The 39th Infantry Regiment pushes towards the Roer, 8 – 12 December 1944
Since the beginning of November, the 39th Infantry Regiment was resting in Camp Elsenborn, a former training camp of the Belgian army on the border with Germany. On the evening of 4 December, the division was ordered to move north the next day. The objective was to march to Eschweiler to relieve the 1st Infantry Division and to continue the offensive towards the east.
On 5 December, the regiment moved. It was constituted as a Combat Team articulated around the 39th Infantry Regiment, supported by the Able Company, 15th Combat Engineer Battalion, Able Company, 899th Tank Destroyer Battalion, Charley Company, 746th Tank Battalion, Able Company, 9th Medical Battalion and finally by the 26th Field Artillery Battalion.
Situation Map of the First U.S. Army, from 1 to 15 December 1944 (U.S. National Archives)
The route is as follows: Sourbrodt, Eupen, Eynatten, Kornelimünster, Breining, Gressenich to an assembly area previously recognized by the 26th Infantry Regiment. The 1st and 3rd Battalions took up positions in the 26th Infantry Regiment’s area of action while the 2nd Battalion replaced the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment. The line held by the infantry companies extended from Jüngersdorf to the forest south-west of Merode.
The Regimental Combat Team will then remain in its defensive positions while the division prepares a new offensive towards the east, in which the two other regiments of the division will participate. The mission was to seize the towns of Konzendorf, Echtz, Schlitz and Merode with the support of the 3rd Armored Division.
Click the image to enlarge it
1 The offensive began on 10 December. The tactical objective of the 39th R.C.T. will be to take the town of D’Horn, and the 2nd Battalion will provide the main effort. The infantrymen moved out of their defensive positions at about 3.15 p.m. and advanced eastwards along a railway track near Jüngersdorf, covered by a smoke screen and direct machine gun and mortar support from the 1st and 3rd Battalions. The men of the 2nd Battalion advanced rapidly, Easy Company entered D’Horn at about 4.30 p.m. and Fox and George Companies moved in to defend the town in case of an enemy counter-attack. Easy Company continued and crossed the town to block the main access roads, while George Company took position on the left. Fox Company gathered near Langerwehe, while the 1st and 3rd Battalions remained in the rear.
Men of the 2nd Platoon, Company D, 39th Infantry Regiment, fire a water-cooled .30 caliber machine gun into the town of Schlich.
U.S. Army Signal Corps
2 The next day, 11 December, the regiment starts again its offensive towards Düren. The 1st Battalion was on the right and advanced south-east to take Merode and the 3rd Battalion advanced on the left and went south from D’Horn towards Schlich. The 1st Battalion came under heavy artillery fire at the start of its advance, and later met very heavy resistance from bunkers and buried defensive positions. Despite this, Able Company managed to reach the village of Merode at 08:35 after having neutralized the occupants of the bunkers. At nightfall, the 1st Battalion will consolidate its defensive positions around Merode.
Sketch attached to a post-war study written by then Captain Arvid P. Croonquist, Jr., depicting the terrain when looking from an OP taken over from the 26th Infantry Regiment. (Ft. Benning – MCoE HQ Donovan Research Library)
Members of the 39th Infantry Regiment walking with difficulty in the village of Jüngersdorf, their feet entangled in sticky mud, sad result of the excruciating weather conditions of the last days.
The drive east to Düren was a long-lasting effort which costed both side heavy losses. Every day when the 39th Infantry advanced through the villages, they made prisoners. A member of 39th Infantry Regiment talks with an exhausted German Wehrmacht soldier in Jüngersdorf, December 12th.
Men of the 39th Infantry Regiment stand guard over exhausted and cold German veterans of the Hürtgen Forest campaign captured at Jüngersdorf on December 12.
3 On the side of the 3rd Battalion, the King Company attacked from the edge of the forest towards Merode in order to keep in touch with the 1st Battalion, but a terrible fight ensued in which the King Company managed to neutralize four enemy machine-gun positions. Finally, the 2nd Battalion launched its attack on Schlich with Easy and George Companies. After hand-to-hand fighting, the town was cleared of all enemy presence by 4.30 pm. On 11 December, the regiment captured more than 190 German prisoners of war.
4 A new day dawned, rainy and cold. On 12 December, the division had still not reached the Roer. In the south, the 1st Battalion and the Fox Company start their attack from 8 a.m. from Merode and Schlich, and converge on Rottfeld. The men were confronted with minefields and suffered small arms and mortar fire from the woods in front of them. Progress was severely hampered and little ground was gained. Later in the day, patrols were sent out to locate elements of the 83rd Infantry Division on the right, but the search was unsuccessful.
Map attached to a post-war study written by then Captain Arvid P. Croonquist, Jr., depicting the operations conducted by the three regimental combat teams of the 9th Infantry Division from 10 to 12 December 1944. The 39th R.C.T. was the southern edge of the division’s area of responsibility. (Ft. Benning – MCoE HQ Donovan Research Library)
5 The 3rd Battalion launched its attack around 12.45 pm from the D’Horn – Schlich start line, covered by a new smoke screen supposed to hide them from the enemy’s view, but it was not the case: the line companies were victims of artillery and mortar fire, as well as small arms fire from the south of the day’s objective, Derichsweiler. The tanks were trapped by mines, but the infantry managed to enter the town: the Item Company entered first at about 2.30 pm, quickly followed by the Love Company. At 3.15 pm, Love Company is well present in the city centre and the battalion continues to clear the rest of the city: half of Derichsweiler falls, and 142 German soldiers are captured at the end of the day.
6 At 8.35 p.m., Item Company encounters a column of enemy infantrymen advancing in one of the streets of the town. The Riflemen open fire and disperse the enemy column after an intense skirmish. The battalion reinforced its positions for the night, the companies sent patrols in front of the defensive positions, in particular to keep contact with a roadblock held by Love Company of the 60th Infantry Regiment set up to the north of the village, at the junction with the road to Mariaweiler.
The 39th Infantry Regiment did not go any further. The 13th and 14th December were devoted to sending out patrols here and there, and to consolidating the defensive positions before launching an assault on the 15th December, which was finally cancelled. On 16 December, there was virtually no activity, and for good reason: the German army had launched a large-scale offensive and had broken through the American lines in several places in Belgium. The Division was urgently recalled on the night of 16 to 17 December to reinforce the northern salient of the Battle of the Bulge.