Composition of TF:
1st bn 32d AR (minus G and A companies, medium and light
tanks) plus D company, 83rd Rcn Bn and C company (one plat)
1 squad 23rd Engineers
C Company, 517th Para Bn attached during operation
At 0800 the 1st Bn 32 Ar received orders at Stolberg, Germany, to move south to Hotton, Belgium, in order to stop the German breakthrough in that sector. The unit actually pulled out at 1830, and rode throughout the night.
Approximately 0730 the battalion arrived and closed in the vicinity of Bomal (428999). It never reached the town of Hotton itself. Lt Col Kane received instruction that the 1st bn 32d AR, under command of the 83rd RCN battalion, plus A and C companies of the 36th Armd Inf Regt was to take and hold the town of Malempre (562889). D Company, med tks, 32AR, was the only unit of the regiment to be employed, moved off with D Company, 83rd Rcn Bn, at approximately 1300. By 1800, the force had pushed without meeting resistance into Malempre, while the battalion CP was established at Manhay.
In order to secure the town of Malempre, roadblocks were set up on each of the roads leading out of it. The 1st plat of D Co, 83rd Rcn established an additional block on the main highway at CR (545875). This was all done immediately upon arriving in the town. In the general plan of advance, the 83rd Rcn had taken the side roads, while the company of tanks moved down the main axis of advance through Manhay, RJ (548892) and then to Malempre. It was known at this time that father to the south, at CR (576853) an artillery unit had established a roadblock. It later turned out that there were three 105 Howitzers, 5 AA quadruple 50 caliber machine guns, 8-50 cal ground Mgs, and approximately 120 men.
Very early in the morning, approximately 0100, D Company 32 AR was given the mission of taking and holding the vital CR 576853. One platoon (3rd of D Co) of the 83rd Rcn was attached for the action. The column actually moved out at 1100. Before reaching its objective it ran into some small arms fire on its left flank. The column came down the Manhay-Houffalize highway from CR (545875) in an southeasternly direction towards its objective. The fire fight was not heavy, and it arrived to assist the defenders of the crossroad without too much difficulty. D Co 32 AR (minus one platoon) remained at the CR during the rest of the day, where activity was comparatively light. At this time plans were being developed by the task force to attack along the main highway west towards Samree (505811). However, these plans were not carried out.
During the night of 20-21 December, a platoon of B Company, 83rd Rcn Bn came from its originally route to the west of TF Kane to the village of Fraiture (585863), about a mile northeast of CR (576853). It contacted the task force headquarters, and it was ordered to hold that position as best it could. With nine paratroopers sent down by 3rd AD from the 82nd ABD, Kane made an effort to contact the platoon in Fraiture during 21 December, but the effort failed. The paratroopers disappeared from the scene, and only radio contact was maintained with the platoon in Fraiture. This platoon, which had worked through the town of Odeigne (536853) to its position, finally worked its way back to Grandmenil on the afternoon of 24 December. Its platoon leader had been killed trying to reach CR (576853), and apparently the platoon had become disorganized. A Reconnaissance patrol sent towards Fraiture during the night of 21 December, reported that American artillery fire was falling on the town. At a later date (exact time unknown) the elements of the 82d AB Div who reached the town found the vehicles of the platoon in Fraiture.
Likewise during the 21 December, TF Kane launched another attack. The point of departure was the Grandmenil- Manhay area, and the plan was to cut south and southwest by secondary roads, seizing first the open country in the vicinity of Lamormenil (503861) and Freyneux (513862), and thenn attacking the enemy strong point at Dochamps (494838). The plan involved two columns, one on the Grandmenil- LaFosse-Lamormenil road, the other on the Le Batty-Freyneux road. These were to join at CR (507853), and press the attack from there to the objective.
The attack began between 1300 and 1400. The east column moved without difficulty to Le Batty (591881), while the west column held up at LaFosse (509880) after a little difficulty with the road. A platoon of the 83rd Rcn was sent southwest to Odeigne where it set up a temporary roadblock during the night.
At daybreak, with approximately five tanks in each column, the advance was continued. Without meeting resistance, the eastern column pushed into Freyneux, just north of which it had been met by the elements outposting Odeigne. The western column continued to CR (500869). In the meantime, Lt Elton MacDonald, commanding officer of D Co, 32AR, arrived with his ten tanks, most of which were put in the eastern column at Freyneux.
The column from Freyneux held up for a short time until the column near Lamormenil could come up to support it at the CR to the south. Just south of this crossroad (vic 505850) is a bare ridge, and as the column attacked over this ridge towards its objective of Dochamps, it came under enemy artillery and mortar fire. The ridge was under complete observation from the high ground east of Dochamps, and the enemy fired with deadly effect on any vehicle sticking its nose into view. The ground was tested on either side of the road, but it was still too soft to carry the tanks. Being road bound and under enemy observation, the force was unable to proceed.
At 1400 another attempt was made by the tanks to move across the open ridge. MacDonald led with his nine tanks, but as the force got on to the high ground it received such intense fire that the advance could only be made with the loss of the tanks. The attack was therefore given up for the day, and defenses were set up. The west column in setting up for the night, secured the crossroad north of Lamormenil (5008699), in order to prevent an enemy attack from the west, while the rest of the force set up around the town of Lamormenil itself. A token force was left in LaFosse. At CR (500869) was the 1st Plat, Rcn (D/83rd), with a section of tanks and some towed TDs. Meanwhile, the east column concentrated its forces and set up an all-round defense in the town of Freyneux. The elements of the task force holding the roadblock at Odeigne did not join in the attack as first planned, and they continued to hold their position. At the roadblock in Odeigne was the 3 rcn Plat of the 1st bn, 32 AR, and a platoon of A Company 32 AR. The tanks of D company were disposed to help the forces as much as possible. Two were left at La Fosse, three at Le Batty, five at Freyneux, and the rest at Lamormenil and the nearby CR.
During the afternoon or early evening, approximately 70 paratroopers of the 517th Para Bn were attached from teh hq. 83rd Bcn Bn to TF Kane. A plan was devised for the paratroopers to attack Dexxxxxxx. The element of surprise was to be exploited in the attack with the infantry following the railroad south from Lamormenil area through the woods to a point along the tracks (vicinity of 498845), from which the attack on the town was to be launched. However, as the unit moved up to its line of departure, approximately 2300, it hit an enemy outpost which was established along the railroad track. Even though the element of surprise had been lost, the paratroopers tried to attack. With excellent fields of fire down the hill towards the American force, and with well placed defensive emplacements, the enemy repelled the attack without difficulty. In view of the strength of the enemy, the paratroopers asked permission to wait until the following morning before attacking again. Since they were still pracitcally up to original strength, they were ordered to make another attempt from a position farther west. At about 0200 the following morning, therefore, the unit moved some 500 yards farther west and tried again to take Dochamps. Ten casualties were received, and the men were pinned down by fire. The attempt was again unsuccessful, and it became clear that Dochamps was held by a strength of tanks and infantry too great to be seized in this fashion.
In the Freyneux-Lamormenil sector the situation was fairly quiet during the morning. At 1200, TF Kane was relieved of its responsibility for the crossroad southeast of Odeigne (CR 576853), and TF Richardson began to move into the vicinity. As yet no troops of TF Kane were withdrawn, and the assault gun platoon of the 1st bn, 32 AR remained at the CR during the day. The platoon of B company, 83rd Rcn Bn at Fraiture was by this time dispersed, and members of it were beginning to come in. (By 24 Dec
Approximately 1600, word came to the task force elements in the vicinity of Freyneux that the enemy was beginning to break through the roadblock established at CR (576853). The fighting continued throughout the late afternoon and early evening. TF Richardson units, which were just arriving at the CR met the enemy, and fought against its advance up the highway towards Belle Haie (551870) and CR (545875). By 2100, the platoon of medium tanks of TF Richardson the nearest the crossroads were all knocked out.
At approximately the same time that the roadblock finally crumbled (apprroximately 2000) th town of Odeigne was attacked. 100 infantrymen, supported apparently by some Mk IV tanks and some 40mm guns came in behind the roadblock, set up on the eastern edge of Odeigne. Thus the force was cut off from Freyneux by the eneny infantry and tanks, while it was cut off at the Manhay highway by the attacking enemy column. However, at 2200, the unit at Odeigne was ordered to withdraw via Malempre, Manhay, to Grandmenil. Without losing a vehicle and with only four or five casualties, this unit managed to get through to Malempre, and swing around back to Grandmenil. This was accomplished by 0200 of the following morning. However, the assault gun platoon was destroyed as it tried to stem the enemy at Cr (576853).
In spite of the increased enemy action, trains from the rear were able to come down the La Fosse and Le Batty roads to supply the task force at Freyneux, Lamormenil, and the nearby crossroad. However, before the trains could return, enemy elements began to appear on the road northeast of Freyneux, and the supply trucks had to take the western route through La Fosse. Plans were made to retake Odeigne, and kane returned to Grnadmenil to make plans to get instruction at 0730. The task force received A company, 289th Infantry, which arrived in the vicinity of Le Batty about 1000. In addition, a platoon of B company, 517th Para Bn, had reported the evening before. They were put into the Lamormenil sector to strengthen that defense.
Before any steps could be taken to recapture Odeigne, however, the enemy attacked Freyneux. According to prison information, approximately 100 men and twleve tanks made the assault. The enemy had established himself during the previous night along the road on the southwest side of the wooded hill below Manhay (vicinity 520868) and thus attacked southwest across the open rolling country to the town of Freyneux. At the same time, pressure on the town was exerted from the east and southeast, along the side road which the enemy apparently had used to infiltrate up to Odeigne.
In addition to the units in Freyneux (elements of D Co 32 AR tanks, and dco 83 rcn bn primarily), the platoon of B co, 517th para Bn came from Lamormenil to assist in the defense. A few towed TDs were on hand, and they were placed on the various roads leading out of Freyneux. It was necessary to prepare for an all-around defense, since the direction of the enemy attack could not be determined as only from the northeast. In addition, tanks backed up the towed Tds, with one tank by the church, which fired east on the enemy with considerable effect. Infantry had been posted in the buildings. During the day they were close to town, while at night the outposts were farther into the fields. The air support at the time of the attack proved disappointing, since theplanes could not bomb enemy so close to Freyneux.
Throughout the morning the infantry came towards the town. In spite of the fire laid down by the defenders, elements of the enemy succeeded in getting into buildings on the northeastern outskirts. Enemy tanks moved from their positions to a protected place in a draw to the northeast of town, and fired in support of the attacking infantry. The houses in which the enemy were emplaced sheltered a 50mm mortar crew, which fired on the town. Several fires were started by the mortar and larger caliber shells.
Major Coughlin, in immediate charge of the defense of Freyneux, made a reconnaissance at this time, between 1100 and 1130, and found that the towed TD crew was not manning its gun because of the enemy fire. A tank was ordered to maneuver into position to cover the vital northeast to the main enemy position. A jeep driver and soldier of the 54th FA artillery forward observor manned the TD gun. They fired directly into the house holding the enemy and sheltering the mortar crew, at a range of not more tha 50 yards. After firing ten or twleve rounds and upon the cessation of the enemy action, a patrol went forward to investigate the house. They found that the enemy had actually been in the house behind the one fired upon. Nevertheless, the enemy had taken off, leaving a wounded lieutenant and the mortar.
Meanwhile the enemy from his position along the wooded hill northeast of Freyneux had direct fire placed on RJ (500869) across the valley, This Rj was unable to secure cover, and had to take the enemy fire. During the day a total of seven tanks were knocked out, of which four burned.
The defensive position established at Lamormenil was not receive any fire xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx,except from artillery, and later in the day from three tanks in the southeast. There was no actual attack. The enemy succeeded in destroying, at least partially, two medium tanks.
During the night the positions in Freyneux and Lamormenil were held. Active patrols were kept among the towns and with the elements farther to the north. Radio communication was maintained throughout the period between the TF CP in the vicinity of Grandmenil and the elements at Freyneux.
Although the enemy had cut the supply lines of the task force by fire, he did not attempt to attack the position at Freynneux. Friendly airplanes were in the vicinnity, but as the radio on that channel had gone out, no contact was possible. Some enemy mmortar and artillery shells were coming in. However, the mainn preoccupation of the unit was how to get out without loss of vehicles.
Enemy tanks were reported in the vicinity of (518875), which made traffic on the road hazardous. Kane ordered a combat patrol from A Co, 289th Inf, to work the woods southeast of Le Batty and try to destroy the tanks from the rear with bazooka fire. The patrol worked into the woods and reported that they had worked to within 100 yards of the tanks. However, noone else saw the tanks and nothing more was heard of them. The patrol was supposed to reach the stream crossing at (523865), but no report came in until 2000, when the patrol returned. The company commander who had gone on the patrol had been shot through the chest.
The Infantry company was also ordered to occupy the high ground immediately east of Le Batty. Either in the patrol action or the company action approximately 30 casualties were suffered. They asked for medical aid, and one of the medics from the Freyneux force brought up assistance. Other patrols working through the woods west of La Fosse reported an 88mm gun pointing north and east, unmanned. Little enemy could be found. The unit of TF Kane cut off in the day time by enemy fire planned for its escape. There were three possible routes: east through the woods to the main north-south highway, north to Le Batty through the woods northeast, or to La Fosse and through the woods to the west. All the men were briefed on the three plans.
During the previous night, patrols had been active. However, enemy activity in the sector was not great. Lt Col Kane radioed that he had found a route by which the task force could be brought out of its position, and he came up by this route at 1530 in the afternoon. The same route was being used to evacuate the wounded from the vicinity of La Fosse.
The withdrawal was planned for 1900, since the enemy had observation over the valley during the daylight hours. A smoke screen was to be laid south, southeast, and east of Freyneux just before the withdrawal was begun. In addition, a fog came down that evening, and between the fog and screen the movement was well-concealed. In the column, the tanks were last as a means of protection, while the infantry at Le Batty marched out after all the vehicles. The FO of the TF killed either by friendly or enemy xxxxxfire, but otherwise there were no casualties. By approximately 2100, the column had passed through La Fosse, west along the trail to Sadzot, and halted for two hours near Erezee. The engineers during the operation laid approximately 100 mines in the vicinity of Freyneux.
Note: Towns held by TF Kane. 21 Dec Doo32AR at CR 574852 (minus one platoon) A Co, 32 AR 1t tks, attacked and moved to Malempre, and stayed there for the night. Elements of TF reached La Fosse and Le Batty. 22 Dec TF held La Fosse, Le Batty, Odeigne. Assault gun plat, 32AR replaced D Co 32 AR at CR 575863. One plat, A Co, 32 AR at Odeigne. TF also occupied CR 500869, Lamormenil, and Freyneux. 23 Dec Same as 22 Dec. Late that evening, enemy hit CR 575853, beginning about 1600 and causing it to break at 1830. Same drive (probably) but perhaps different route hit Odeigne from the south at 2000. A Co 3d plat, five 1t tanks and two m-8s), Rcn Plat (11 men of 1st Bn 32 AR). 3 paratroopers of 508 Para Inf Bn. They were overrun and surrounded. 24 Dec. Late that evening the second attack, which finally hit Manhay.
21 Dec Doo32AR at CR 574852 (minus one platoon) A Co, 32 AR 1t tks, attacked and moved to Malempre, and stayed there for the night. Elements of TF reached La Fosse and Le Batty.
22 Dec TF held La Fosse, Le Batty, Odeigne. Assault gun plat, 32AR replaced D Co 32 AR at CR 575863. One plat, A Co, 32 AR at Odeigne. TF also occupied CR 500869, Lamormenil, and Freyneux.
23 Dec Same as 22 Dec. Late that evening, enemy hit CR 575853, beginning about 1600 and causing it to break at 1830. Same drive (probably) but perhaps different route hit Odeigne from the south at 2000. A Co 3d plat, five 1t tanks and two m-8s), Rcn Plat (11 men of 1st Bn 32 AR). 3 paratroopers of 508 Para Inf Bn. They were overrun and surrounded.
24 Dec. Late that evening the second attack, which finally hit Manhay.
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