Story of the 393rd Infantry Regiment (Lt.Col. Jean D. Scott) 16 & 17 Dec 44
- 1st Battalion - Major Matthew L. Legler
- 2nd Battalion - Lt.Col. Ernest C. Peters
- 3rd Battalion - Lt.Col Jack J. Allen
- HQ Co 393rd - Capt. Jacob W. Gravley
- Cannon Company - 1st Lt. Daniel Mucha
- Service Co - Capt. William H. Beacham
- Anti Tank Co - Capt. George G. Maertens
- Medical Detachm. - Maj. Milton J. Cole
Regimental CP locations:
010000 – 180930 Dec Krinkelt, Belgium
180930 – 312400 Dec Elsenborn, Belgium
The mission of the 393rd Infantry Regiment throughout the period of 1 -31 December was to actively defend its variously assigned sectors and be prepared to employ prepared places for counterattack against possible enemy penetrations within the regimental sector, or 99th Infantry Division sector. Between 1 – 17 Dec, the Regiment held a position generally along a North-South line 4000 yards east of Krinkelt, Belgium, with two battalions on the line and one battalion in reserve. During the period 1 – 6 Dec the 2nd/393rd occupied the left of the Regimental sector and was relieved by the 3rd/393rd which occupied the Regimental left for the period of 7 – 17 Dec. 1st/393rd occupied the right sector of the Regiment for the period of 1 – 17 Dec. From 12 – 20 Dec, the 2nd Bn/393 Infantry having been attached to the 395th Infantry deprived the Regiment of it’s services.
During the period 1 – 16 Dec the Regiment maintained contact with the 395th Infantry Regiment on the left (North) and the 394th Infantry on the right (South), patrolled actively to the front, and continued to improve defensive positions by stringing protective and tactical wire and placing mines both anti-tank and anti-personnel. During period 1 – 12 Dec, the defense was usually static with very little enemy opposition, other than intermittent patrols, artillery fire and fire from machine guns and mortars. During the period 13 – 15 Dec the Regiment demonstrated offensively in accordance with orders in conjunction with attack launched by the 78th and 2nd Infantry Divisions to it’s north. The demonstrations consisted of the attack by the 2nd Bn (now attd to 395th Infantry) seizing high ground to it’s front in the 395th Infantry’s sector and protecting the right flank of the 395th Infantry Regiment. Company “I” also attacked and succesfully straightened out the line of the 3rd Bn to run generally along the International Highway, thence West to Rath Hill.
On 16 December the enemy launched a coordinated attack in great strength along the entire front of the 393rd Infantry. At 0530 the Germans laid down a tremendous artillery concentration. This concentration in addition to their mortars including their six barrel rockets covered practically the entire Regimental sector. Enemy searchlights from the vicinity of Hollerath and positions to the north played along the front blinding front line troops to the enemy infantry which followed and pointed out objectives to them. The 393rd line was hit by an entire enemy division, the 277th VG Division. By the end of the first day the 393rd Infantry, despite the numerical superiority of the enemy, still held its sector. But the line could hardly be called solid, the rifle strength remaining was too slim for that. The 1st Bn had lost half its strength, the 3rd Bn had its right bent back for several hundred yards and had lost nearly three hundred men. The enemy wandered almost at will through the woods.
1st Bn/393rd (Major Matthew L. Legler) at Weisser Stein: The battalion was hit hard by enemy artillery, mortars, and tremendous numerical superiority of enemy infantry, beginning 0530, 16 Dec 1944. The first onslaught of the enemy attack, however, was repulsed. Most of the foxholes of the 1st Bn were positioned on the very edge of the forest with clear fields of fire, and the GIs exacted a greater toll on the advancing enemy. The first wave of grenadiers broke, then fell back in disarray, leaving behind a large number of dead and wounded. Shortly afterward, the second assault achieved several penetrations. The 99th's supporting artillery laid on deadly fire that quickly put an end to attempts to break through. But by 1000 both frontline Companies of the 1st Bn/ 393rd (B left and C right) were in a precarious position, each had two platoons overrun and the remaining barely holding on. The Bn commander committed his reserve, A Co, to restore the line of B Co and called for the Regimental Commander for help for his right Co. A Co advanced and relieved the situation by advancing to within 100 yards of the front along the entire B Co line. Eye-witnesses reported that several men of B Co who had been wounded during the attack and could not be evacuated before the position was overrun were later discovered lying face down with a bullet hole in the back of the head. Other reports of a similar nature came in at that time too. The enemy then counterattacked with tremendous numerical superiority of men. By heroic action on the part of all men, A Co was able to withstand the assault after giving up 300 yards. The prompt efficiënt action of this Co prevented the annihilation of B Co and relieved the situation at this critical time and place. Due to the attachment of 2nd/393rd to 395th Infantry the Regimental Commander, Col. Jean D.Scott, had no rifle units to send to the relief of the 1st/393rd, but he resorted to sending the mine Platoon of the Regt AT Co for relief of C Co. This force arrived at the 1st Bn CP at about 1030 and supplemented by the ammunition and pioneer Platoon of the 1st Bn, available runners and K.P.’s, advanced to the attack in relief of C Co. The two platoons of C Co on the right had been overrun and the third held on with difficulty. The Co CP by now was surrounded. The prompt, efficient, heroic action of this group of men drove the Germans from the CP area of C Co, established contact with the remaining platoon of C Co and held the line for 24 hours.
By nightfall everything in the 1st Bn/393rd had been committed. Enemy patrols in excess of 50 men roamed the area trying to create confusion and havoc. They were calling out in English: “How many men are you”, and would fire their burp guns and throw hand grenades in dugouts and foxholes. These groups also had mortars and flares which they used. The 1st Bn still held its ground though by now greatly depleted in strength.
South of the 1st/393rd the 394th's 2nd Battalion had been hit shortly after the barrage had lifted early on the 16th. There, the enemy force was not as strong, roughly equal to what the 2nd Battalion had on the line. The GIs fought off all attacks, including one in which the Germans used several self-propelled guns. The 99th's supporting artillery laid on deadly fire that quickly put an end to attempts to break through.
On the afternoon of 16 Dec, the 3rd/23rd Infantry came up on the left of the 1st Bn/393rd and took positions along the BSR’s of the 1st and 3rd Bn/393rd.
Next day there was no enemy pressure on the sector of the 1st Bn, which well reflected the high losses suffered by both assault regiments of the 277 VG Division. By 1100 the 1st Bn received order to withdraw to a new position further west. The battalion moved into the new postion by 1400 without suffering losses and tied in on the left with the 3rd/23rd. At about 1500 the 3rd/23rd succumbed, upon being heavily attacked by enemy tanks and infantry. This withdrawal left the left flank of the 1st Bn/394th wide open and cut the BSR, the only usable road over which vehicles could be evacuated. The 1st Bn/393rd was cut off and in addition to radio casualties and telephone wires being shot out, was entirely isolated as far as communication were concerned from the rest of the Regiment. Late in the afternoon of 17 Dec, the battalion was heavily attacked by a strong infatry force and suffered heavy losses. When it became apparent that his position was impossible the Bn commander ordered a withdrawal to the southwest. The battalion, which by now numbered slightly over 250 and 20 officers, managed to tie in with the 2nd/394th and fight its way back to Elsenborn, where it arrived by midnight of the 18th. Retreating cross-country, all vehicles had to be abandoned and were destroyed as far as possible.
3rd Bn/393rd Infantry (Lt.Col. Jack J. Allen) in Dreiherrnwald: The action of this battalion closely paralelled that of the 1st/393rd. This battalion was hit hard by enemy artillery, mortars, and tremendous numerical superiority of enemy infantry, beginning 0530, 16 Dec 1944. Two platoons of K Co in the right of the Bn sector were immediately overrun and nearly all men on position either killed, captured or wounded. The remaining platoon on favorable terrain fought in its position causing the enemy tremendous casualties. L Co in the center of the Bn sector was hit at the same time and caused the enemy excessive casualties. This Co fought hard and held its position until the afternoon of 16 Dec 44. On the left of the Bn sector I Co had two platoons committed on the line with one platoon in reserve. This Co was not initially hard pressed. The break in the line caused by the K Co collapse caused the Bn commander to adjust his units by shifting I Co to organize an all-round defense of his Bn CP area. By 1100, 16 Dec 44, the 3rd/393rd was surrounded with enemy troops pouring in the gap between the 1st and 3rd Bns. The BSR was cut and nothing could not be sent to or from the area. There was no other usable road which could be used as an alternate route. The enemy continued his assault relentlessly without regard for casualties. Many enemy prisoners were taken and it became a problem to care for them as evacuation could not be effected. In the afternoon of 16 Dec Co I/394th Infantry was sent in support of the 3rd battalion and fought its way into the battalion perimeter. Regiment ordered the battalion to hold and hold it did. In the evening of 16 Dec the 3rd/23rd Infantry supported by a Co of the 741st Tank Battalion moved into line behind the 3rd/393rd.
Strength return 3rd Bn/393rd evening 16 Dec 44: (CI 3rd Bn/393rd)
I Co : 6 officers and 150 men
K Co : 2 officers and 45 men
L Co : 3 officers and 130 men
M Co : 7 officers and 90 men
I Co/394 : unknown (but about full strength & MG platoon attached).
The next morning, 17 Dec 44, at 0800 the battalion counterattacked to seize high ground in its rear so it could open the BSR and evacuate wounded and prisoners to regiment. This attack was succesfull to a limited extent of barely keeping the road open, as large enemy combat groups roamed the area attacking anything in sight. Later that morning enemy armor appeared and with additional infantry the enemy continued his assault without regard of casualties. By afternoon of 17 Dec the 3rd Bn was ordered to withdraw to a reseve position area in rear of the 3rd/23rd. This withdrawal was made under continuous enemy pressure including enemy armor. Practically all vehicles and equipment in forward areas of the 3rd Bn were knocked out by enemy action.
Subsequently, on the afternoon of 17 Dec, a large force of Germans with accompanying tanks hit the 3rd/23rd and forced it to withdraw in a disorganized manner. This Bn did not notify the 3rd/393rd of its withdrawal, leaving his flanks exposed. Once more the 3rd Bn was surrounded by enemy and had to fight on all sides. The 393rd Regiment lost contact with the battalion around 1700. The vehicles and equipment which were saved from its original position again took a beating from artillery and tank fire. Most men hadn’t slept or eaten in two days, but their spirit and determination was high. Not being able to get back to Krinkelt the Bn commander fought his way over to join the 395th Infantry the night of the 17th and joined the Regiment at Elsenborn, Belgium, on 18 Dec 44. Due to cross country and operations at night, additional vehicles were lost because they could not be taken. All possible were destroyed before enemy capture.