed this terrible battle. In her house is a large room where the floor is literally covered with blood. The woman says that there were Germans in her house, who discussed if they would surrender or not. (We tried to find out who this woman was, without succes; BK)
After silencing a number of machine guns, which obstructed the passage to the village, the German firing became less. However, there were other machine guns that the group continually impeded. Later that day we came under severe fire by tanks, who withdrew outside the village.

German panther in a ditch, outside Grandmenil

Daniel R. Shine, company I; 289th:
Company I had to attack the village with the support of Sherman tanks. Two of Shine’s friends sought protection behind one of the tanks against the gunfire that had just begun. While Shine looked, an artillery shell exploded near them. They were killed immediately.
The Americans continued their attack. The Sherman approached the village streets while firing in the occupied houses. They were followed by infantry troops. First they threw hand grenades into the houses, then opened fire and went inside. Shine and another young soldier went into a house. The house was occupied by a confused German who tried to grab his gun. There was no time to ask if he would surrender. Shines companion shot the German through the head with his .45.
The Germans fought desperately and the Americans were forced to take the village house one by one.
As the day progressed, many young Americans and Germans gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Bob E. Walk ; Company K; 289 th infantery regiment; 1st mortar squad; 4th platoon:

Bob Walks mortar squad walks through a dry riverbed to Grandmenil as they ran into Sergeant Jobe, the mortar section leader. He reports that a strong point holds the company. The nest is in an old house in the main street (Grand Rue). The house is shelled with mortars. When the smoke fades away, there sits a tiger tank, but that does not appear dangererous. (Note: As we know now: there were no tigers in the Grandmenil battle; BK)
Company K has to retreat from Grandmenil once, but during the next attack, the Germans surrender. There are many casualties on both sides.
Shelton later hears that company I and F has given support during the attack. Also, the 105mm Howitzers shelled the German positions heavelly.
The 2nd SS Panzer Division Commander, after surrenderd, persists on seeing “these automaticely shooting Howitzer”, because they were fired so quickly, that it seems as if it were automatic weapons!

American tank outside of Grandmenil

Around 17.00 am: As evening falls and the visibility is worse, the Command Group plans to creep into Grandmenil. The Wire Group Command Group should enter the village and meanwhile unroll a telephone wire. A line at the back was attached by hand and drag the wire through the rough terrain. Hundreds of yards were laid out along the side of the highway. The anti-tank platoon had to enter Grandmenil and set up defensive positions with a view to the south and east.
At the time that the Command Group wants to enter in the village, they recieve a message that Lt. Colonel Joseph Stearns (Regimental executive officer of the 289th Infantry) is on his way to take over the command of the battalion. Lt. Colonel Pretty is relieved, so he can get some sleep for the first time in three days. Lt. Colonel Stearns arrives not long after and wants to take over command. But Pretty ignores the command and carries on with the command group into Grandmenil.

At 18.00 hours, the battalion has control over the village and sets out defensive lines.
The Americans know that enemy units are hiding in the houses of the village. Each building has to be checked systematically before it can be occupied.
Company K and a platoon of Company A (275th engineers of the 75th division) who were attached to the platoon eliminated the enemy.

Robert F. Kauffman:  There was a sniper in the churchtower. He made it very difficult for the group during the night, especially when they guarded the water basin, located at the eastern entrance of the village. Kauffman and Samspon fired a bazooka at the church and the sniper fire stopped.
There was a remarkable incident: it happened at the end of the Battle of Grandmenil. Sampson and Kauffman went to one of the few remaining houses of the village. We approached a side street and collided literally upon an American. It was Major McGeorge, armed with only a staffmap and his .45 revolver. What a remarkable man …

route de bomal german panther
German Panther on route de Bomal

Daniel R. Shine:
At the end of the day Companie I had droven out the Germans from Grandmenil. They had dug foxholes along the edge of the village. Twenty hours earlier, none of them had ever seen a war. Now they were veterans.
Christmas night was another cold, cloudy night, with temperatures below -20 degrees.
The winter of 1944 would be remembered as the coldest in forty years.
Behind Shine ruins smouldered and burned in Grandmenil. That night the soldiers could not use their sleeping bags. They were afraid the Germans would counterattack and would use their bayonets, while the soldiers were sleeping.
So, the men of Company I lay on the frozen ground, with their frozen feet.
Their sleep was filled with thoughts about those they had slain and friends who never would go home and who lay on the frozen layers of snow in Grandmenil ….

The house where Bob Kauffman stayed in the basement, during the German assault.