3 Days of Actual Combat in the Bulge Christmas 1944 with the 82nd Reconnaissance

Written by Howard Swonger

    On December 23, 1944, the company maintained four reconnaissance units in front of the division. On our reconnaissance run we came upon two Airmen with a 37mm mounted on two wheels at a roadblock. It was cold, lots of snow and we were in a remote area at the bottom of a hill, near a narrow unpaved road. The two men were dressed with the Army Air Force wool lined jackets, trousers and boots, and they looked warm. We were ill-equipped and not dressed for winter as we just had field jackets, wool pants and GI boots. We were colder than hell. We tried to make a deal with these men for their jackets and boots. We offered to exchange our jackets and boots for theirs plus some cigarettes but they said no deal. These two men were glad to see us because as we continued on by them they were no longer needed as we were going to meet the enemy. These two Airmen in their wildest dreams probably never dreamed that they would be in this situation. They were at a fighter plane base and never thought that it would be overrun, but that is exactly what happened in the bulge. Rear echelon areas were overrun. No one was safe in this Ardennes offensive. Some USO shows were touring in this area, mainly because they at that time thought it was safe, but one such show was almost captured. Weather was cloudy and cool, our morale was excellent.

    Immediately the battalion was directed to reconnoiter the bridges southeast of Ciney, Belgium, As one of the armored cars attempted to turn around it was struck and knocked out by a shell from a leading German tank. The gunner in the armored car of "D" Company stayed in the vehicle firing the 50 caliber machine gun which caused the German column to halt and deploy. This allowed a 4x4 Peep to escape and notify Battalion headquarters. During this exchange of fire a jeep load of screaming American soldiers raced by yelling and looking very scared. They hurried down the road from the direction of the German column and raced towards the west. It would seem that this jeep load of American soldiers had overtaken the German column while this exchange of fire was taking place in front of them. Between Company D and the Germans their attention had been diverted to the firing between the two forces. Somehow they had passed the German tank column unscathed.

    At the same time a passenger train passed along the track between the two forces. The train and the passengers were unharmed and continued on its way. The word was sent back to division H.Q. as the German column was only a few miles up the road and there was little in its way to stop it. CCA was directed to gather up tanks as they came down the road and to stop the advance. The 82nd Recon was to maintain contact and report any movement of the German column. With all vehicles and personnel guiding the division from the north or miles away on patrol, the battalion’s mission seemed difficult to accomplish until they came up with the solution to go to the police station in Havelange and have them attempt to telephone all the towns in the area where the Germans may be or may have passed. In this way the battalion was able to give the Division command complete up to minute information and by nightfall we were able to engage and stop the German near Ciney. The German column was the advance element of the 2nd Panzer Division as it then became apparent that a showdown was not far in the future.

    On December 24, 1944, Company continued to maintain a reconnaissance screen in front of the division. Weather clear and cool, morale still excellent.

    On Christmas morning at 0900 hours the attack was launched. The 82nd Reconnaissance covered the west flank area. As the main attack moved across the open ground and into patches of the wooded area towards the village of Celles, Belgium, "A" company moved a platoon into what appeared to be a peaceful little sleepy rural village, Foy Notre Dame, Belgium. On CCB’s right flank however the major portion of the German 2nd Reconnaissance battalion of the 2nd Panzer division occupied well-concealed positions in the town supported by four Mark V tanks, and they were out of gas on high ground just south of the town. As Company "A" platoon moved on into the town there were several casualties. An assault gun charged an enemy antitank gun in the main street and blew it up which was a big factor in overcoming the resistance. Artillery support was given to us by a British unit and air support from P-38's dealt with the panther tanks, which were dominating the town from the high ground to the south. By night fall after a considerable fight in which "B" company gave assistance, the burning town was in the hands of the battalion. The town was taken, one enemy Antitank gun, an enemy half track and three enemy armored cars were knocked out. More than 100 prisoners were taken and around 200 killed in action. We lost Sgt. Edward F. Pledger as he was killed by enemy rifle fire at Foy Notre Dame. Clarence N. Warner was wounded in this operation and fractured an arm on the recoil of an assault gun. Both casualties occurred at 1500. We arrived at the new location at 1800, at Ciney sheet # 90, Vk 0485 Boisseeilles, Belgium. Weather clear and cool, morale excellent. 

    On December 26, 1944, we left area of Belgium 1/50,000, GSGS.# 4336 Ciney Sheet: #90, Vk0485, Boisseilles at 0945 we out posted SE and SW of Celles, Belgium. Tech/ 5 Marshall B. Neil was wounded by enemy rifle fire. Corporal David J. Murillo was wounded by a 75 mm gun, Pvt. Dee Kirkland was wounded by artillery fire, all were wounded in Foy Notre Dame, Belgium Sgt. Clerndon Jeffers was wounded by artillery, two miles SE of Celles, Belgium. We arrived at present location at Belgium 1/50,000, GSGS.# 4336, Ciney sheet: # 90, # Vk0585, Celles, Belgium at 1015. Weather cool and cool, morale still excellent.