FOREIGN MILITARY STUDIES (B-792)

 
 

49. INFANTERIE DIVISION

 By Generalleutnant a.D. Siegfried Macholz, March - April 1948

 

   
   

FOREWORD
( by General der Panzertruppen a.D. Erich Bradenberger )

 

The first part of the report on the 49th Infantry Division, covering the period from 2 September to 18 September 1944, supplements certain details in the report of the Seventh Army for approximately the same period ( MS B-730 ). The task of the 49th Infantry Division, in the framework of the LXXXI Corps and the Seventh Army, were thoroughly described in that report.

 

The second part of the report, covering the period from 19 September to 10 October 1944, describes the fighting of the division in the West Wall.

 

In September 1944 Seventh Army headquarters had been surprised to see the enemy advancing between the Meuse and Wurm Rivers from south to north, i.e. parallel to the West Wall, for it had expected him to turn east against the West Wall. After the end of the first battle for Aachen, Seventh Army headquarters expected that the enemy might now try to take Aachen from two sides at once. Since the Aachen front required the commitment of all available forces, Seventh Army headquarters had been able to reinforce its northern wing only to a limited extent. It had also tried to strengthen the 49th Infantry Division by giving up the bridgehead of Kerkrade, which was tactically useless, but the Army Group did not approve. The loss of Kerkrade on 30 September was a gain for the Seventh Army.

 

With the penetration at Übach-Palenberg the second battle for Aachen began. In the beginning Seventh Army headquarters had considered the penetration merely a local undertaking. From 5 October on the danger arising in that direction became more evident. In spite of the arrival of reinforcements it was not possible to prevent the enemy penetration from being constantly expanded, the two adjacent sectors - the 183d Volksgrenadier Division on the right, the 246th Volksgrenadier Division on the left -  also being affected. So Seventh Army headquarters was compelled to pull out the corps headquarters of I SS Corps on the left wing of the army and to transfer the command of the northern sector to it. Although the 116th Panzer Division and the 3d Panzergrenadier Division were moved up, the gradual encirclement of Aachen could not be prevented.

 

Generalleutnant Macholz concludes his report as of 10 October 1944. The further course of the fighting is shown by the report of the LXXXI Corps, to which the 49th Infantry Division was subordinated.

 

INTRODUCTION

 

On 21 August 1944 the 49th Infantry Division had been ordered to defend the Seine River in the sector of Les Andelys - Vernon - La Roche Gujon. During the bitter fights of 22 - 29 August 1944, the enemy had broken through, overrun and destroyed the greatest part of the division.

 

ASSEMBLY AND REORGANIZATION

 

During the retreat the division had issued the following order on the evening of 29 August: "Assembly point: Hasselt. To be announced to all headquarters by 49th Military Police Detachment."

 

On the evening of 2 September when the division commander and the operations echelon arrived at Hasselt (Belgium), they found the supply and administration officer of the division and the supply group of division headquarters eagerly trying to organize the remnants of the division according to units. A beginning had already been made in registering the officers by name and the enlisted personnel numerically and in ascertaining the number of weapons and equipment. 

 

On the arrival of the division commander the supply and administrative officer reported that Headquarters, Seventh Army had called by telephone on 1 September, demanding that the units assembled be committed in the area south of Brussels. He had succeeded, he said, in getting the order canceled by pointing out that these units were completely disorganized, and that most of them lacked weapons and equipment.

 
The situation was as follows:  So far, about 1500 men had arrived at the assembly point. Division headquarters was almost complete.
 

The headquarters of the engineer battalion and two weakened companies had fought their way through. The improvised partial motorization had proved good. The elements which had been marching on foot with the infantry regiments were still missing.

 
Except for the radio and telephone sections operating with the regiments the signal battalion was present and ready for work.
 
The supply troops and administrative units were also more or less complete.
 
Only remnants of the infantry regiments, the fusilier battalion, and the artillery regiment were left.
 

Some members of the headquarters of the 148th Infantry Regiment had arrived, as well as the commander of the fusilier battalion, Captain Schrader. Only a few officers of the other infantry regiments had arrived, together with some NCO's and enlisted men. Part of the trains, marching at night, had succeeded in avoiding capture. Almost the entire train of the 149th Infantry Regiment under the command of Captain Thommezur had arrived. Except for small arms practically nothing had been brought back; no heavy MG, no AT guns. Only one platoon of the AA company, which had been employed for the protection of division headquarters during the last days of August, had been able to fight its way through.

 

The artillery offered the same sad picture. The commander of the regiment and almost its entire headquarters had been taken prisoner. The commanders of the 1st and 3rd Battalions had reported. Gradually a certain number of younger officers, and NCO's and enlisted personnel, turned up. Only one gun - a 122-mm howitzer - had escaped destruction.

 
The following orders were immediately issued:

1. One regiment with two battalions was to be formed of the availably infantry. Lieutenant Colonel Klose was ordered to organize and command it. It was given the designation "148th Infantry Regiment" The former organization of the units was to be given consideration. Deviating from former custom, only one horse-drawn echelon was to be activated for this regiment. Surplus trains and elements of trains were to be evacuated to the ZI.

 

2. The senior artillery officer, Major Vossberg, was ordered to organize replacement companies out of the available and arriving officers and men of the artillery units so that they could be incorporated in the infantry regiments at once, if necessary. In case guns should be assigned to the division, activation of an artillery battalion was to be prepared.

 

The division knew that the time to fulfill this task would be short. It was plain that the only way to stop the enemy was to organize defenses at the Meuse River. Since it was important for the division to have a period of quiet to reorganize its forces, it requested permission to move to the area southeast of Roermond, i.e. behind the Meuse.

 

However, in the night of 2 September another army order came to commit the units available. The operations officer was at once sent to army to make a report. By describing the situation he succeeded in having the order canceled. Moreover, he received permission to move the remaining elements of the division behind the Meuse. In addition, the division was ordered to prepare the bridges in the Meuse sector of Roermond and Maastricht for demolition.

 
The division was moved to the new area.
 
The reorganization of the division began.
 

The supply and administrative officer faced a particularly difficult task. By telephoning Military Area VI at Münster, which was competent for the division, he succeeded in procuring explosives. On the other hand, although he discussed matters personally in Münster, he failed to obtain any weapons, ammunition, and equipment. The former supply lines were destroyed because the stocks available a the mines could be used in addition to the fuel allocated.

 
6 September: The engineer battalion prepared the Meuse bridges for demolition.
 

7 September: The following order from LXXXI Corps Headquarters, to which the division was again subordinated, arrived: "The division will defend the Meuse in the sector of Vise ( exclusive) - Jupille northeast of Liege ( inclusive ). To the right contact is to be made with the 275th division, to the left communication is to be established with the commander of the fortress of Liege."

 
Since the division had no news about the situation in the area of Liege, an officer was once set out to obtain information.
 

At dusk the regiment was loaded on trucks and moved up to its new area of operations. All other elements of the division were ordered to begin moving to the area around Gulpen in the night. By order of corps headquarters all artillery officers were to be attached to the garrison headquarters of Roermond for an unspecified period of time to special missions.

 
The division moved its command post to Aubel.
 

THE FIGHTING FROM 8 - 18 SEPTEMBER 1944

 
8 September: At dawn the regiment took over the security of the Meuse River line in the sector ordered.
 
From the reports of the regiment and of the liaison officer detached to Liege the division received the following picture of the situation:
 

In front of the entire sector of the division, the leading elements of the enemy had reached the Meuse. Enemy movement on the eastern bank of the river could be clearly seen.

 
The fortress of Liege had not been prepared for defense; its commander had only a weak unit of military police under him. The bulk of this unit was grouped around the citadel. It confined itself to securing the Meuse bridges, none of which were prepared for demolition.
 
During the morning enemy tanks of the American 3d Armored Division entered the western section of Liege.
 

The battalion operating on the left wing did not incorporate the city of Jupille in the security line, as ordered, because the population of this crowded town showed a hostile attitude toward the German troops. Nor was it possible to establish communication with the garrison of Liege.

 
In the evening a message arrived saying that Liege had been taken by the enemy.
 

On the evening of 8 September a security regiment, which had reached Herve on its way back from Liege, was subordinated to the division. At the same time the division was informed that elements of the 116th Panzer Division were at Fleront ( about 6 kilometers east of Liege ), while the bulk of the division was situated east of that village. Contact with this division was immediately made in order to obtain information on the enemy situation. It appeared that the division expected an attack by enemy armored forces on 9 September and that it planned to fight a delaying action to Herve and the area south of this town.

 

Because of this information the division decided that it was impossible to retain the open flank of the 148th Infantry Regiment at Jupille on the Meuse. Corps headquarters approved. It was now important to find a new more or less continuous security line where the enemy attack expected for the following day could be beaten off.

 

The course of the line was determined by the fact that the new security regiment was already at Herve, and by the probable focal point of the fighting to come. It was also influenced by the fact that this regiment lacked the experience to make a move at night and by the planned conduct of battle of the 116th Panzer Division.

 

Orders were therefore issued on 9 September to defend the line Maas - Fort de Barchon - Bolland - Herve. This was approved by corps headquarters. The 148th Infantry Regiment had to bend back its left wing.

 
The division commander himself established communication with the security regiment and gave the necessary orders on the spot.
 

The leader of the security regiment Lieutenant Colonel Glaeser ( Knight's Cross), a battle-tried officer. There were two battalions, made up from various units. Their leaders were old officers, who had served in World War I; in World War II they had not yet faced the enemy. The enlisted personnel - mostly men of the older generation - had never used live ammunition. Throughout the war they had guarded vital installations such as railroads, bridges, ammunition depots. They were by no means equal to the requirements and hardships of the fighting lying ahead of them, especially that against tanks.

 

Thus the situation of the personnel was serious, but that of the equipment and weapons was even worse. The troops had practically small arms only. There were one or two light machine guns per company, no medium guns, no AT guns. None of the men had been trained to use a panzerfaust.

 

Thus, the division faced the fighting that was expected great concern. It was to be expected that the men, who were not accustom to combat and fire, would not withstand the first bomber or tank attack.

 

The division repeatedly submitted its evaluation of the regiment to superior headquarters. It stated that it was inexcusable to sacrifice an untrained, poorly-equipped unit. But all its objections were disregarded because of the emergency.

 

9 September: As expected the enemy attacked the 116th Panzer Division at Fleront with superior forces during the morning. The division withdrew systematically to the northeast and occupied a position there. The enemy pressed in pursuit. In the new position the 116th Panzer Division repulsed the enemy. The latter merely made weak attempts to feel his way forward against the detachments of the security regiment along the Aachen - Liege road.

 

It was clear from the development of the situation that the next day the enemy would continue the attack on both sides of the big road leading through Herve toward the northeast. It was certain that the security regiment at Herve would be overrun.

 

Therefore, the division ordered both regiments to withdraw during the night to a line of resistance approximately following the Berdinne brook. The right wing was to be situated at Neufchateau where contact was to be established with the 275th Infantry Division. The left wing was to be situated at the bridge across the Berdinne brook south of Aubel, where contact was to be established with the 116th Panzer Division. Strong security detachments were to be moved into the hills south of the Berdinne.

 

The 116th Panzer Division took over the security of Herve. It planned to withdraw to Henri Chapelle only under strong enemy pressure and to make contact with the division south of Aubel. It committed itself to securing the road Aubel - Battice, because it possessed armor-piercing weapons and artillery, which the division did not have.

 

10 September: Late in the afternoon of 10 September strong, enemy tank forces attacked the 116th Panzer Division at Herve, he point of main effort being south of the main road. After hard fighting the division withdrew as planned. Its right wing made contact with the security regiment at the road south of Aubel.

 

Enemy tanks felt their way forward to the right wing of the division and the left wing of the 275th Infantry Division. When MG fire was opened they wheeled off at once. In the afternoon strong tank forces succeeded in entering Dalhem, but they were thrown back. An attack against Neufchateau was also repelled. 

 

In the evening the lively activity of aircraft and the appearance of artillery opposite the right wing of the division showed that an attack was imminent. The 275th Infantry Division confirmed this view with regard to its left wing. A continuation of the attack against the adjacent unit on the left and its expansion toward the area south of Aubel was also to be expected.

 

The security regiment was likely to face its first hard fight. Although it had not yet been attacked, there had been disturbing symptoms during the withdrawal in the night of 9 September, although it was carried out without interference by the enemy. One battalion had withdrawn 50 kilometers too far - allegedly because an order had been misunderstood - although the men could hardly march that distance; it had to be brought back again.

 

11 September: In the morning string enemy forces, supported by artillery, even from the western bank of the Meuse, launched an attack against the left wing of the 275th Infantry Division and penetrated into its position. enemy tanks also advanced against the right wing of the 49th Infantry Division ad entered Neufchateau. In spite of the lack of heavy weapons a further advance was stopped in the bitter, fluctuating fighting which lasted until the evening.

 

Apart from the lively activity of the enemy air force, the other sectors of the division font were quiet. Late in the afternoon, enemy tanks advancing o the road Battice - Aubel succeeded in breaking through the defense of the 116th Panzer Division and advancing through Aubel up to the crossroad ( 1 kilometer north of Aubel). Here the enemy forces consisting in the main of tanks, halted in the evening and withdrew to the area south of Aubel.

 

Because both its flanks were open, the division was ordered to withdraw during the night to the line of Fouron St. Martin ( inclusive ) - Hombourg ( exclusive ). 

 
Threatened by a tank, division headquarters moved to Epen late in the evening.
 

In spite of the lack of heavy, armor-piercing weapons and artillery support, the 148th Infantry Regiment, which had been formed out of the remnants of the former 49th Infantry Division, had given a good account of itself during the last days. It had not been able to prevent a penetration, but, on the other hand, the enemy failed to achieve a breakthrough in spite of his supremacy in the air and the considerable support given him by his artillery and tanks.

 
Although not under attack itself, the security regiment had been given a taste of modern warfare for the first time.
 

12 September: On 12 September the enemy did not continue his attack against the division. The 275th Division was again attacked and another breakthrough achieved. The division withdrew to the north.

 

The 116th Panzer Division was also attacked, and lost Hombourg. Till dusk the 49th Infantry Division remained in its security line. At night it withdrew to the line Margraten -  Epen ( two villages not included ). Leaving small security detachments in this line, the bulk of the regiments withdrew behind De Geul and Selzer brooks and there reorganized for defense.

 

13 September: The enemy did not launch an attack against the front of the division. An attack was again made against the 275th Infantry Division, which withdrew to the De Geul sector.

 

In the evening the division security detachments were taken back because contact on the left with the 116th Panzer Division had been lost.

 
The division moved its command post to Eijgelshoven.
 

14 - 15 September: The front was almost quiet. Some movements of the enemy could be recognized south of Gulpen. The enemy air activity had ceased. The enemy ( U.S. 30th Division ) tried to feel its way toward Valkenburg ( 275th Infantry Division ).

 
Since the division could not carry out the order to make contact on the right with the 275th Division and to the left with the West Wall near Orsbach, because the sector was too wide and the strength of the division was too low, it was ordered to expand at least as far as the area of Wijlre, keeping close to the West Wall. Thereby a dangerous gap arose between the inner wing of the 49th and the 275th Division.
 

The division could not obtain a clear picture of the existing situation. It could not understand why the enemy did not make use of its success of 11 September by pushing on. The enemy might have advanced as far as the area of Aachen without encountering any strong resistance and, and moving further to the northeast, might have gained even more territory in the following days. It was to be assumed that in the area between the Meuse and Aachen the enemy was deploying his units.

 

There were no signs that the enemy was preparing a strong attack against the left wing of the division. On the other hand the division was greatly worried by the situation on the right wing, especially with regard to the gap between the 49th and 275th Divisions. A thrust through this gap must hit the division at a very vulnerable spot and result in the entire sector being rolled up.

 

16 September: The dreaded events came to pass. The enemy - the U.S. 30th Division - had apparently identified the gap in the defense. Moving past the left wing of the 275th Division the enemy attacked the 148th Infantry Regiment through Wijlre. Heavy, fluctuating fighting began. Toward evening the regiment was pressed back to the line Ubachsberg - Simpelveld. The security regiment, operating to the left, had to join in this movement, although it had not been attacked strongly. with its right wing it clung to Simpelveld; its left wing held Bocholtzerheide.

 

In view of the superiority of the enemy, who must have recognized the weaknesses of the defense, the situation locked very serious in the evening. It was to be expected that on the following day the enemy would pierce the thin German front and reach the West Wall in one bound, ahead of the German troops fighting in front of him. But in the evening an assault-gun battalion under SS Lieutenant Colonel Roestel was assigned to the division. This battalion was moved up during the night and ordered to cooperate with the 148th Infantry Regiment.

 

17 September: In the morning of 17 September the enemy continued to attack the new defense sector of the division. In heavy fighting, during which the assault gun battalion came into operation successfully, the enemy took Ubachsberg, Simpelveld and Bocholtzerheide. But he was prevented from advancing beyond the line Heerlen - Horbach. During the afternoon the enemy succeeded in penetrating into the southern part of Heerlen, occupied by a small security detachment of the 148th Infantry Regiment.

 

Late in the afternoon, the 275th Division withdrew to the line Schimmert - Klimmen under the pressure of superior forces; during the night it moved to the line Nuth - Heerlen. The enemy did not follow.

 

During the night the division was ordered to recapture Heerlen by attack and to hold it so as to prevent the enemy from breaking through between the 49th and 275th Divisions. For this purpose the regional defense battalion operating in the West Wall sector of Marienberg - Herzogenrath, was subordinated to the division. The battalion was hurriedly taken out, loaded on trucks and moved to the area west of Eijgelshoven by dawn.

 

18 September: At dawn the battalion, subordinated to the 148th Infantry Regiment launched its attack on both sides of the road Eijgelshoven - Heerlen. Without fighting it gained the western edge of the town and prepared for defense there. During the morning it was attacked by strong tank forces and completely scattered after short fighting.

 

The regiments of the division were also attacked; during a bitter fight they had to withdraw to the line Terwinselen - Spekholzerbrug to the West Wall. Surprisingly enough the enemy did not pursue them. He stopped in front of the West Wall, which was not occupied  after the departure of the regional defense battalion, and did not exploit his success. With his point of main effort to the right of the right wing of the division, the enemy advanced past this wing in a northeasterly direction through Schaesberg toward Waubach and there encountered elements of the 275th Division.

 

In the meantime - perhaps even on 17 September - the following corps order had arrived: "The division will defend the West Wall sector of Marienberg ( exclusive ) - Horbach ( inclusive ). To the right contact with the 183d Volksgrenadier Division, to the left with the 246th  Volksgrenadier Division. By order of the army group the Dutch town of Kerkrade, situated west of the west Wall must be held as a bridgehead and included in the MLR. The units operating in the West Wall are subordinated to the division"

 

In the evening the elements of the division still fighting in front of the west Wall were taken back to the edge of Kerkrade without interference by the enemy.

 
In the morning of 18 September the command post of the division was Merkstein.
 

Except for the bridgehead of Kerkrade, which was to be held, the fighting in front of the West Wall had come to an end. The positive result reached was that, without support by medium guns, artillery and aircraft, a weak, partly untrained unit, kept together only by its energetic officers and NCO's, had succeeded in retarding a far superior enemy.

 

From the direction of the enemy thrust on 18 September it could be inferred that the enemy did not plan to continue his attack against the division sector, especially against the extreme right wing, the unoccupied West Wall sector from Rimburg to the area north of Kerkrade. For operations in this sector the division had been promised the 47th MG Battalion, which was at full combat strength and was well-equipped. But would the battalion have the time to prepare and get acquainted with its position? In the West Wall sector north of the division the 183d Volksgrenadier Division was preparing its position. This division, too, was greatly concerned by the question whether the enemy would not start operations before the most urgent preparations for defense had been made.

 

In spite of repeated detailed requests, submitted to superior headquarters, the proposal of the division to hold the bridgehead of Kerkrade, lying in the center of the defense sector, merely as an "advance position" was always refused with reference to the order of the army group. So the intention of the division to charge one compact, though weak, unit under one responsible leader with the securing of the bridgehead, to have the bulk of the regiments pass behind the West Wall under the protection of this security, and to form two new regiment sectors so as to safeguard the unity of command and obtain a reserve in each regimental sector, could not be realized.

 

The division was compelled to leave both regiments in the bridgehead:  to the right the 148th Infantry Regiment with its right wing on the West Wall - Kerkrade ( inclusive ); to the left the security regiment up to the West Wall. Based on the houses of the city, without any tank obstacles in front, without heavy weapons, the troops had to build a new position, although they knew that it was useless, that judging from previous experience this position could not be held against a major attack and that perhaps both regiments would be destroyed in front of the West Wall and would then be lost for any operations in the west Wall.

 
On the left wing of the division a battalion, composed of the remnants of the 711th Division under Lieutenant Stach, had been operating in the West Wall on both sides of Horbach. There was contact with the left adjacent unit, the 246th Volksgrenadier Division.
 

THE FIGHTING FOR THE WEST WALL ( 19 SEPTEMBER - 10 OCTOBER 1944 )

 

There is no need to speak of the condition of the West Wall. Reference is made to the reports of General der Panzertruppen Brandenberger and of General Baron von Gersdorff, mentioned in the list of sources. However, a brief description of the division's sector of the West Wall must be made, with respect to its usability for defense.

 

The sector was 15 kilometers wide. On the right wig as far as the area close to Herzogenrath the positions were immediately east of the Wurm, which was a good tank obstacle because of the water damned up and the swampy river banks. There were only a few crossings and these could easily be blocked. The river was passable everywhere by infantry. the fact that the banks as well as the positions themselves were covered with bushes and trees was a drawback, because this impaired the field of fire. In this part of the sector the defense had to be adjusted to a surprise attack.

 

In the center of the sector the system of West Wall positions stretched around the eastern side of the city of Herzogenrath. The approaches leading to the city from the west could be blocked effectively. But since the roadblocks were not under direct fire, they could be removed easily. Once the city was taken, it would constitute a great danger, because the enemy could assemble under the protection of its houses. South of Herzogenrath the position was again based on the Wurm.

 

The southern section of the West Wall, from the area northwest of Bardenberg to Horbach ( inclusive ), was built so as to fit the terrain. Strong tank obstacles secured the position to a certain extent. The division assumed that in an attack the enemy would leave this part of the position unshelled.

 

19 September - 1 October: Until 24 September the front was almost completely quiet. But strong enemy movements were recognized in front of the extreme right wing and in front of the right adjacent unit. The 47th MG Battalion, committed in the northern sector from 19 September on was able to prepare its position during the lull. Unfortunately the assault gun battalion had to be handed over to the right adjacent unit on 20 September.  So the division again lost its only unit of heavy weapons and at the same time, its reserve.

 
On 19 September and the following days organizational measures were ordered as follows:

1. The division sector was divided into two sub sectors. On the right was the 148th Infantry Regiment, on the left the security regiment. The responsibility for the bridgehead of Kerkrade had to be transferred to both regimental commanders, which was regrettable.

 

2. Since the division had succeeded in procuring guns, the activation of a battalion was ordered. The personnel was available. ( The artillery officers detached to Roermond in the beginning of September reported in the West Wall shortly after the division had arrived there ). About 25 September the battalion was ready for operation. It took up its position in the area of Alsdorf and south of it. Thus there existed some artillery protection for the center of the division sector although it was moderate. In order to increase the artillery fire power on the wings and at the boundaries, the two adjacent division were requested to move their artillery in such a way that it could cover the area in front of the division sector as well. During the last days of September, when air activity was increasing, two AA battalions came into operation in the division sector. They remained subordinate to the higher AA commander. In addition to their main task of controlling the air they took over the task of the division artillery.

 

3. The task of the engineers were fixed according to their priority. Most important of all was the strengthening of the position. Then trenches had to be dug to enable the elements operating in the bridgehead to withdraw to the West Wall. About 25 September the engineer battalion was ordered to control the construction of the Roer position, which up to then had been built unsystematically by civilian agencies.

 
4. The signal battalion had to unsnarl the telephone net of the fortress and establish communications. 
 

5. A replacement training battalion was activated. It was important to form and equip new units out of stragglers and fresh personnel in a short time.

 

In spite of these efforts the division knew that it faced an unequal fight. The bulk of the troops was inexperienced. They lacked stamina. A certain order had been brought in the units, but the fact that the bridgehead had to be held made it impossible to undertake decisive measures. The greatest worry was still the lack of heavy weapons. The artillery battalion made matters a little better. Support by tanks and by aircraft could not be expected, and that was the decisive thing.

 

The troop began to realize that after all the bitter fighting and sacrifices of the long years of war the ZI itself was now under threat of war and all its horrors. The soldiers were deeply impressed by the evacuation of the combat zone and the miserable masses of refugees.

 

On 25 or 26 September the 57th MG Battalion, which was at full combat strength and well-equipped, was assigned and subordinated to the division. It was committed in the West Wall sector on both sides of Herzogenrath.

 

When this MG battalion had arrived the division resolved to begin an immediate reorganization of its units, especially of the infantry. Incorporation of the MG battalion, which was the necessary condition for the reorganization, was applied for and approved. From now on the security regiment was designated as the 149th Infantry Division. The 4th Company of the battalion and the heavy weapons companies of the regiments were to be formed out of the MG battalion, which were to be disbanded as such. However, the reorganization could not be carried out fully because of the events.

 

For a short time the plan of the division seemed to be favored by what was happening in the bridgehead:  When Kerkrade had been occupied by the Germans, this Dutch city had been cut off from its natural supply area. Thus, the food situation of the civilian population, amounting to 25.000 inhabitants, had become difficult after the first days. The city depended on the stores existing, because in spite of all endeavors of the division, superior headquarters did not approve supply of the population out of German stores. On 26 September the mayor of Kerkrade announced that there was sufficient food only for one more day. Thereupon, the army ordered that the population was to be evacuated to Dutch territory with the consent of the enemy. On 27 September the population left the city without incident.  The next day the head sister followed with the sick of the hospitals, who had originally intended to stay.

 

The departure of the civilian population relieved the division of a great burden. But the Germans were sure that the enemy now knew about the weakness of the occupying forces and the situation of the positions. An attack was to be expected very soon. The artillery activity beginning again on 28 September made it probable.

 

As expected, the enemy entered the town with tanks from the north late in the afternoon of 30 September. He could not be thrown back, although the attack was recognized to be merely a strong thrust for reconnaissance purposes. At night the garrison of the bridgehead was, therefore, taken back behind the West Wall.

 

Toward the evening of 1 October the battalions were situated behind the sectors of their regiments, where they began to reorganize immediately.

 

2 October: The air activity of the enemy, which had been more lively during the last days of September, increased considerably on 1 and 2 October. In the area of the 148th Infantry Regiment and of the right adjacent unit the movements of its troops by day were practically paralyzed.

 

The activity of the enemy artillery also revived. The division sector south of Palenberg as far as the area of Merkstein was covered by heavy enemy fire at times.

 

The movements of the enemy in the area west of Marienberg were particularly noteworthy. They were successfully combated by the fire of our artillery (AAA).

 
All signs indicated that an attack of the enemy was impending.
 

The division was therefore by no means surprised when late in the evening a message arrived that the enemy had launched an attack against the right adjacent unit ( 183d Volksgrenadier Division ) and had penetrated into the positions on a narrow front near Palenberg. The division regarded the situation as serious and considered this attack the beginning of major operations. This view was not shared by the 183d Volksgrenadier Division. It considered the attack a local reconnaissance thrust. It believed that it could clear up the penetration with the reserves kept ready for this purpose.

 

In spite of this optimistic estimate of the situation the 148th Infantry Regiment was given a preparatory order to organize reserves behind its right wing in such a manner that they could be used to strengthen the defense of the front as well as to launch an attack in the sector of the adjacent unit.

 

3 October: During the morning the 183d Volksgrenadier Division reported that up to then it had not been able to regain the part of the West Wall which had been lost and that, on the contrary, the enemy had considerably expanded his penetration during the night. Fresh enemy forces, consisting mainly of armor, were pouring in.

 

The seriousness of the situation was emphasized by a message which arrived at noon and which stated that the company of the 183d Volksgrenadier Division, operating at the point of penetration, had given up its sector without fighting and had deserted to the enemy.

 

In the afternoon the division was informed that the 183d Volksgrenadier Division had been ordered to throw the enemy back across the Wurm sector in a counterattack to take place in the morning of 4 October. For this purpose corps headquarters issued orders to attach to the 183d Division the two battalions of the 148th Infantry Regiment which had not been fully reorganized. Apart from lively air activity and some weak attempts by the enemy to enlarge the penetration to the south, the division sector was quiet till the evening. The enemy managed to push back the 183d Volksgrenadier Division and to enter the western quarter of Ubach.

 
Toward evening the command post of the division was moved to Ungershausen ( 1 kilometer north of Dürboslar ).
 

3 - 4 October: Except for some territory gained the counterattack carried out in the early morning under the command of the 183d Volksgrenadier Division did not result in any decisive success. The U.S. 30th Division and the U.S. 2d Armored Division had moved up strong forces into the penetration achieved in the West Wall and had improved the positions gained for defense. Decisive for the failure was, as usual, the superiority in armor and the air supremacy on the enemy.

 

The two battalions of the 148th Infantry Regiment succeeded in advancing from their jump-off positions south of Übach and in entering the locality after heavy fighting. Prisoners were made. In the evening, however, they had to return to their jump-off positions. The losses were considerable.

 

By the attack on 2 October the enemy succeeded in breaching the West Wall north of Aachen, although only in a narrow sector at first. The enemy had also repulsed the counterattack carried out on 4 October, mainly because of his technical superiority. A comparison of the forces operating on both sides showed the inferiority of the German troops with frightening clarity.

 

On the enemy side there were two divisions concentrated for attack - the U.S. 30th and 2d Divisions, which were fully fit for combat. The 2d Armored Division had more than 200 tanks, both divisions had artillery and, according to the order of battle, immense quantities of ammunition. The enemy had complete superiority in the air.

 

On the German side there was the 183d Volksgrenadier Division, just activated and operating on a wide front and the 49th Infantry Division, also operating on a wide front. The infantry of this division was just being reorganized, and it was still exhausted by the fighting in Northern France and Belgium. It had practically no artillery and no heavy weapons. The reserves available to the divisions were battle-worn after the counterattack on 4 October.

 

Once the enemy had succeeded in making a penetration in the West Wall, the weak 183d and 49th Divisions were forced to fight in open terrain, where they had to await the attack of superior tank forces without heavy weapons.

 

From the entries on a map, captured in the counterattack on 4 October, it was evident that the enemy, after having succeeded in breaking through the West Wall, intended to continue the attack toward Alsdorf with the aim of encircling Aachen from the north and east, while covering his left flank toward the west. This meat that the division's front would be rolled up from the north. The division was unable to withstand this attack effectively with the weak forces at its disposal. It was, therefore, greatly concerned by the future. Since new forces could not be placed at its disposal, the division ordered that the 148th Infantry Regiment build up a new defense line on the right wing in the in the general line Übach - northern edge of Horbach - West Wall, making contact to the right with the 183d Division; and that the 149th Infantry Regiment detach all available reserves toward the area of Alsdorf and west of it.

 

5 October: At dawn the hostile air force attacked in large numbers. Fighter bombers attacked artillery and antiaircraft. All movements in the division sector were greatly handicapped.

 

Toward noon the enemy launched another attack. The units of the 148th Infantry Regiment in the new line of resistance and those clinging to the pillboxes in the depth of the West Wall succeeded in preventing the enemy from moving south. But the enemy was able to gain territory from the right adjacent unit. Infantry and tanks, attacking toward the east, took Übach and advanced to the northeast beyond the Geilenkirchen - Alsdorf road.

 
6 October: Apart from enemy air and artillery activity, the night and the morning were fairly Quiet.
 

At noon the enemy started an attack against the northern wing of the division. Hard, fluctuating combats developed. About 150 Americans were taken prisoner. By evening the enemy had penetrated into the positions of the 148th Infantry Regiment and had taken Übach and Herbach.

 

In the sector of the 183d Division hostile tanks advanced northeast and east and took Beggendorf and Waurichen. This attack tore a gap that was extremely dangerous between the two inner wings of the division.

 

During the night a MG battalion assigned to the division was committed in this gap and subordinated to the 148th Infantry Regiment. The units of the 148th Infantry Regiment reorganized for defense.

 

7 October: The enemy did not continue his attacks against the 183d Division, but his infantry and tanks again launched an attack at noon with the point of main effort directed at Baesweiler. In spite of the fact that up to 50 tanks were employed the enemy failed to take the town. Thereafter the hostile forces feebly tried to push south through Übach and Herbach.

 

During the night a battalion of the 246th Division, which had been brought forward, was committed in the direction of Baesweiler and along the road Baesweiler - Alsdorf, between the MG battalion and the remnants of the 140th Infantry Regiment.

 

8 October: Strong enemy infantry and tank forces continued to attack southeast and south. Particularly bitter fighting developed in the area of Baesweiler and Alsdorf. Baesweiler was lost. In spite of the many tanks committed by the enemy he was prevented from crossing the big road. But he was able to pierce the thin defense front of the 148th Infantry Regiment, which had been greatly exhausted by the preceding fights, and roll up this front, consisting of pillboxes of the West Wall. By evening he had managed to gain the line Alsdorf - Herzogenrath.

 

9 October: During the afternoon hard fighting again developed for the road Baesweiler - Alsdorf. Again the enemy failed to advance. Toward the south he managed to push as far as the brook east of Herzogenrath and at some places even beyond the brook.

 

In this situation corps headquarters ordered a rearrangement of the sector: the former boundary between the 148th Infantry Regiment and the 149th Infantry Regiment became the boundary between the 49th and the 246th Divisions. The 149th Infantry Regiment and the artillery battalion were subordinated to the 246th Division.

 

At the same time the commander of the 246th Infantry Division was ordered to move his command post to Aachen and to allow himself to be encircled, if the city were cut off.

 

10 October: From noon on enemy tanks and infantry, supported by artillery and aircraft, continued their attempts to take possession of the road Baesweiler - Alsdorf. By evening the enemy, owing to his enormous superiority of materiel, finally succeeded in taking Oidtweiler and Schaufenberg.

 
In the evening the division commander, seriously taken ill, handed the command of the division over to Colonel Koerte.
 

In the sector of the division it had been possible to halt the enemy attacks, but toward the south, in the direction of Aachen, the enemy had gained terrain.

 

A counterattack was planned for 11 October, to be carried out by a new regiment ( mobile Regiment von Fritschen ) from the line Hoengen - Mariadorf toward Alsdorf.

 

In summing up I can only repeat that during the combats of 3 - 10 October all elements of the division fought well against an enemy superior in strength in every respect. Every inch of ground was defended heroically.

 
 
 

 

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