“For many, the Battle of the Bulge consisted of the heroic defense of Bastogne by the 101st Airborne and their relief by “Blood and Guts” Patton. Most know nothing of the equally, perhaps more important defense of St. Vith and certainly nothing of the many, small actions such as the one described here and their importance to the eventual American victory.”
– Charles R. Miller, 75thID/ 290th regiment, company A- (George Winter, Freyneux and Lamormenil-)
After the crossroads of Baraque de Fraiture was taken by elements of the 2nd SS, the attack was halted for a short while and the men regrouped. Troops were sent in the direction of Samrée and Odeigne. The shortage of gasoline, ammo, clothing and boots was becoming already a big problem for them.
I will take you to the events that took place in Freyneux, Lamormenil and Oster during the days of 21, 22, 23 and 24 of december.
December 21, 1944
With German troops in full attack in the region, 3rd Armored Division’s TF (Matthew) Kane made a plan to send out two tank columns, consisting of 5 tanks per column, in the direction of Lamormenil and Freyneux.
One column was following the road “Route de Chamont- Route du Moulin de la Fosse”. The other column was following “Chemin de Male de Melée- Route de la Croix des Bruyères, through the village of Oster- Rue Fontaine des Chevaux, ending up via Route du Crahay in Freyneux. The goal of the attack was a German strongpoint at Dochamps. Assembly point before the attack was the center of Lamormenil.
December 22nd 1944
The first column arrived in Freyneux without difficulties. The second column was delayed in La Fosse, because of some road problems. A bit later 10 tanks of Lt. Elton McDonald, 32rdAR/ D company, showed up and joined them.
For a short time the column waited for the arrival of the tanks from the La Fosse/ Lamormenil road, before proceeding towards the next objective: Dochamps.
Leaving the crossroads, the column entered the “Route du Poteau”, a road leading through a huge open terrain. The US troops immediately came under heavy artillery and mortar fire, coming in from the high ground on the eastern side of Dochamps. Because both sides of the road were too soft to go cross country, the whole column had to withdraw.
At 14.00hrs McDonald made another attempt but failed. Defensive positions were set up at the northern side of Lamormenil at the Route de Lamormenil-Moulin de la Fosse junction, with a section of tanks and some towed Tank Destroyers, led by 1st Lt. Eugene Kosy. (3rd Platoon, D company/ 83rd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.)
The other part stayed at the center of Lamormenil.
In La fosse, elements of the 3rd platoon of C-company/ 14th tank battalion (9thAD), also set up a roadblock.
In Freyneux, the eastern column set up defensive positions.
Another roadblock at Odeigne remained in place.
After 17.45hrs two 3 inch Anti Tank guns of 3rd Platoon of B-company of the 643rdTDB were dropped off at La Fosse. Each gun was towed by a halftrack with a ten men gun crew accompanied by trucks and jeeps. The remainder of the convoy drove on to Kosy’s roadblock on the north road junction of Lamormenil (Route de Lamormenil/ Route du Moulin de La Fosse). Two guns of 2nd Platoon/ A company were put into position here. The remaining four AT guns arrived in Lamormenil. Two of them were placed in the village. The last two guns were placed in the Eastern edge of the village of Freyneux.
In the late afternoon, after a “freezing 24 hour truck ride”, about 6 officers and 100 men of C company/ 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team, arrived in Lamormenil and were attached to TF Kane. The Group was led by Cpt. Charles LaChaussée and were sent by 3rdAD General Maurice Rose personally, who had told him: “I am going to sent you to the hottest spot on the Western front tonight, to Task Force Kane.”
LaChausée: “Rose briefed me on the situation, but most of what the general told me went completely over my head. I was totally disoriented. Although I knew we were in Belgium, I didn’t know exactly where or even which way the front faced.”
La Chausée was brought to Freyneux in a jeep, with the men of C company behind him in trucks. He reported to Kane in one of the stone buildings.
Kane advised the captain to attack Dochamps during a night assault, using the railroad track, leading from Lamormenil to the next village. Dochamps was overrun by German troops, who had attacked a US outpost, consisting of 5 light tanks and some riflemen, leaving TF Kane’s eastern flank open.
The request from Rose was, to say at the least, peculiar: attacking a village with five rifle squads who were exhausted after a long truck ride. Erven more so since the village had been attacked three times before, during daylight, with tanksupport but without a positive outcome.
Around 20.45 hrs the 517th paratroopers started the attack by following the railroad tracks.
Second Lt. Thomas DeCoste led 1st platoon, followed by second Lt. Roland Beaudoint’s 2nd platoon.
But, upon reaching an open field with woods on the far side, they ran into an enemy outpost manned by a light machine gun nest. A firefight broke out, killing two enemy soldiers. The reamining German escaped.
At the southern edge of the woods the railroad turned made a sharp turn tot he west, around a deep ravine. Dochamps was a few hundred yards beyond the track. LaChaussée sent out two patrols. Sergeant Tom Kerr led his squad down into the ravine. As they began to climb the far side several machine guns opened fire, and Kerr saw an enemy column moving in on his right. At the same time grenade explosions and machine pistol fire on the left rear of Beaudoin’s 2nd Platoon indicated that a counterattack was beginning. Sgt. Jack Burns attacked the spots where the MG fire was coming from and a hand-to-hand fighting broke out. When they reached the last stretch of ground overlooking the village of Dochamps and just before they were going to start the attack, a recon patrol reported that the 70 men of C company were threatened to be outflanked by an enemy company. The men withdrew to a couple of huge barns, bounded by a railroad water stop and set up a security post. LaChaussée reported back to the Kane’s HQ in Freyneux. The men of C company lost one man, Pvt. C.L. Barrett and 4 of them got wounded. “Pfc. Bernard Coyne had the spine chilling experience of a bullet passing completely through his helmet, rolling him into a convienent mud puddle.”. Around 12 Germans got killed and 4 machine gun positions were taken out.
It was clear though: there were too many German troops and Dochamps was not going to be taken this day.
Thick mist was coming in from the hills, rolling into Lamormenil. And while LaChaussée was evaluating what had happened, he suddenly saw something alarming. A double column of SS troops with fixed bayonets at hight port coming over the railtrack from Dochamps, appeared out of the mist some 30 feet away from him. At first he thought they were friendly troops, but then he noticed their long coats! These were men from the 1130th Volksgrenadier Regiment. Before LaChaussee could react, a machine gun behind him opened fire. It was Lt. Beaudoin who stuck his machine gun out of the window and kept on firing on the advancing German troopers, killing around 23 of them.
LaChaussee: “The next few minutes were pandemonium as our men and the Germans, equally surprised, exchanged fire and grenades. I looked desperately for a place to deploy and make a stand. The fog was thinning fast. I saw a group of stone farm buildings a hundred yards to the northwest. Firing and running, we fell back to them. The Germans were in strengt and following closely. Tactical coherence was lost at that moment.”
The men dove into a large building in the center of the village with Sgt. Arthur Purser dragging a machine gun. They raced to the attic and start firing from a window. It was estimated that the Germans attacked with approximately a battalion. After two hours of fighting, some of the German troops neared the center of town, when suddenly Shermans roared in from Freyneux. McDonald’s company had come to the rescue. The tanks fired at point blank range with the 50 caliber machine guns, killing a lot of German men. With the help of McDonald’s two tanks, the two AT guns of 2nd platoon of A company of the 643TDB and 1 platoon of D company/ 83rdRec.Bn. the attack was repulsed after half an hour.
The Germans retreated but started a heavy artillery barrage on the village. It was believed that the guns were located at the south side of Lamormenil. In the late afternoon half of the village was in ruins, including the church steeple of St. Michael’s chapel, which was built in 1933.
LaChaussee borrowed a jeep and drove to Freyneux to talk to (quote) “Killer Kane” and see how things were going. The outcome? Kane ordered another attack on Dochamps with the help of McDonald’s tanks. Although not motivated at all, LaChaussée discussed this with his men and was preparing the attack. But the whole plan was cancelled when German tanks showed up on the ridge on the east side of Lamormenil.
Lt Col. Kane withdrew two miles North to his trains area, to join General Maurice Rose. Command was taken over by Major Cochrane in Freyneux and by LaChaussee in Lamormenil.
The men of C company started to build up new defences. One platoon covered the north and one platoon faced the south, the 60mm mortar men were divided between both platoons. Late in the afternoon tank fire came in from the south and east, most likely coming from tanks from the 1st company 2nd SS Pz Regiment of Karl Muhleck. McDonald tried to hide his two Shermans for the incoming fire, but one of them was struck and destroyed. At the end of the day of december 23rd, the fighting around Lamormenil was ending. But, at this time, Baraque de Fraiture fell in the hands of German troops.
And with the fall of the crossroad, Odeigne suddenly was in danger. TF Kane had set up a roadblock on december 21st, consisting of 2nd platoon/ D company/ 83rd Rec. Bn, five light tanks of A company/ 32nd AR.
The village was attacked late on the 23rd by infantry troops from Wisliceny’s 3rd SS Panzergrenadier Regiment attacked from the southwest through the woods without artillery support. Accompanied by some 100 troops of the 560thVGD and a couple of PAK 40’s, the attack went fast. Kane’s roadblock was hastily withdrawn to Manhay. The troops arrived at Grandmenil at 02.00hrs, without the loss of vehicules but four or five casualties. From here, the crossroads from Odeigne to Malempré-Manhay lay wide open.
You can read all about this battle here: the attack on Belle Haie
The US troops in the little hamlet of Freyneux were having a calmer day. Major Robert L. Coughlin’s men had set up defensive positions on all exit roads from Freyneux. With cover on the side of Lamormenil, most of his tanks were concentrated in the eastern part of the village,
Two Shermans of2nd platoon, D company/ 32ndAR, commanded by 1st Lt. Elmer Hovland, were placed on the road leading towards Dochamps. Two light tanks of 3rd platoon, C company/ 83rd Rec. Bn supported the Shermans. One Stuart was commanded by Sgt Earl Arnold. The other was commanded by 1st Lt. Thomas McKone, the platoon commander. The four tanks also had to defend the trail leading into the woods behind the church (Pré Latour)
At the northeastern side of Freyneux, 5 more tanks of TF Kane were stationened. Three Shermans were commanded by Sgt. Alvin Beckman, Reece Graham and the 3rd platoon CO 1st Lt. Charles Myers. Myers’ tank was placed outside the village at first. Beckmans’ tank was positioned in the direction of the Aisne bridge, hidden behind a woodpile and a barn. Graham placed his tank in the village, between a house and a stone wall. Behind the Shermans were 2 light tanks of Lt. McKone’s 3rd platoon. One of them was commanded by Adolfo Villanueba. About 45 men of the 83rd Rec. Bn and a couple of men from HQ supported the tanks. Two AT guns were posted along te road towards the Aisne bridge.
On the other side of the ridge, in the hamlet of la Fosse, the 3rd platoon of c company/ 14thTB (part of CCB/ 9thAD) set up a roadblock. The platoon, commanded by 1st Lt. Hugh Morrison, had just pulled back from the St. Vith sector and they had expected some rest after arriving in Manhay. The platoon arrived at La Fosse around 23.00hrs. Three of the tanks, manned by the platoon Sgt. Meron Thompson, Richard May and Harry Pothoff, were parked in the center of the village, facing south. Thomas Chapman’s tank was parked in a sidestreet, facing west, while Pothoff’s gun faced east, towards Oster.
December 24th 1944:
We remain in La Fosse: At daybreak, Morrisson’s men were surprised by a mess sergeant with coffee and cake. In an abandoned house, they found a lot of chickens, locked up by the owner and left with food and water. Thompson suggested a chicken meal, which was agreed by the mess sergeant. The plan was good, but the outcome sad: because of the coming events, they would never see any fried chicken.
On the other side of the ridge, in the village of Oster, the green troops of the 75th infantry division, A company/290th regiment, had just arrived after a long and exhausting trip. Arriving in Septon by trucks, they marched in the Erezée direction on december 23rd. The next day around 10.00hrs the men arrived in halftracks in the hamlet of Oster and were assigned to TF Kane.
In Freyneux, the men of Major Coughlin endured a cold night. “We could not turn on the engines without giving our position away. The inside of our tanks were like a refrigerator.”, gunloader Albert Li Muti of one of the light tanks recalled.
During the evening of december 23, Lt. Myers had repositioned his Sherman next to the Saint Isidore church and the stone wall. With the whole tank hidden behind the wall, except its turret, Meyer had found a perfect cover, overlooking the meadows on the other side of the road. Gunner Jimmy Vance: “The 76mm cannon was able to clear the top of the wall by a few inches.”
Just after daybreak Myers and Coughlin were called to an officers meeting, placing Sgt. Jimmy Vance in charge of the tank.
In the meantime in Odeigne, Alfred Hargesheimer’s 2nd company had arrived, coming from Wibrin. The village was now occupied by the 2nd (Hargesheimer), 3rd (Veith) and 4th (Pohl) companies of the 2nd SS Pz regiment. This first Battalion was led by Oberst. Rudolf Enseling. The 1st company (Meyer) was already in the Dochamps area (on the western side) in support of the troops of the 1130th regiment/ 560thVGD. According to Michael McDonald’s “Sons of the Reich” Horst Gresiak’s 7th Pz Company was also in Odeigne. Gresniak got severely wounded this morning during an artillery barrage. (I must say that I only found one source for that)
2nd and 3rd company/ 2nd Ss Pz regiment were subordinated to the 3rd SS Pz Grenadier Regiment. The 4th company was held in reserve.
In the morning Enseling briefed his troops, pulling out maps and cards. The panzers were going to move out of Odeigne towards Oster, with support of Oberst. Grohmann’s 1st company of the Deutschland Regiment. The 2nd company would cross the Aisne River bridge and move to Freyneux, Lamormenil and turn in the direction of La Fosse. The 3rd company was to seize Oster. With La Fosse and Oster in hands, their next objective was going to be Grandmenil and Erezée.
It turned out that there was practically no reconnaissance made. They assumed that Freyneux was poorly defended and the real deal would happen in La Fosse. Erich Heller, platoon leader of the 1st company of the Pz Grenadier regiment suggested to have reconnaissance troops scout ahead of him. But this was denied.
Around 08.00hrs the attack started. Fritz Langanke’s 1st platoon in the lead. The grenadier platoon of Erich Heller were riding with and aside Langanke’s tank. The rest of the infantry were riding on the other Panthers or marching behind them. Reaching the turn in the road, Langanke saw the Aisne bridge and made a big mistake. He thought he saw two mines on it. He decided to cross the shallow river. Entering the riverbed was easy, getting out on the other side was difficult and one of the Panthers almost turned over. Langanke:”It was certain, that we no longer could have surprised anyone, even if it could have been possible before.”
Langanke then crossed the road to Freyneux with four Panthers and went into the meadows, leading directly to Freyneux.
(Comment: For a while I wondered why he did not see or mention the hotel of Les Sources, but it was not there yet, although we found war related stuff in the hotel during the last years)
With Langanke on the far right, Kurt Pippert a bit behind him, Oberst. Kirchner and Seeger next to him, the four Panthers neared the village. In the back, Hargesheimer was organising the other seven tanks of 2nd company in a small depression on the left side of the bridge.
In Freyneux, Sgt Greece Graham, while he was trying to make coffee in one of the adjoining houses, was alerted by Alvin Beckham, who shouted that he saw German panzers,
Jim Vance saw an infantry man jumping on his tank and told him he had
seen 4 Panther tanks approaching through the meadows. Vance shouted to the driver to start the engine and he reversed the turret to the fields on his left.
As soon as Vance saw the German tanks coming over the crest, he saw the panzers revealed their sides and he opened fire.
In the field Heller’s panzergrenadiers jumped off the Panthers and searched for cover in a nearby shallow ditch, next to a row of trees on the right side. Because of the clear weather, the US air force joined in. P-47’s and P-38 flew overhead and focussed their attention on Veith’s 3rd company on the road leading towards Oster. Heller’s men were pinned down for approximately one hour during the tank battle.
Pippert’s tank took a hit and the crew bailed out. Jimmy Vance picked out another tank, and fired again. In the field Langanke saw Seeger’s tank got hit on the front side. Although the front of a Panther is not easy to penetrate, the slope made the tank rise a bit, showing its vulnerabele lower plate to Vance’s Sherman. The tank started burning and smoking. Langanke: “Seeger was able to jump out, badly burned, but the four comrades of his crew died in the vehicle.”
Vance already saw the third panzer, Kirchner’s Panther, and aimed for it but it got hit before he could fire. Although damaged, the Panther could still drive and retreated to the rear. Langanke was now alone with his crew. His gunner, Paul Pulm, fired in Vance’s direction and hit the wall where the Sherman was. Luckily, he already had pulled back his tank (D-31) behind the church.
Langanke proceeded and surprised Alvin Beckman’s Sherman, which was hiding behind the woodpile. They tried to start the tank to get it in a better position, but failed. A Shell hit their turret. The crew bailed out immediately.
Langanke’s gunner fired at Grahams position next, hitting the wall of the house. A second shell missed the Sherman. Grahams gunner fired back, but Langanke pulled back in the depression and only his turrett was partly vicible. Langanke, still standing in his turret, then noticed they were firing over him to something in the rear and he looked back behind him.
Veith’s 3rd company was proceeding towards Oster, exposing themselves to the Shermans in Freyneux. Graham’s gunner fired two shells. The first shell hit a Panther. A second shot hit the tank of Alfred Vobis, killing him and two other crew members.
Langanke’s tank started to draw fire from its left side. “From the firing sequence, we figured it to be two AT guns.” He ordered his gunner to turn the turret to the left and on the right side of where Beckman’s tank was. Langanke thought the AT guns were hiding behind a stack of brushes. Because of the lower sunlight and snow he could not see the guns firing at him. With machine gun and Shell fire he tried to graze away the vegitation. His tank was hit about ten times on the front side, splitting the wells of his armor plate. One shot tore up a piece of the gun barrel support and hit the turret rim. Langanke instantly dove back in his tank, shocked by the impact. He withdrew all the way back to the bridge. One of the new crew members of Langanke’s Panther lost it completely with all the shots fired on the tank.
Now it was Hargesheimer with his seven tanks that approached Freyneux from the left side. He spotted a tank and ordered to fire on it. It was Villanueba’s light tank that got two hits. The crew bailed out, taking the machineguns out and set up a defensive position in a nearby house. Villanueba directed a couple of tanks from the South in his direction and they fired on Hargesheimer’s tank, disabling the gun and wounding the gunner. Hargesheimer pulled back, together with the other Panthers. Schöppe’s Panther got knocked out during the retreat and another one was disabled.
A hidden 3.7cm flak was firing at the US planes the whole day, taking out at least one of them. The pilot bailed out and walked to Oster.
In the meantime, Lt . Hovland and Lt. Myers returned from the abruptly ended briefing. Hearing Vance’s words, Hovland decided to climb the Isidore’s steeple and acted as an observer and directed fire. But the Germans got him insight and started to fire at the steeple. Hovland left and ran off to rejoin his platoon.
Around the same time Langanke’s attack started, the Germans had started another attack at 08.00hrs on Lamormenil, coming from the north. Their goal was to take the roadblock at the road junction route de Lamormenil/ route de La Fosse.
Around 400 grenadiers, supported by Oberst. Karl Mühlecks 1st company/ 2nd Ss Pz regiment attacked form the North. The grenadiers attacked the roadblock and the Panthers tried to reach Lamormenil itself. With an alert from the roadblock all US troops were alarmed and McDonald took his own tank and the other Sherman that was left and drove in the direction of the roadblock. Two Panthers were destroyed. At the roadblock itself the grenadiers took a serious beating from Lt. Kosy’s 83rd Recon. Bn with many casualties on German side. (estimated a 100)
Not much later, around noon, the roadblock came under tank fire from Veith’s 3rd company, who were hiding from the US fighters at Moulin de Crahay. One armored car, one Sherman, two assault guns and transport and three half tracks were destroyed. One Sherman got disabled. The US troops returned fire, but their shots bounced off.
Cpl. Clifton Guyette, driver of the halftrack that towed one of the AT guns, saw from his foxhole how one of the Sherman got knocked out. “It was hit at least three times. One shell went in to the front, and out the back. I was in a foxhole directly behind that tank, about 150 feet away from it, and saw the shells rip the ground about half way between myself and the tank.”
On the other side of the ridge, in Oster, the men of A company/290th regiment moved out into the hills overlooking the valley overlooking Freyneux, Lamormenil and La Fosse. They were accompanied by four light tanks. They were unaware that they were facing elements of the hardened troops of the 3rd Pz Grenadiers Regiment. While passing through an open field, they came under heayvy fire. Several men were killed, including 1st Lt. Thomas Moore. Please do remember, that these men just had arrived and did have zero fighting experience.
The men sought shelter in the woods and it took some time before 1st Lt. Frederick Robin got them on the move again. When the Lt. Robin thought the troops were going to far to the left, he ordered them to go to the right. Somehow they had lost contact with two of the light tanks on the right and these returned to Oster. Reaching the top of a crest, the three platoons got scattered all over the place. From the top of the hill they could see the valley and below them, they saw a German tank. A quick questioning around learned that nobody brought a bazooka. After digging foxholes on the hill, rifleman Charles Miller and another guy were sent back to Oster to ask the executive officer for bedrolls and more ammo. While underway, the German troops again opened fire on the inexperienced men killing four, including one guy who was in Miller’s foxhole. When Miller and his companion arrived in Oster and explained the Company Executive Officer the reason of their return, they heard the gunfire coming from the hills, followed by the men, running down the hill where Miller came from.
Millers group was ordered back to the hills however. The captain of his group fainted and was taken out. That night, the company did not go back to the ridge, but were staying in the northern end of Oster. The command was taken over by company commander Giles Jenerette.
Just outside of Freyneux, Erich Hellers Panzer Grenadiers succeeded to get out of the protection of the little ditch and reached the road leading into the village. Heller sent a runner to the rear asking for artillery fire, tank support and panzergrenadiers. When the runner came back from 1st company commander Grohman, the answer wasn’t good: no artillery, no tank support and only one platoon of Pz Grenadiers. And thus Heller did what he could. He divided his troops in two parts. Two thirds of it attacked on the left side of the road, one third on the right. With help of suppressing fire from anti tank guns and machine guns, Heller reached the first houses of the hamlet. But when they pushed forward, they came under fire from a Sherman tank, killing several men and knocking out his AT teams. Major Robert Coughlin feared he could not hold the village and asked Charles LaChaussées’ 517thPRCT for help. Lt. Thomas De Coste and his men were sent in from Lamormenil. After crossing a 400 yards of open terrain, they set up outposts on strategic positions in the village.
Drawing more and more fire form the southern edge of the village, Erich Heller decided to retreat. He ordered the evacuation of the wounded. Heller stayed in the house with three others, armed with a machine gun and an “Ofenrorh”. (Panzerschreck.)
Heller saw a Sherman tank (but more likely the McKone’s Stuart!) and a hidden AT gun and decided to make one last attack.
Lt. Thomas McKone just got out of his Stuart tank, because of the firing that lifted and was talking to another soldier, when he heard the bazooka shot. McKone dove away and wasn’t hurt. But the soldier who he was talking to got killed and the Stuart was knocked out. Heller fired at the AT crew who fled the scene. Heller then ordered his men to retreat to the rear. At the same time, Major Coughlin discovered that the AT gun was not manned and two men of the 54thFA, a jeep driver and a soldier, remanned it. Jeep driver Pvt Harvey Miller fired at the house. Inside it, Heller lost consciousness. When he opened his eyes again, the house was on fire an he was trapped under the rubble. Heller cried for help, but his men already were too far away. He was saved by Harvey Miller’s patrol, who found the Untersturmführer.
In Lamormenil, the remaining troops were harassed by incoming fire of three Panthers and mortars, positioned in the southeast of the village.
One of the AT guns/ 643rdTD platoon, manned by Joseph DeCaro, Henry Gendron and James Day, got knocked out, killing Gendron, while the other two were wounded.
Panzergrenadiers of the Deutschland Regiment tried to break through with a personnel carrier and a firefight broke out, killing 517th members Lt. Roland Beaudoin, Sgt. Stanley Brown and William Delaney.
LaChaussee: “It was a very bad moment. Beaudoin, Delaney and Brown were three of my best men.”
Jim Latters of C company recalls: “Sgt. Delaney was my squad leader. Lt. Roland Beaudoin and Sgt.Standley Brown were also lost during this engagement, same time and place in a little farm community in Belgium. It’s still not clear to me in which of these two little towns this incident took place, Lamormenil or Freyneux, but in any case the actual site was a building just outside of one of these towns and it was during the daylight hours. It was a cold day with snow on the ground, a high overcast but I don’t recall any snow fall. Needless to say, the loss of these three outstanding leaders was devastating both to the Company and their friends especially during this period of the conflict.”
In La Fosse the 3rd platoon of C company/14thTB, 9thAD heard that a
German AT gun was on the south side of the hamlet and they were ordered by an officer of the 3rdAD to take it out. Sgt. Meron Thompson: “We moved forward in a line position with Lt. Morrison to the extreme right and my tank on the extreme left. As we moved in this formation, I received orders from Lt. Morrison to turn left 90 degrees. Then we were in a column formation, my tank leading and Lt. Morrison bringing up the rear. Three tanks were in between us.”
The tanks were moving southeast through a meadow towards the Odeigne – Oster road (Rue Fontaine des Chevaux). Behind Thompson was the M4 of Sgt Richard May. Behind May drove Sgt. Harry Pothoff, followed by Sgt. Thomas Chapman’s Sherman. Last in the fomration was Lt Morrison.
On the other side of the ridge, Langanke was still hiding in the depression on the south side of the road leading to Freyneux, close to the bridge. With Paul Pulm still manning the gun, Langanke was talking to Veith when all of a sudden he saw 5 Sherman tanks coming down the meadow from La Fosse. Langanke shouted at Veith to get out of the way, but Veith did not hear him because the engine was still running. Langanke ordered Pulm to fire at the first Sherman. The blast blew Veiths hat off and left him stunned.
Thompson: “We had moved a short distance when I received the first hit, which was on the barrel of my tank gun. The second one hit the motor, the third was underneath my feet. Then I heard the explosion of shells in our ammunition racks.”
The first shot wounded Thompson with shrapnel in his face. Because he hadn’t shaved during days, the blood frooze on his face. “I gave the order to bail out. As we got out, I saw three other tanks being hit consecutively – that is all the other tanks except that of Lieutenant Morrison. There was a small ravine and all the men gathered there with me. I gave the order to scatter out and make it back to our lines.”
The crews of the knocked out tanks never saw their enemy.
In the evening General Walter Krüger ordered Hargesheimer’s 2nd Company back to Odeigne. Only 7 Panthers were left. Hargesheimer got the order to join Ortwin Pohls 4th company, who were going to attack Belle Haie and after that, Manhay.
Veiths 3rd company was ordered to stay at the Odeigne- Oster road. The attacks on Freyneux, Lamormenil and Oster were abandoned.
The troops of TF Matthew Kane were still in Freyneux and Lamormenil. They were practically surrounded by German troops. Although no attacks were made, the villages endured heavy artillery fire on the 24th and 25th of december.
In Lamormenil, LaChaussée witnessed from a rooftop how the Germans attacked Manhay on the 24th of december.
Tanks were reported to the northeast of Freyneux and Kane wanted to know if they were still there. He sent a patrol of A company/ 290th regiment into the woods, southeast of Oster, ordered to clear it and try to knock out the Panther tanks with a bazooka.
Around 40 men of A company, led by Lt. Giles Jenerette, took off and went into the woods. In the afternoon they reached a hilltop, overlooking the intersection with the bridge over the Aisne river. However they could not see the German Panthers anymore. (I guess, they were out of sight, hiding in the woods under the men of the 290th.)
A part of Jenerette’s patrol went further south and ran into a machine gun position. After taking it out, the patrol, reduced to 13 men, proceeded towards Odeigne, which they reached in the afternoon. They met a heavily fortified German position, manned by the 3rd SS Deutschland regiment. Jenerette’s men had a bitter and hard fight with them.
Giles Jenerette crawled forward, tossing some grenades to the position.
Jenerette was seriously wounded in the chest by machine gun fire, two of his men were KIA and one captured. Jenerette led his men back to Oster, through 2,5 miles of enemy terrain. At first, it was believed that Jenerette was Killed in Action. Charles Miller: “After we had gone a short distance, a machine gun to our left fired on us. I wanted to use a rifle grenade but was told not to do so. I heard explosions as someone had worked his way up to the machine gun and used grenades. The patrol proceeded to Odeigne where a very chaotic action took place and two men were killed and another was captured. As the patrol broke up, we heard that the company commander had been killed and, with another man, I made my way back to Oster.”
Gilles Jenerette was MIA on december 25th, but returned with his men the next day. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) “for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving with Company A, 290th Infantry Regiment, 75th Infantry Division”.
In the morning, one of the tank members of Charles Myers was KIA in Freyneux. While standing in the turret hatch, searching for enemy movement with his field glasses, Thomas J. Church was hit almost between the eys by a German sniper. After pulling back the tank, Myers crew took care of the body.
On this day the order came in to retreat. Lt. Col. Kane came to Freyneux via the selected route at 15.30hrs. Because the German troops could oversee the valley during daylight, the withdrawal was planned at 19.00hrs.
With a smoke screen covering the south, southeast and east of Freyneux, the troops started to move out, under protection of the tanks which moved out last. The troops from Freyneux used the a forest road that accessed the road leading from Lamormenil to La Fosse. The troops in Lamormenil and on the roadblock withdrew via the Lamormenil-La Fosse road. Around 21.00hrs the troops had passed through La Fosse and Sadzot, using a forest trail.
A company of the 290th regiment withdrew north through La Fosse after abandoning Oster.It is, thanks to the bravory of these men, one by one, the attack in this region was halted. Although this fight looks minor in the grand picture of the Battle of the Bulge and the history of it is mainly forgotten, it is the unselfish heroism of these men that turned the tide of the German attack.
Lest we forget.
– George Winter, Freineux and Lamormenil
– La Bataille des Carrefours, Eddy Monfort
– Armor Battles of the Waffen SS, Will Fey
– Michael Reynolds, Sond of the Reich
– Otto Weidinger, Comrades to the end
– AAR 75thID/ 290th regiment
– Morning Reports 75thID/ 290th regiment, Company A
– AAR 3rdAD/ 32nd AR
– MR 3rdAD/ 32nd AR
– Battling Buzzards, Gerald Astor
– Battle of the Bulge memories
– 75th Infantry Division website by Jay Puckett
– The Unknown Dead: Civilians in the Battle of the Bulge, Peter Schrijvers
Many thanks to the team of Footstepsresearchers, Iwan Nieuwerth, Eddy Monfort, Frans Nooij, Ben Nightingale and family of Giles Generette. And last but not least, a big thanks to Kristof Nijs who scanned and edited the whole document!
© Bob Konings www.grandmenil.com