By December,1944, the forests and roads between France and Luxembourg City were teeming with support troops running sawmills, building bridges, restoring civilization to the forests that had been overrun by the Nazi juggernaut. Thinly spread, Infantry Divisions with their depleted armor units and artillery rested in place. On 16 December, 1944, this all changed.
Excerpts from the 1128th Engineer Combat Group report:
"At 160055 A December 1944, a telephone call from Security Command, First U. S. Army, placed this unit on an alert status, ...expecting paratroop landings in Army Rear Area. All Sub-area commanders were immediately alerted and within three (3) hours they reported that all units within Area number one (1) had been alerted, observers posted at predetermined positions and guards reinforced in accordance with defense plans. At 0435 hours, the Sub-area "C" Commander, Commanding Officer, 590th Ordnance Battalion, reported fifteen (15) red ground flares seen Northeast of Neuchateau on unnumbered road trom P4344 (Juseret) to N15. Civilians reported that that area was used to land German paratroops in 1940. An armed detachment sent to investigate this report, found nothing. No other activity was reported during the morning."
This was only the beginning:
"At 1215 hours a telephone message was received from Security Command, First U. S. Army, stating that the alert was still in effect, but that observation posts and additional guards could be relieved at the discretion of the Area Commander. Sub-area commanders were instructed to inspect observation posts and remove those considered feasible. At approximately 1430 hours, colored troops, previously attached to 1128th Engineer Combat Group to assist in road work, were returned to VIII Corps, at the request of the Corps Engineer, to be used in loading ammunition."
"At 171100 A December 1944, the Army Engineer ordered close liaison between 1128th Engineer Combat Group and the VIII Corps Engineer giving them [VIII Corps] all assistance possible. With continued reports of enemy threats from the east in the vicinity of Bastogne, at 1600 hours this date, upon the request of the Engineer, VIII Corps, the Group Commander gave the 158th Engineer Combat Battalion the mission of preparing a defensive line from P 526623 (Foy) southeast to P 588582 (neffe) to protect the VIII Corps Command Post. The 158th was instructed to have the ground occupied by dawn 18 December 1944. The 35th Engineer Combat Battalion received a similar mission on the right flank of the 158th Engineers.
At 1800 hours a one-hundred (100) man enemy patrol was reported to have infiltrated to the rear of the 28th Infantry Division Command Post at Wiltz. At 1900 hours, the 299th Engineer Combat Battalion reported the enemy to be entering Diekirch as their last men were withdrawing from the sawmill..."
The Group was composed of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1128th Engineer Combat Group, the 158th, 299th, and the 1278th Engineer Combat Battalions, the 467th Engineer Maintenance Company, and the 626th Engineer Light Equipment Company. The three (3) combat battalions were engaged in normal engineer operations including road repair and maintenance, sawmill and logging operations and other routine duties. The maintenance company was performing maintenance of engineer equipment for various First U. S. Army units in addition to providing two (2) contact teams of approximately one (1) officer and seventeen (17) enlisted men each, for the 1102nd and 1107th Engineer Combat Groups respectively. The 626th Engineer Light Equipment Company was furnishing heavy mechanical equipment for the three (3) combat battalions and assisting in quarry and gravel pit operations. All units were generally located in the Province of Luxembourg, Belgium, but were also engaged in engineer operations throughout the southern part of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.
HOLDING THE LINE: THE 5lst ENGINEER COMBAT BATTALION AND THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE
THE 1lllth ENGINEER GROUP IN THE BULGE: The Role of Engineers as Infantry in AirLand Battle, by Major Francis M. MCain, III
both provide excellent examples of the tenacious efforts by the units holding the line.
Closer to our story, the 35th Engineer Combat Battalion and many survivors from the 9th Armor Engineer Battalion and other disorganized units fell back into Bastogne's perimeter and became integral to the defense.
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