The 28th Infantry Division
at Neufchâteau (BE) during WWII
Chronology activities/operations of the 28th ID in the region of Neufchâteau in September & December 1944.
Special thanks to Mrs. Luc Pierrard, President of the association “Terre de Neufchâteau” for his kind collaboration to this recital.
Early September 1944 the 28th ID was part of the V Corps (Gnl. Leonard T.Gerow). While entering in Belgium it had the 4th “Ivy” Infantry Division on its left flank and at the “point” the 5th “Victory” Armored Division. “Recon” missions for V Corps were ensured by the 102nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Group.
September 7th :
The 28th ID entered Belgium by seizing the train station of Ste.Cécile. Division Command Post was established at Douzy, Fr. At 1350 progressed through the lines of the 5th AD, being held up due to “fuel-shortage” () : the 110thIR moved towards Herbeumont and Florenville while the 109thIR – less 1st.Bn. however reinforced with other elements of several units such like Co.A, 630th Tank Destroyer Bn. and converted into “Task Force Strickler” – headed towards Arlon. The 112th IR was attached to the 5th AD as the 112th Regimental Combat Team and this for almost the whole month of September. Division’s objective was to force the withdrawal of the 2nd Panzer Division, 7th Armee under command of General der Panzertruppe Erich Brandenberger.
Shermans passing during the Libération of Neufchâteau September 9th, 1944
September 8th :A breach was forced between the 7th and 1st Armee (Gnl. Otto von Knobelsdorff). V Corps seized this opportunity pass through German lines and spread out east towards the Grand Duché du Luxembourg. The 110th IR liberated Jamoigne. New Div.CP was established in Florenville.
September 9th :1st Bn. 109th IR continues its progression and liberated Habay-la-Neuve.
The 110th IR left its bridgehead at Herbeumont and started progressing north northeast on the road « Route de Florenville » (N85). At noon the regiment reached its objective… Neufchâteau. It entered the town through the Chaussée de France, Rue de la Bataille (Place de la Foire), Grande Rue (nowadays called Rue Franklin Roosevelt) until arrival on the Grand Place where it spread out for the night ().First elements coming from Florenville advancing on the Chaussée de France 09/09/1944
() On the contrary of the Germans the American Army tried to avoid as much as possible important movements/displacements during nighttime, not only because of tactical/security reasons but also because “a good night of rest” was considered as primordial to the “moral” of the troops… .
Regimental Command Post 110th IR was established at the Vieux Château d’Assenois (nowadays Bruyères 41, 6860 Assenois-l’Eglise).
« Big khaki tents were set up in our yard to shelter all those soldiers. We even had some 50 of them sleeping in the attic! » M.Trinteler, grand-daughter of Elie Parisse: extract « Terre de Neufchâteau »
Grande Place 1944 - 2014Grande Place at crossroad Rue Franklin Roosevelt (Grande Rue) 2014 - 1944Place de la Foire : Jeep 28thID-110thIR manned with « medics » from 110th Medical Detachment
Grande Place 1944 - 2014
Rue Franklin Roosevelt (Grande Rue) Septembre 9th, 1944
« On the road descending towards Hamipré, we saw a colon of military vehicles. Being used to seeing only the German grey-painted kinds, we were quiet surprised that these were painted khaki with a huge white star having a white circle around it…. We had a hard time believing that only 1 hour ago the Germans were still here! Being overwhelmed with joy we gave our best in singing «It’s a long way to Tipperary” not even knowing that this was actually an English song…. Thanks to the generosity of these Yankees I’ve chewed my first piece of chewing-gum and dad tasted for the first time in his life menthol-tasted cigarettes!”
Trinteler Daniel : extract bulletin semestriel « Terre de Neufchâteau » 2009.
Chaussée d'Arlon 2014 - 1944Crossroad Chaussée d'Arlon & Rue d'en Bas 2014 - 1944Corner Rue d'en Bas 09/09/1944September 10th :1st.Bn.109thIR moved on along the line Arlon-Martelange.28th Div.CP moved to Habay-la-Neuve.The 110thIR continued its progression northeast on the Chaussée de Bastogne (N85). Other elements moved up towards Ebly & Nives. New objective: Bastogne… .
Hôtel de Ville on the Grande Place: on the way to Bastogne...
The Battle of the Bulge
December 21st :Defenses/HQ/SCP were established at Vaux by elements of Division Headquarters and 110thIR, re-enforced with elements of the 527th Light Pontoon Engineer Company. Other remaining elements of different units (445th AAA Bn., 635th AAA Bn., 630th TDB, 707th TB and 602nd TDB) were “converted” in infantry – mostly due to lack of equipment – and placed on a second defense-line in the direction of Neufchâteau. The following night 241 stragglers were collected at SCP, including elements of two armored divisions and even some “airborne” troopers… .December 22-23rd :Early in the morning of the 22nd sentries halted a small group of new stragglers. When arriving at HQ it proved to everybody’s surprise that amongst them none other than Col.Daniel B.Strickler (commander 110thIR at Wiltz) was present! He and his little troop (Mjr.Carl W.Plitt, 28thID Operations Officer / Cpl.Getner, 28thID Chaplain’s Assistant / Strickler’s personal Jeep driver called “Martin” & several other stragglers they gathered on their way had left Wiltz the 19th and marches “cross-country” for almost 3 days, avoiding all enemy contact till their arrival at the village.... At 0800 an assault of the 14th Regiment, 5th FJD was repulsed; however Cota not being sure of how long his defenses would hold against a second attack ordered Strickler and his Chief of Staff to Neufchâteau. His mission: establish contact with HQ VIII Corps (Mjr.Troy H.Middleton), organize the defense of the town with anything/anybody he could find (During the first 6 days of the German offensive the 28th ID had suffered a casualty/missing count of almost 80%, meaning Strickler had to find troops by any means, even if it meant “converting” cooks, clercks, drivers, etc… into infantry units…) and set up a new HQ/SCP in view of a probable retreat from Vaux-les-Rosières. By that time Middleton had moved his HQ several times from the Caserne Heintz at Bastogne the 19th to the Athénée Royal ()/Hôtel de Ville at Neufchâteau the 21st to finally end up at the Nouveau Château d’Assenois near Florenville.() According to Charles B.MacDonald's book "The Battle of the Bulge" Mjr.Gnl. Troy H.Middleton had set up his HQ in the Athénée, however himself stayed at the Hôtel de Ville right next to the school building... .« Headquarters was set up in the new castle, while the old castle was requisitioned for telecommunications. It was very impressive to see all those radios, telephone operators, dispatch riders… they had really taken over the whole place….” Document M. Trinteler, grand-daughter of Elie Parisse.When arriving at HQ VIII Corps Strickler was told that some elements of the 110th IR Service Company already had started a “CP” in the basement (gymnasium) of the school building. Seizing this opportunity Strickler established future HQ in the left wing of the building. A Red Cross First Aid Station/SCP was established in a local movie theater (Avenue de la Gare) by Straggler Collecting Company B, 103rd Medical Battalion, 28thID while the park behind the theater near the Institut Saint Joseph was assigned to park tanks, trucks, ambulances combined with a QM “re-fit” post. The civilian population also contributed to the effort by giving stoves, furniture, food and most important of all bandages & medicines. By assembling troops/stragglers from almost 15 different division units and “re-fitting” them with anything he could get his hands on, Strickler abled himself to set up 3 circular lines of defense around the town. Strickler’s Regimental CP was set up in the Primary School building next to the Athénée, on the crossroad of the Rue d’Arlon & Rue des Oies.Athénée Royal de Neufchâteau in 1930…Regimental Command Post de Strickler 2014 - 1939By that time only 30 officers and 500 men of Strickler’s 110th had survived this first week of battle….
When arriving at HQ VIII Corps Strickler was told that some elements of the 110th IR Service Company already had started a “CP” in the basement (gymnasium) of the school building. Seizing this opportunity Strickler established future HQ in the left wing of the building. A Red Cross First Aid Station/SCP was established in a local movie theater (Avenue de la Gare) by Straggler Collecting Company B, 103rd Medical Battalion, 28thID while the park behind the theater near the Institut Saint Joseph was assigned to park tanks, trucks, ambulances combined with a QM “re-fit” post. The civilian population also contributed to the effort by giving stoves, furniture, food and most important of all bandages & medicines. By assembling troops/stragglers from almost 15 different division units and “re-fitting” them with anything he could get his hands on, Strickler abled himself to set up 3 circular lines of defense around the town. Strickler’s Regimental CP was set up in the Primary School building next to the Athénée, on the crossroad of the Rue d’Arlon & Rue des Oies
During the night 22-23rd a second German assault on Vaux-les-Rosières forced Division HQ to retreat to its new HQ at Neufchâteau, nevertheless the 28th Infantry Division had accomplished its mission: to hold up as long as possible the German advance in order for the 101st Airborne Division to arrive – from Reims, FR by truck - in time for the defense of Bastogne…. .December 24-26st :Re-organization of the defenses continued gradually as the SCP’s and MP posts continued collecting stragglers - by the end of the 28th’s presence these SCP’s had collected more than 1200 “lost” men…. Remaining elements of the 109thIR were re-enforced with troops of several other units to form the 109th Combat Team. Together with the 112th IR they were deployed at the town’s perimeter as the rear/3rd circular line of defense. The second circular line was made up by elements of the 445th Anti-Aircraft Artillery, 635th AAA (near slaughterhouse, Rue Dr.Hanozet), 630th Tank Destroyer Battalion, 707th Tank Battalion & 602nd Tank Destroyer Battalion. Besides its defensive mission this line also served as a collecting area for stragglers: after having being “checked” they were sent to the rear SCP’s by MP’s and/or ambulances for further taking care of. The first line of defense was composed of 6 outposts on the main road accesses toward the town. They were mainly manned by mixed units being reformed into Combat Platoons. All other “non-combat” troops were reformed into infantry and put in reserve for eventually re-enforcements.Quote Pfc. Allan P.Atwell 28thMP Platoon: « Anybody who could walk was drafted into infantry!”Christmas passed without too much incidents. The «National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 407, Records of U.S. Army Adjutant General, World War II Records, 110th Infantry Regiment, 28th infantry Division, History of the 110th Infantry Regiment, Box 8596 16/12/1944 – 15/01/1945 » report states a bombardment around noon the 25th on the outskirts but without any consequences.
Christmas passed without too much incidents. The «National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 407, Records of U.S. Army Adjutant General, World War II Records, 110th Infantry Regiment, 28th infantry Division, History of the 110th Infantry Regiment, Box 8596 16/12/1944 – 15/01/1945 » report states a bombardment around noon the 25th on the outskirts but without any consequences.
Table of Organization « Straggler Collecting Point » like applied in Neufchâteau:
December 27 :
109th CT was moved by truck to the vincity of Biourge-Grandvoir. 112th CT (112th IR + elements of the 7th Tank Destroyer Group) were placed under direct command of VIII Corps and displaced to the vincity of Libramont.
Neufchâteau suffered 2 bombardments: the first in the early morning but without many consequences, the second at around 1300. One of the 7 +/-250kg heavy bombs dropped by a new type of German “Jet” planes () fell about 10 meters next to Stricklers CP, blowing doors and windows out of the building and making a tree fall right next to it. At that time troops were lining up for “chow”….
Another one fell in the Rue du Four causing serious damage to Division HQ… all communication got lost for more than an hour. Despite the damages both remained in their respective buildings.« The left wing of the Athénée had suffered some serious damage, but fortunately the strong masonry had resisted to the impacts.” Extract of « Le Centenaire de l’Athénée Royal de Neufchâteau 1850-1950 » from A.Geubel et P.Perreaux édition H.DESSAIN LIEGE 1950.
Rue St.Roch: escorting POW's for clearing damages... 1944
Rue St.Roch: escorting POW's for clearing damages... 1944
December 29-31st :The 28th Infantry Division (less 112th CT) remained in charge of the defense of Neufchâteau, Recogne & Libramont. The 30th 7th Tank Destroyer Group was detached from 112th CT and replaced under direct orders VIII Corps.January 1st, 1945 :At 1445 displacement orders were issued. S-3 issued final instructions at 1700: prepare relieve by the 17th Airborne Division and displacement 28th Div.HQ to Fumay (Charleville-Mézières, FR); Effective January 2nd.January 2nd, 1945 :At 1330 Strickler’s « Regimental CP » officially “closed” and around 2345 “Regimental Convoy “left Neufchâteau for Les Mazures near Charleville-Mézières, FR.Afterword 1:During this month of December 1944 the 28th Infantry Division lost 4147 men, 205 officers and 316 men amongst attached units. The division made 1054 prisoners during that period. The bombardment of the 27th December remained the closest enemy contact with the town of Neufchâteau during the “Battle of the Bulge”. Around the 29th the town was considered as “liberated” as the German Army started to retreat on almost all fronts.Afterword 2:
The presence du General Patton at Neufchâteau :
1. Allan P.Atwell, 28th MP Platoon saluted Patton near the Grand Place while he was passing in his Jeep, this after the bombardment of the 27th December 1944.
2. Several civilian testimonies – thanks to the intervention of Mrs. Pierrard – also confirm the presence of Patton at Neufchâteau after the bombardment, while visiting the wounded in the Field Hospital at the Institut St.-Michel.
3. By direct order of Eisenhower the 28th December the 11th AD (Bgd.Gnl. Charles S.Kilburn) and the 87th ID were released from SHAEF Reserve and transferred to Middleton’s VIII Corps. The 11th AD established its HQ at Longlier while the 87th ID was sent along the line Bertrix et Libramont. The idea was to launch a counter-offensive along the N85 Neufchâteau-Bastogne, aiming Bastogne for the 30th and the south sector of Houffalize the 31st. In order to coordinate this attack a briefing was held the 29th in the afternoon at VIII Corps HQ between Gnl.Patton (3rd Army), Gnl.Middleton (VIII Corps US) & Gnl.John M.Millikin (III Corps US).
4. According to the biography of Patton’s Aide de Camp at that time Charles C.Codman and anecdotes from « The Patton Papers : 1940-1945 » Patton would have spent almost the whole day of the 29th in the Neufchâteau sector visiting the front/defense lines in order to have a clear vision of the battlefield before elaborating/improving his final assault plan on Bastogne. Patton was also known for the fact that when a new unit arrived in his army he absolutely wanted to meet the commanders not only to “personally evaluate” them, but also to let them know “who was running the show around here”! Unfortunately when he arrived at HQ 11th AD Kilburn had already left for a meeting with Middleton….
5. Patton always demanded maximum efforts from his troops, thus his nickname « Old Blood and Guts ». Terms like “holding position” or retreat were inconceivable to him, not even to mention the “battle-fatigue” which he considered as pure cowardice (referring to the « slapping incident » with PVT.Charles H.Kuhl the August 3rd, 1943). However on the other hand he vowed a great respect and sympathy for those who had given “their guts” in battle. Reason why he never hesitated to visit the wounded in the Field Hospitals to honor and thank them with a medal of which his Aide de Camp mostly had a case “stowed away” in his Jeep… .
Conclusion Probability after regrouping facts/annotations/testimonies/AAR & biographies:The 29th December after having “inspected” the frontline and his new troops at Longlier, Patton would have left for Middleton’s HQ through the Rue de la Gare and the Grand Place to the Château d’Assenois in the direction of Florenville. On his way he would have stopped at the SCP/First Aid Station of the Collecting Company B, 103rdMB 28thID at the local movie theater where he would have been directed to the Red Cross Field Hospital at the Institut St.-Michel (169th Medical Battalion, 429th Medical Collecting Company + elements 465th Medical Collecting Company => they were relieved by the 224th Airborne Medical Co., 17thAB in January 1945).Early 1945...Like described above this visit had nothing “official”, perhaps reason why it even isn’t mentioned in Cota’s biography “Division Commander” by Robert A.Miller. Probably faith decided that suddenly he wanted to meet those wounded men who had given everything in order to delay the German offensive during the first days of the “Battle of the Bulge” …. Bibliographie / Sources :
*"Noel '44, la Bataille des Ardennes" / Charles B.MacDonald* Article "Le Vieux Château et le village dans le contexte politique de leur époque" sur Assenois de
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