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T/5 Louis J. Archambeau

By Terry D. Janes 

 

 

T/5 Louis J. Archambeau hailed from Chicago, Illinois. Louis was the son of Louis and Violet Archambeau who lived on West 50th Street in Chicago. On October 31, 1939, Louis enlisted in the Army. Louis was of French ancestry. In December 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge, Louis was in Company C, 1st Battalion, 317th Infantry Regiment and his job was infantry rifleman.

 

As the 317th Infantry Regiment reached Neiderfeulen, Luxembourg, it became imperative for the regiment to take and secure the road net north of there along the mountain ridges. This road was being used by the Germans to supply their forward troops directly from Germany itself. The village of Kehmen, Luxembourg sat on that road, atop the ridge that soon became known as "Bloody Knob". For a veteran combat unit like the 80th Division and its attached units, taking a village the size of Kehmen was something they did several times a day, and not a big challenge. The German military was genius at defensive warfare, however, and had turned the mountains and valleys of Luxembourg into fortresses and killing zones.

 

The 319th had already made a brief attempt to take Kehmen, but ran into very stiff resistance. The 319th was needed more to the west and northwest, so the 317th was assigned the task of taking Kehmen and then Bourscheid to the east. The 317th sent it's 3rd Battalion into the fray first, to take Kehmen. The 3rd Battalion quickly ran into very stiff resistance, and had to fight hard for every yard of ground gained. The Germans had artillery, mortar and machine gun positions carefully placed and spaced so that they all supported each other, yet all provided complete cover over every inch of ground the Americans had to cover. Add in the knee deep snow and brutal cold the Americans had to endure as they trudged up the mountain, and it is easy to see why this was such a dreadful battle. Part of the story of the 317th's approach and attack on Kehmen are covered here. A good example of the 3rd Battalion's brutal fight on Bloody Knob is what happened to Tony Ruzich and two companions, whose full story can be read here.

 

Behind the 3rd Battalion, the 317th's 1st Battalion added depth to the American lines. The 2nd Battalion was mostly in reserve and filling in where needed. Down the hill from where Tony Ruzich and his companions from 3rd Battalion fell, Company C, 1st Battalion dug foxholes in the frozen earth and tried to take cover from the hellish artillery fire they were being subjected to. One of those men in Company C was T/5 Louis Archambeau.

 

Fast forward nearly seventy years: A U.S. Navy Captain, Mark Anderson and his friend, Luxembourg Historian Jean Muller were out with metal detectors scouring the remote mountainsides of Luxembourg searching for artifacts which would shed new light on the Battle of the Bulge history. Contrary to what many people might think, much of what happened during that brutal winter of 1944-45 is still unknown to this day. The terrain, weather conditions and the nature of the battle itself made making sense of it an elusive thing. Mark and Jean located an old foxhole. This foxhole had once been used by the Germans to guard the approach to Kehmen. Inside the foxhole, they found the personal effects of an American soldier. It looked as though this GI had just left all that was important to him in the hole, and disappeared. Mark and Jean could guess, but really didn't know if this soldier had been killed, wounded and evacuated, or just simply walked away.

 

Mark first contacted me about what they had found, and asked my help in gathering details on who this soldier was and what had happened to him. Mark and Jean knew that this GI had likely belonged to the 317th Infantry Regiment of the 80th Division, and Mark found this website. Among the items found in the foxhole, was a camera. Inside the camera, was partially used film from December 1944. Mark got the film developed, and the photos it contained were some of the last things this soldier, T/5 Louis Archambeau had seen before he left the foxhole. Mark soon discovered that T/5 Archambeau had been killed, but we still knew very little about him. It was because of this discovery that Mark & Jean and I became friends and began working together. As time went by, many other discoveries were made relating to other men and other events. Solving the mystery of Tony Ruzich and his companions, mentioned above, or the attack on Welscheid mentioned above, or the fate of several tanks lost on Bloody Knob were all discovered and solved one by one. All of these things came about because of the discovery of T/5 Louis Archambeau's foxhole.

 

Meanwhile, not much further was discovered about Louis Archambeau until recently.

 

A family member of Louis Archambeau found the article on the website, and contacted me. He sent me a copy of Louis Archambeau's Death Certificate. From the Death Certificate, I learned that Louis had been declared MIA on December 26, 1944. He was not declared KIA until February 23, 1945, when his body was finally found. Louis had a Life Insurance policy that would send money to his parents Louis and Violet. Louis's unit was simply listed as 317th Regiment, but which company he was assigned to, was not listed. The discovery of Louis's foxhole and personal effects had a deep impact on Mark, Jean and I. It was kind of spooky, in a good way. Louis's photos were almost like a message from the grave from Louis, saying, "Here is what I saw and experienced." How he died, and the details surrounding his death haunted us. Several attempts were made to learn more about Louis. Jean returned to the site many times. He discovered that just in front of the foxhole, was a German minefield. To one side, about 30 yards away, was a road. Next to the road, Jean discovered a stack of American mess kits. These were likely the remains of the Christmas dinner that was served to frontline troops. The soldiers ate their meal, and then stacked the mess kits along the road so they could be collected and taken to the rear. Based on what he found in the area surrounding the foxhole, Jean guessed that the men ate their meal, and then headed back towards the foxhole. Along the way, someone triggered a mine or mines, and possibly that is what killed Louis. Like the many other times I have witnessed, my friend Jean was not far off the mark in his guesswork.

 

Recently, I began the search anew for information about Louis Archambeau. Attempts had been made to scour the 317th records to determine what company Louis was in, and what that company was doing at the time he died. With a roughly 5,000-man regiment, searching through 70-year-old records for one man was like finding a needle in a haystack under a haystack. I finally found Louis in Company C, 1st Battalion, 317th Regiment. Jean had found artifacts that indicated other men were in the immediate area of the foxhole. At least one man was an infantryman. One artifact found was a full medical bag of unused medical supplies; so another man would have been a medic. It stood to reason that in a heavy battle, no medical aid man would leave behind a full bag of desperately needed medical supplies if he had a choice in the matter. So, besides Louis Archambeau, we were looking for a medic and at least one other infantryman who were killed or declared missing. Sure enough, there in the records of Company C, 1st Battalion HQ, and the 317th Medical Detachment I found the answers we sought.

 

On December 26th, 1944 seven men from Company C were declared MIA (Missing In Action), a squad leader and six riflemen. On that same day, a surgical technician from the 317th Medical Detachment also went missing. 1st Battalion HQ reported being dug in at the base of Bloody Knob and receiving heavy concentrations of artillery fire, which caused them to dig in further. The next day, their position became unbearable, and they withdrew to the relative safety of Neiderfeulen. The names of the missing men were:

 

Cpl. Andrew Mihalsky 35065497

Tec 5 Louis J. Archambeau 6725546

Pvt. Claude E. Dailey 39053548

Pvt. Rufus S. Carter 31465206

Pvt. Lester E. Powell 37743696

Pvt. Joseph H. Rank 35838313

Pvt. Charles N. Holmes 37490267

 

And the Surgical Technician:

 

Sgt. Robert B. Booker 38128405

 

Now that we can identify the unit which T/5 Archambeau's photos depict, I present them once again, here:

 

Company C, 1st Battalion, 317th Infantry Regiment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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