The close of another day and my first opportunity to write you a few lines. Excuse the V-mail, dear, but if not this, I wouldn’t have the chance to write you anything today.
I spent most of the a.m. getting my radio fixed, darling, and at last I struck a signal company that had the time to look my set over. It now works fine again. I hope it stays so for awhile. After the war, darling, I’ll just throw away any radio we have that goes bad. No fooling around with them.
We’re in a new spot again – and that took up the rest of the day. It’s not as good a set-up as before – but indoors nonetheless. We have no electricity but I managed to dig up a kerosene lantern and I’m writing by that, now. When I finish this I must go out and check on my men. They are in a house, too, but I have to see if they’re settled – etc. And then to bed. Evenings come early here, sweetheart and I have lots of time to dwell upon my love for you, dear. It does make the time bearable though. I always come to the same conclusion: I’m lucky I met you. I love you deeply and I’ll marry you pronto when I get home. So long, dear.
|Route of the Question Mark|
|(A) Raeren to (B) Hahn, Germany (5 miles)|
28 September to 11 October 1944
and The First Attack on Schmidt (continued)
October 11 brought success and failure for both sides. American attempts to exploit success at Raffelsbrand produced nothing but longer casualty lists. A German counterattack struck Chatfield's men before daylight, and though beaten back, Chatfield reported that "the enemy maintained pressure here for the rest of the day and crowned it before dark with a bayonet charge." When the Americans tried to bring up reinforcements, they were pinned down by several pillboxes along the Reichelskaul-Raffelsbrand road that they had bypassed the previous day.
Lieutenant Colonel Oscar H. Thompson's 1st Battalion, 39th Infantry, was finally able to enter Germeter but found that its defenders had abandoned their positions during the night. Hoping to seize more ground, A Company, supported by the 1st Platoon of C/746th Tank Battalion, probed eastward toward Vossenack. The column had only covered 500 or so yards when a Panzerschreck knocked out the lead tank, and the remaining American armor and infantry withdrew. A subsequent advance by A Company under cover of smoke ended with the destruction of two more Shermans.
The Americans had some success to the north and west of Germeter. Leaving I Company behind to protect the northern approaches to the town, K and L companies encountered little resistance as they moved eastward from Wittscheidt. By late afternoon, Lt. Col. Richard H. Stumpf's 3rd Battalion had advanced nearly a mile and was preparing to attack Vossenack from a ridge northeast of the village. Major Lawrence Decker's 2nd Battalion was also able to advance.
Maj. Gen. Louis A. Craig's 9th Infantry Division men had at least been gradually moving forward, but ominous events had occurred during the night that would soon threaten what little progress they had made. Accompanied by the German LXXIV Corps commander, Lt. Gen. Erich Straube, Seventh Army commander Lt. Gen. Erich Brandenburger visited Schmidt's command post. After hearing a candid assessment of the situation, Brandenburger promised to send a unit composed of well-trained and well-equipped troops to the front. Numbering 161 officers and 1,639 enlisted/officer cadets, the force was organized with three battalions of three companies each and a regimental heavy-weapons company. Its commander, Colonel Helmuth Wegelein, was an experienced leader. Schmidt and Wegelein quickly agreed that a counterattack against the northern flank of the Americans had the best chance of producing favorable results. Wegelein would launch his assault from an assembly area near Hürtgen, advancing southwest until he isolated the American battalions near Germeter.
Following a brief but concentrated artillery preparation, Wegelein's men advanced from their positions just before dawn, moving purposefully along the wooded plateau paralleling the Germeter-Hürtgen road. An American platoon of dismounted armor crewmen from 746th Tank Battalion, securing a roadblock along the left flank of 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry, was the first to encounter this new threat and was quickly scattered. By 0700 hours, Wegelein had succeeded in isolating several of 1st Battalion's rifle companies. As testament to the isolation caused by the densely wooded terrain, the 39th's 3rd Battalion was completely unaware that the nearby 1st Battalion was being cut to pieces.
Lacking reserves to blunt the enemy thrust, Lieutenant Colonel Van H. Bond, commander of the 39th Infantry Regiment, requested help from General Craig, who directed elements of the divisional reconnaissance troop — augmented by a platoon of light tanks — to assist the embattled 39th. As the situation grew more serious, Craig ordered the 47th Infantry at Schevenhütte to dispatch two rifle companies and a company of medium tanks from the 3rd Armored Division to reinforce Bond. Rushed to the point of greatest crisis, these reinforcements were finally able to halt the German advance when it reached the road leading west out of Germeter.
The abortive counterattack cost the Germans nearly 500 casualties, with little to show in return. The failed operation, however, produced at least one positive result for the Germans: Surprised by the strength and intensity of their assault, Bond ordered Stumpf's battalion to abandon its plans to attack Vossenack in order to reduce the salient Wegelein had created.