"The object of war is not to die for your country but make
""the other bastard die for his."

............................................................ ......General George S. Patton

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General James M Gavin General James M Gavin


Gen James M Gavin

Gen Matthew B Ridgway

Maj Gen Omar N. Bradley

Gen George S Patton

FM Bernard Montgomery

508th PIR WW II
Medal of Honor Recipient

1st Sgt Leonard Funk


USAAF Airborne Troop Carriers in World War II

The Drop Zone

The Salm River Valley

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The 82nd Airborne (CMH) Center for Military History

Battle of the Bulge (CMH)

(US Army in Action Series)



The Drop Zone: Spearhead Blunted

CRIBA: Grand Halleux

CRIBA: Memoirs of the Ardennes

A Gliderman's Diary Excerpt during the Ardennes

The 82nd Airborne during World War II
Campaigns - Ardennes-Alsace

t about 1930 hours on the night of 17 December 1944, General Gavin received a call from Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF) that the enemy had broken through into Belgium and Luxembourg with a powerful thrust launched south of Aachen. Since the airborne divisions were located at Camp Suippes and Sissone, France, they were the closest reinforcements available. Immediately after being alerted, the 82nd went into a frenzy of packing and preparation for combat. "A" and "B" bags were packed and stored, combat shortages filled, ammunition and rations drawn. Dawn of the 18th found the division a little short on sleep, but in every other sense, fully equipped and ready for combat. Big trailer-trucks had roared into the area during the night and were waiting to take the paratroopers to the scene of the breakthrough. Most men were grouchy and in no mood to go back into action. They had just begun to relax from the Holland mission. However, with remarks such as, "Well, I'd rather go into these things than in a damn C-47 and "Why aren't they making us walk - it's only 200 miles", they resigned themselves to their fate.

Thirteen hours after leaving Sissone, the convoy unsnarled itself from a traffic jam and unloaded at Werbomont, Belgium. On the way, the destination had been changed from Bastogne to Werbomont - a point more seriously threatened. Instead the 101st was ordered to defend Bastogne.

The dull rumble of gunfire from the East was the only obvious indication of the enemy's proximity. As the men of the 82nd took up their positions in an initial defensive perimeter established upon the high ground surrounding Werbomont - a vital junction on the even more vital Bastogne-Liege lateral road of communications - they wondered what all the fuss was about. Few men had more than the faintest conception of what the big picture contained, what was at stake, or what the next few days held in store.

That night the 504th moved forward on foot for a distance of eight miles to set up a defensive position near the village of Rahier. The 1st Battalion, less A Company which had been dispatched to Brume, moved out toward Cheneux, where they were immediately engaged by an estimated battalion of the 1st Panzer Grenadier Regiment of the 1st SS Panzer Division.

As the afternoon waned the battle grew in intensity and it became apparent that the enemy column, stalled within the town, contained more armor than had been originally estimated. Approaches to the town were exposed; the enemy's fire was the heaviest ever experienced by the men of the 504th. Flak wagons,75 mm cannon, mortars, mobile artillery and machine guns loosed a murderous barrage on the paratroopers as they attempted to advance across a 400 yard open field that was laced at 15 yard intervals with barbed wire. No cover was afforded the attackers, who by short rushes, were inching their way toward the enemy. They jumped on enemy half-tracks and with clubbed rifles and bayonets knocked the enemy from his positions; they threw grenades, emptied their tommy guns, and kept pressing forward, fighting the Germans with anything at their disposal; even with their hands if necessary.

All that night and on into the morning of the 21st, the 1st Battalion of the 504th slugged its way through the battle-scarred village. By mid-morning the town belonged to the 504th when the 3rd Battalion executed a wide flanking maneuver to enter the village from the North. A quick tally disclosed that fourteen flak-wagons, six halftracks, four trucks, four 105 mm field artillery pieces, and one Mark VI tank had been put out of action. Those enemy vehicles which were still serviceable were promptly utilized by the regiment. The 504th suffered heavily in this attack, but annilhilated an enemy SS Battalion and handed German forces the first defeat they had suffered in the "Battle of the Bulge". The fierceness of the battle can be attested to by the fact that of the enemy forces, only 31 were taken prisoner - half of them wounded. This SS Battalion was the same one that had been responsible for the infamous massacre of American prisoners at Malmedy; they were repaid with interest by the men of the 504th.

It was on December 21, that five Germans attired in American uniforms drove about the area in two jeeps. One member of the party was disguised as an American captain, while the remaining four men dressed in typical GI combat fashion. These men were encountered at several different points throughout the rear areas and on all occasions did not hesitate to indulge in conversation with American soldiers. They even carried their bluff so far as to stop in front of the regimental CP to pass the time of day and bum a cigarette from one of the staff officers.

Later in the day, however, the spies overplayed their hands when they drew up before the 504th's 1st Battalion CP in Cheneux. An overly curious private, unsatisfied with the faltered replies afforded his questions, alarmed the Germans when he brandished a bazooka that he had picked up, causing them to abandon the jeeps and flee. Several Americans fired on the Germans as they ran into the woods, wounding one. Nevertheless, all escaped despite the fact that they could easily have been apprehended had the fact that they were illegitmate registered on the paratroopers, who stood around curiously, wondering why one American was shooting at another. Their immediate reaction was to defend the fleeing enemy spies from what they thought was a neurotic GI.

The period 21-24 December, saw a reshuffling of forces in an out of Cheneux, with the 504th's 2nd Battalion moving South of Lierneux to reinforce other units of the division. Meanwhile,the 1st Batallion did the same in the vicinity of Trois Ponts.

The 505th advanced and seized the high ground near Haut-Bodeux then took up positions from Trois Ponts to just north of Vielsalm. The 508th took control of the crossroads east of Bra the occupied the high ground to the west near Chevron. The 325th remained at Werbomont but sent the 3rd battalion to the vicinity of Barvaux which included the crossroads at Manhay.

On the night of the 22nd, the regiment was alerted against a possible enemy parachute drop. Shortly before midnight the drop materialized in the form of an unknown quanitity of equipment bundles, a half dozen of which were picked up by patrols of the 504th 3rd Battalion.  The bundles contained gasoline, rations, and ammunition, and were apparently intended for a beleagued enemy force trapped in Staumont.

On December 23rd the German's overran the town of Regne. The 325th counterattacked and retook the town and held it until ordered to withdraw. It was during this action that 2nd SS Panzer Division Regimental Commander was captured with orders covering the next several days.

This proved invaluable since it was becoming increasing apparent that the Germans were determined to take Werbomont. Thus the Fraiture crossroads began to assume increasing importance. Colonel Billingslea, the CO of the 325th, was ordered to extend his right flank to include the Fraiture ridge. He sent Company F under the command of Captain Woodruff to secure this critical area. His company made a valiant close-quarters stand against a regiment of the 2nd SS Panzer Division and were able to escape the overwhelming German force.

Between Malempre and Fraiture, the 2nd Battalion of the 504th under the command of Major Wellems successfully contained the high-spirited troops of the 2nd Panzer Division. The situation was still fluid and a withdrawal was ordered on December 24th. The 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion supported the withdrawal by blowing bridges over the Salm River and laying minefields.

Christmas day was unremarkable except for a meal of frozen turkey, and the day slipped by unmarked by incident. It was a white Christmas.

During the ensuing week the division repulsed four counter-attacks by the 62nd Volks-Grenadier Division and the 9th SS Panzer Division. The Storm Troopers' losses were becoming increasingly heavy. One unit of the 9th SS Panzer Division attacking the 504th after overrunning the outpost of the 2nd Battalion of that regiment, were stopped and driven back. The mere determination of the 82nd not to leave their positions even though they were being overrunned surprised the Germans. A week later the 82nd attacked and regained its former position on the Thier-du-mont heights.

On January 2, 1945, the 504th's 1st Battalion left its reserve position around Bra, to relieve the 325th Glider Infantry on the right flank. Enemy artillery fire increased in intensity, setting fire to many buildings in Bra with incendiary shells. Eventually, the 504th relieved in the Bra sector on January 4 by the 329th Infantry, marched 15 miles to Fosse. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions immediately went into the attack and gained their objective - the high ground southeast of Fosse overlooking the Salm River.

The line along the Salm was held and improved with little noteworthy activity until January 11, when the 504th was relieved and moved by trucks to billets in and around the village of Remouchamps.

On January 26th the division field order was received, establishing as fact what most paratroopers had for several days taken for granted - an attack on the Siegfried Line. The First and Third Armies were to pierce the Line.

At 0600 on January 28, the 82nd crossed the line of departure. Dressed in snow suits - the temperature crowded zero - the paratroopers advanced in a column of two's along a two foot deep snowy trail that lead through the heavily wooded pine forest of Bullingen.

Single Sherman tanks (pictured right) were interspaced throughout the column at platoon intervals. Foe twelve hours the column advanced, meeting only spotty resistance from the enemy, a half  dozen of whom were killed: 25 were taken prisoner. Enemy artillery fire fell spasmodically along the route of advance inflicting several casualties.

On January 29, 1945 First Sergeant Leonard Funk, Jr., of Braddock Township, Pennsylvania, Company C, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment won the Congressional Medal of Honor (CMH) for action at Holzheim, Belgium. After leading his unit and capturing 80 Germans, the enemy, by means of a ruse, captured the four American guards, freed the prisoners and prepared to attack the understrength Americans. Funk, walking around a building into their midst, had a machine pistol thrust into his stomach by a German officer. Pretending to comply with a surrender demand, he slowly unslung his Thompson submachine gun and with lightning fast motion, riddled the officer and led his men in resisting the enemy, killing 21 in the process.

At dawn of the 2nd, the 82nd jumped off on the attack. The air was cold and raw, the snow deep on the ground as the division pushed slowly East through somber, forbidding shadows of Forest Gerolstein. Moving cautiously from bunker to bunker and from pillbox to pillbox, the paratroopers encountered heavy machine gun and small arms fire at all points. However, impregnable as the Siegfried forts might have been, their occupants seldom took full advantage of the defenses. When it became apparent to the defenders that their particular fort had been surrounded, most of them chose to surrender rather than hold out for the Fatherland.

By nightfall, the 504th's 2nd Battalion had seized high ground 1000 yards east of the Wilsam River, while the 1st Battalion secured high ground to the southeast overlooking the Lewart River. The 3rd Battalion , taking a more circuitous route in order to flank their objective, followed the 325th Glider Infantry through Neuhof and then turned south to come down on the left flank of the 2nd Battalion. During the night several heavy counter-attacks supported by armor, artillery, and mortar fire were repulsed with high cost to the enemy.

If the problems of supply and movement had been tough heretofore, they became even more so in this assault against the Siegfried defenses. For two days it was necessary to haul supplies for five miles acroos streams, over precipitious, iceglazed hills and through trailless forests by means of carrying parties. Even the ubiquitous "Weasel" was immobilized until the last day when 307th Airborne Engineers charted and plowed a trail up as far as the Wilsam River.

After several uncomfortable days spent in the shell-racked, almost uninhabitable village of Grand Halleux, taken by the 505th in the previous month, the regiment moved by truck across the German border to Schmithof, a railroad stop in the first belt of Siegfried defenses.

On February 13, the division was moved to the west bank of the Roer River, where they were to  remain and prepare for a crossing of the raging stream. After daily postponing this river crossing, attendant upon a lower water level, the 82nd was relieved, spiritually as well as physically, on the 19th of February.

With an overnight stop-over at Schmithof, the regiment proceeded to Aachen, where they entrained in "40 and 8's" for a trip back to the base at Sissone, France. The former camp, however, had been transformed into two General Hospitals in the regiment's absence, and the 82nd was once again moved - this time to Laon, 17 miles from Sissone. Life molded and compressed to the limitations of a garrison existence, had once again, in the words of one battle-worn paratrooper, "become GI as hell."

R E L A T E D   B O O K S

Astor, Gerald  A Blood-Dimmed Tide: The Battle of the Bulge by the Men Who Fought It. Mass Market Paperback, 1994 ISBN: 0440215749
Black, Wallace B.& Blashfield, Jean F. Battle of the Bulge (World War II 50th Anniversary Series). Crestwood House, 48 pp May,1993 ISBN: 0896865681
Breuer, William B Geronimo! American Paratroopers in WWII. New York: St. Martin Press, 1989 621 p. ISBN: 0-312-03350-8
Carter, Ross S  Those Devils in Baggy Pants  Buccaneer Books, Reprint,1996 ISBN: 0899666132
D'Este, Carlo  Patton: A Genius for War 1024 pp ISBN: 0060927623
De Trez, Michel  The Way We Were: "Doc" Daniel B. McIlvoy: Regimental Surgeon, 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division (WW II American Paratroopers Portrait Series)  August 20, 2004, D-Day Pub, 167 p. ISBN: 2960017668
De Trez, Michel  Colonel Bob Piper: G Company 505 PIR (WW II American Paratroopers Portrait Series)  March, 2003, D-Day Pub, 48 p. ISBN: 2960017641
Devlin, Gerard S  Paratrooper! St Martin's Press, (P) c1976 ISBN: 0312596529
Falerios, Kenton J.  Give Me Something I Can't Do: The History of the 82nd Military Police Company, WW 1 to Iraq Nov 2007, Authorhouse, 192 p ISBN: 1434337197
Gavin, James M.  On to Berlin : Battles of an Airborne Commander, 1943-1946 ISBN: 0670525170
Irwin, Will (Lt. Col [RET.]) The Jedburghs: The Secret History of the Allied Special Forces, France 1944 Sept 6, 2005, PublicAffairs Pub, 323 p. ISBN: 1586483072
Keegan, John The Second World War Penguin (P), 708 p. ISBN: 014011341X
Kershaw, Alex The Longest Winter: The Battle of the Bulge and the Epic Story of WWII's Most Decorated Platoon Da Capo Press, 288 pp November 30, 2004 ISBN: 0306813041
MacDonald, Charles B  A Time For Trumpets: The Untold Story of the Battle of the Bulge Wm Morrow & Co (P), 720 p. ISBN: 068151574
McKenzie, John  On Time, On Target Novato, CA: Presidio, May 15,2000. 304 p. ISBN: 089 141 714 1
Megallas , James All the Way to Berlin: A Paratrooper at War in Europe 336p., Presidio Press, March, 2003. ISBN: 0891417842
Merriman, Robert  Dark December:The Battle of the Bulge ISBN: 0345329465
Megallas , James All the Way to Berlin: A Paratrooper at War in Europe 336p., Presidio Press, March, 2003. ISBN: 0891417842
Nigl, Dr Alfred J & Charles A Nigl  Silent Wings - Savage Death Santa Ana, CA: Graphic Publishing, Dec 3,2007. 288 p. ISBN: 1882824318
Nordyke , Phil All American All the Way: Combat History of the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II Zenith Press, April 2005. 880 pgs ISBN: 0760322015
Nordyke , Phil The All Americans in World War II: A Photographic History of the 82nd Airborne Division at War Zenith Press, May 2006. 192 pgs ISBN: 0760326177
Nordyke , Phil Four Stars of Valor: The Combat History of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment in World War II Zenith Press, November 2006. 480 pgs ISBN: 0760326649
O'Donnell, Patrick K. Beyond Valor  Free Press, 2001, 384 p. ISBN: 0684873842
Toland, John The Battle of the Bulge  1998 ISBN: 185326671X
Tucker, William H.  Parachute Soldier: From the Diary of William H. Tucker, 1942-1945  ISBN:1884540015
Tucker, William H.  "Rendez-vous at Rochelinval" Battle of the Bulge  International Airborne Books,Harwichport, MS, ISBN:0-9647683-2-1
Turnbull, Peter I Maintain The Right: The 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion in WW II Authorhouse, Oct 31,2005. 204 p. ISBN: 1420871447
Van Lunteren, Frank The Battle of Bridges: The 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment in Operation Market Garden Casemate, June 1,2014. 336 p. ISBN: 1612002323
van Lunteren, Frank Spearhead of the Fifth Army: The 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment in Italy from the Winter Line To Anzio Casemate, Sept 16,2016. 320 p. ISBN: 161200427X
Verier, Mike  82nd Airborne Division in Colour Photographs  (Europa Militaria, No 9) ISBN: 187 200 4857
Wildman, John B All Americans 82nd Airborne. Meadowlands Militaria, 6/83 ISBN:091 208 1007
Wurst, Spencer & Gayle Descending From the Clouds: A Memoir of Combat in the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment: 82nd Airborne Division Casemate (Oct 2004), 256 p. ISBN: 1932033319

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