When the headquarters of the 347th Infantry Regiment was first set up in Woeflling, France on December 13, 1944, our AT Company established a defensive perimeter. At one point our squad (third platoon) was called on to reconnoiter a possible gun location at a cross roads near Saar-Union. We lost our 1st Sergeant (O’Neal) and Lieutenant Myers on December 13th from a bouncing Betty mine.[1] We were then tasked to support a defensive position in Walsheim, Germany, after the Third Battalion had recently cleared the area from the Germans (December 17th & 18th). The subsequent attack on our dug-in positions, along the forest above Walsheim, by a German Tiger patrol on the night of December 21st was very devastating.[2] We had three men killed (Loughlin, McGuire and Kennard), some wounded (Coughlon and others), and two captured (Rhoads and Gray). When we finally fought our way back to our foxholes the next morning I recall seeing a German soldier shot in the groin screaming from pain. I then approached Coughlon’s foxhole and found Sgt. McGuire dead nearby. I was the first to reach Sgt. McGuire and the image of his face still remains with me to this day. I recalled the many days I had spent with Bill, in Fort Jackson, learning words by quizzing each other from a dictionary. From a recent note from Paul Nessman (M-347) I find out now that the bodies of our three dead comrades remained in place until around midnight. While in Belgium in the summer of 2001, I went to the cemetery at Henri-Chappelle, and there I located the records of our three dead comrades. They are listed as MIA or as stated on the Wall Of the Missing. At our reunion in 1999 I met Jerry Coughlon, a member of our 3rd platoon, who had been in the foxhole with McGuire when the attack occurred. Jerry was wounded but survived to tell the horrific story of the worst encounter our AT company had in the Saar. Nessman mentioned that one of our wounded approached their position around 9:00 o’clock. I don’t know who that could have been. One could question why AT did not remove the bodies at that time but I was not in charge. A week later we made the tortuous trek to the Ardennes.

Our antitank company had been in the Saar for less than two weeks and had experienced considerably losses. Next we moved back to Bennistroff, France (December 23) and then to Rheims (December 25) to join Patton’s Third Army for the 100-mile trip to Belgium to fight in the “Battle of the Bulge”.

My story of the trip to Belgium and our initial action of setting up of our 57mm gun in the very cold weather, snow and low visibility along a road towards Bastogne is described in the Golden Acorn News.[3] We must have stopped near Libramont where we set up our gun to control the road ahead, from which the Germans could launch an attack. Fortunately we saw no German tanks at that time and since the weather had turned very cold we might not have been able to fire the gun anyway. The next day we must have moved up to Freux-Suzerain with the Third Battalion (Third Battalion CP). The 345th Regiment was already attacking in Moircy.

The 345th Infantry Regiment in Moircy, 30 Dec 1944

The 345th Infantry Regiment in Moircy, 30 Dec 1944

I recall that during the first day, as we were marching along a road heading towards Bastogne, we saw many weary members, of probably the 101st airborne, streaming back towards the rear. They had experienced some of the most devastating fighting of The Bulge. We passed many a burned-out vehicle, buildings on fire, dead soldiers and horses and some incoming shelling. Occasionally we got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. For instance in one town, in which we thought we were safe, we got hit by heavy incoming shelling, we hit the dirt, and I received shrapnel penetration of my clothes. In another instance we were on a hill overlooking a German site when they began shelling us using those heavy mortars where the incoming shells sound like a freight train. It was during this attack that two of our soldiers became highly distraught and had to be sent to the rear. On January 1st the 347th Regiment had moved through the 345th Regiment in Moircy to directly attack Pironpre (the bloody crossroads) and neutralize Jenneville. It must have been in Moircy where we sought refuge in a bombed out building, possibly the Hotel Masoin. There were at least two bodies under a tarp near the front door and later that night in an upstairs room two German women sang the song “Lily Marlene” to bring in the “New Year”. As I look back on my experiences I assume that our 57 mm guns were generally stationed near battalion or company CP’s, like in Freux-Suzerain, Moircy, or Jenneville. Though in some cases they must have been attached directly to the rifle companies for immediate action. It appears that there were also bazooka teams located in Battalion Hq’s (see below). One of the locations where we may have emplaced one of our 57mm guns was at the Jules Roba farm in Bonnerue (see below). Our opposing force in Bonnerue was the Kampfgruppe Neunann Regiment of the Panzer-Lehr Division under the command of oberst Helmut Ritgen. The line companies of the 3rd battalion 347th Regiment were attacking around Jenneville, Bonnerue and the Haies de Tillet woods. From the 2nd to 7th of January, Company I, my next home in February (see below), spent considerable time fighting the Germans in the woods of Serlogne, not far from the Jules Roba farm.

(Note: B. Klemmer, I company, told me at the Spokane reunion in 2001 that an antitank squad was located below their position (in the woods of Serlonge) on an open slope during the battle in Bonnerue. The Germans apparently approached, wearing medics gear, and dropped grenades into their foxholes. We are trying to verify this story that appeared in an early GAN article).

The CP for the Third Battalion was at the Leitz farm in Jenneville. On January 2nd the Germans destroyed four of our tanks located in the fields of Canton (the 761st Tank Battalion). The German tanks were located near the Collet home in Bonnerue. After repeated attacks and counterattacks, the Germans with four tanks attempted to surround members of L Company. On January 6th Pfc. Cassidy and Golschmit, 3rd Battalion Hq Co., managed to disable the lead panther with a bazooka and the other tanks retreated (both received the Silver Star for this action). There was a rumor in the AT companies that if anyone knocked out a German tank with a bazooka they would be promoted to Sergeant. Note that Cassidy is later described as a Sergeant in the Dermience book.[4] Further evidence that our AT company was in Bonnerue during this time is the heroic effort of Pfc Ben Wetenhall (AT), that earned him a Silver Star.[5] The bridge at Pironpre had to be controlled. I remember hearing of Ben’s exploits at that time but I did not personally know him. On January 7th the 347th Regiment went into active reserve while the 345th Regiment took over the battle. I assume that our antitank company must have then moved back to Freux-Suzerain where the Third Battalion found relief. By January 9th the 347th was back in combat again around Bonnerue and the regimental CP was still in Moircy. By January 10th the 347th had cleared Bonnerue, the Haies de Tillet woods and the crossroads at Pironpre (The Bloody Crossroads).

In the June 1998 issue of GAN I mentioned two other 57mm gun emplacements that I was involved with in the Ardennes. One, where we set up our 57mm gun in the front yard of a house in a small village. It was there that we had to blow holes in the frozen ground for the gun emplacement (this could have been related to the gun found in Bonnerue). The other emplacement was along a road near the front lines, probably the Libramont-Houfalize road. The gun location was not far from a farmhouse where we stayed that night. It was at this location that I met General Culin.[6] The time must have been around January 4-5, since we know that General Culin was returning from Moircy (347th Regimental HQ) after presenting Col. Tupper with the Legion of Merit award on January 4th.

The 347th Infantry Regiment entering St. Hubert on January 13th

The 347th Infantry Regiment entering St. Hubert on January 13th

On January 11th, our antitank company accompanied the Third Battalion on a dash to reach St. Hubert before either the British or French troops. St. Hubert was considered one of the most prized towns in the sector but when we arrived there was no enemy to be seen. It was there that I almost slept in a bed with a down comforter, but instead, I was assigned to HQ (a large building in the center of town) to run messages and to sleep on the floor.[3]

The actions of the antitank company of the 345th Regiment are described in the history of campaigns.[6] In this report, two battalion antitank guns were abandoned in Moircy around the 30th of December. On January 4th the AT Company of Hq. 345th attacked a church in Vesqueville. They fired some 10 rounds at the church where a German observer was apparently located. Their fire attracted return fire and two men were killed. The location of two armor piercing 57mm shells discovered in the wall of a church in Vesqueville after the war supports the presence of an AT company in Vesqueville[7]. There is also an instance, on January 6th, where C company using Bazookas disabled a “panther” tank in Bonnerue. They apparently knocked out the tanks treads. One of the guns captured by the Germans in this skirmish was later used against the Americans.

From the daily military records of the 345th, kindly supplied to us by Earle Hart (A-345), we find that on January 7th an antitank squad, attached to C Company, had some considerable interaction with German tanks in Bonnerue. The antitank squad set up their gun in a barn alongside the road from Tonny where the German tanks were approaching. When one of the tanks reached their position they fired four rounds directly into the tank’s side from only a few feet away. They killed two in the tank and one that tried to escape. The shells penetrated both sides of the tank. The CP of the 345th Regiment was established in Remagne.

Antitank squad of the 345th Regiment, setup in a crèche in Schonberg, Belgium - 4 February 1945.

Antitank squad of the 345th Regiment, setup in a crèche
in Schonberg, Belgium – 4 February 1945.

I want to enter at this point a statement by Sgt. Fooshee (B-345), from the March 2001 issue of the GAN, page 59:

“We came upon a squad of U.S. antitank personnel, who had spotted a Tiger tank in the dense woods ahead of them. I don’t know whether they saw it or just heard it. They said if it appeared they would knock it out. Well when I was hotfooting it back to the medical station for help I passed by the same spot where the antitank gun was and I looked and everyone in the squad was dead. The antitank shells must have bounced off the tank and the German tankers blew them away.”

This must have been a squad of 345th antitankers that were attached to C company and according to Fooshee the event occurred in Moircy, Belgium on January 9, 1945. In the same GAN, page 60, McNealy (B-345) comments:

“… at Moircy they had no tanks to confront the German tanks, only the pea shooter 57mm antitank gun and their hand held bazookas”

There is an interesting description of the above events in a recent Belgium article written with the help of Belgium civilians that were there (La Battaille des Ardennes, by V. Dermience, page 123):

“Hector Collet, of Bonnerue, was in his barn when the Americans fired on the German tank. The Americans had placed an antitank gun inside the barn and they had also placed a cart on the road to obstruct it”.

In this article they also mentioned that another antitank gun was placed on the left side of the building occupied as the CP for C Company.

According to the testimony of Felix and Boggs (345th HQ, First Battalion), there was a damaged and abandoned 57mm gun left by the 347th Regiment near a farmhouse in Bonnerue (the Jules Roba farm). Note: the 347th first entered Bonnerue on January 1st and went into reserve on January 7th. The 347th Regiment returned to active combat on January 9th . On January 10th, the CP of the 347th Regiment was moved from Moircy to Jenneville. By now, January 11th, Bonnerue and Pironpre had been retaken by the 347th, and the woods of Haies de Tillet had been cleared.

In a recent book by Helmut Ritgen, an officer in the Panzer-Lehr Division, there is a compelling story of the actions of the Germans around Bonnerue for the period from January 1st to January 11th, 1945. An action map of their campaign is shown in figure 29 of the book, and the escape route of the Panzer-Lehr to Germany is also presented.[8]

The 346th Regiment fought alongside the 345th and 347th Regiments but I have no knowledge of the efforts of their antitank company.

After the Ardennes salient was stopped in the middle of January, the 87th Division moved to Junglister, Luxembourg. The Antitank and Cannon companies were stationed in Bech. The 87th Division replaced the 22nd Division along the line of the Sauer river boundary with Germany. It was in Luxemborg that Bill Hicks remembers setting up a 57mm gun on an open hilltop overlooking the Sauer River. By the 24th of January the Division had returned to Belgium to continue clearing out the Germans and preparing to attack the Siegfried line. I think it was during this time that our antitank guns must have been sent to the rear.

On Feb. 18th nine of us were handed a rifle and transferred to I Company (Sage, Bednar, Adams, Davis, Lee, Michalski, Gambale, Sneske and Thouss) since the losses in the rifle companies had been very high. Other members were spread out amongst the other rifle and HQ companies. For instance, I recently learned that Bill Hicks had been transferred from AT, 347th to F company. Bill recalls being handed a BAR and using it in a firefight. The guys in I company recently reminded me that one of our transfers from AT had brought along a truck which came in handy in our further campaigns. The picture in the September 1999 GAN of the men of the 345th AT company getting the word on their transfers to rifle companies reminds me of our experience in the 347th. I recall my first meeting of some of the members of I company in a large tent in some sort of bivouac area near Manderfeld, Belgium.

As a member of I company, I finally got to use my bazooka during the attacks on the Siegfried line.

Maps of the Ardennes Salient

3 Jan 1945

3 Jan 1945 [9]

6 Jan 1945

6 Jan 1945 [10]

German map of the same area and timeframe

German map of the same
area and timeframe [11]

Footnotes


[1] Cecil G. Davis, “First Day In Combat”, The Golden Acorn News, March 1999, p. 11. (41/1)

[2] Cecil G. Davis, “He Was Only 18”, The Golden Acorn News, March 1998, p. 20. (40/2)

[3] Cecil G. Davis, “The Bulge, The Siegfried Line and The Rivers”, The Golden Acorn News, June 1999, pp. 27-28. (41/2)

[4] Victor Dermience, The Bloody Crossroads, p. 115.

[5] General Orders, Number 8 – 22 January 1945 – Headquarters, 87th Infantry Division

[6] Hugh M. Cole, The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge, p. 622.

[7] The Golden Acorn News, March 1997, p. 43. (39/1)

[8] Helmut Ritgen, The Western Front 1944, J. J. Fedorwicz Publishing Co., pp 272, 290

[9] An Historical and Pictorial Record of the 87th Infantry Division in World War II, 1942-1945; 347th Infantry Section, p. 64.

[10] Ibid.

[11] The Golden Acorn News, September 2001, p 44. (43/3). This map was provided to The GAN by Ross A. Rasmussen (A-912FA), who believes it to be a withdrawal map plan.

U.S. Army Star
Antitank and I Companies, 347th Infantry Regiment

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