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80th Infantry Division

Archaeological Artifacts

 

I was recently contacted by Captain Mark D. Anderson, USN.  He and a historian friend from Luxembourg recently found some artifacts in Luxembourg, in what was no doubt a fox hole, or shell hole left over from the Battle of the Bulge.  As Capt. Anderson writes: "They were found along a road, up the Wark River valley from Niederfeulen towards Welscheid and Scheidel.  I think they would be from 317th Regiment, maybe 2nd Battalion. It is sort of along the route that 2nd Battalion fought along the ridge on Christmas Day, 1944, clearing out lots of 79th Volksgreandier and Fuhrer Grenadier Brigade foxholes."

 

For a background on this area, the following excerpts are from this website and my book, Patton's Troubleshooters:

 

"December 23rd, 1944: In the course of the afternoon, General McBride decided to keep the attack rolling, by introducing his reserve regiment, the 317th , between the two attacking regiments.  The 317th Infantry, Lt. Colonel Henry G. Fisher, which had been following the 318th Infantry, was given the mission of carrying the ridge, which ran northward to Welscheid.  Once beyond this town, Fisher's troops were to turn east toward the Sure River, thus cutting to the rear of Ettlebruck.

 

When night fell, the regiment was on it's way.  The 2nd Battalion in the head, the 1st Battalion a thousand yards to it's rear.  Nearing Welscheid, sometime after midnight, the forward battalion started into the assault over a series of rough slopes, where each man was outlined by the bright moonlight reflecting from the glazed field of snow.  The enemy, waiting with machine guns on the reverse slopes, had all the best of it.  The American tanks ["A" Co., 702nd Tank Battalion] tried, but could not maneuver over the broken ground.  The battalion commander therefore, sent two of his companies to make a wide detour through a deep gorge.  There place in line being taken by the 1st Battalion.  But too much time was consumed by this movement, and day broke on the 24th, with the two battalions out in the open, and dangerously exposed to German fire.  The attack had to be abandoned.  New plans were made for by-passing the town, and striking directly at Bourscheid, and the Sure River."

 

Then:

 

"Fortunately for the Americans, the 79th lacked the artillery to make full use of such commanding ground, but the German gunners proved to be very accurate.  For the past twenty-four hours, the 317th Infantry had been attacking to reach Bourscheid and the high ground there.  Although the 2nd Battalion plunged ahead as far as Welscheid during the night, it failed to take the village and spent all the daylight hours of the 24th waiting for two companies to extricate themselves from the ridge, on whose slope they lay pinned by German fire.  The regimental commander would later remark on the excellent musketry training and first rate small arms practice of this German unit.

 

The 1st Battalion, meanwhile, tried to hook around to the northeast, and gain entrance to Bourscheid along the main road.  This advance brought the battalion into open ground where the enemy assault guns spotted further north could get to work.  Then the battalion came under flanking fire from the Germans around Kehmen, in the zone of the neighboring regiment.  Mercilessly pounded from front and flank, the battalion fell back for half a mile.  It's casualties numbered 197, mostly wounded.  At this point, each of the three battalions had taken a crack at punching a way through Bourscheid.  At the close of the 24th, the 317th Infantry could report severe losses, but no progress, and the German tanks and assault guns were raking the Americans wherever they concentrated, even laying with accuracy on the battalion command posts."

 

Then:

 

"On Christmas Eve, the last troops of the [German] 352nd left Ettlebruck, shelled out by high explosive and white phosphorus.  The German line north and east of the city, hereafter, would rest on the far bank of the Saur.  Kniess [German Commander] was not yet ready to withdraw his right wing to the protection of the river barrier, nor would the 7th Army Commander permit it.  For the high ground in the Bourscheid bridgehead could still be used to observe and interdict any crossing of the Saur further south, and at the same time, act as an anchor at the eastern end of the Sure.  Because the 79th Volks Grenadier Division still lacked much of its infantry, and nearly all of it's heavy weapons, the corps commander ordered Colonel Weber to defend the bridgehead by concentrating on the heavy woods around Kehmen and Welscheid.

 

With the limited rifle strength at his disposal, Weber was able to man the Burden ridge, his left flank thus adhering the Saur.  But in the north, the right flank of the 79th consisted only of a thin outpost line extending to Ringel Hill and the Sure.  Early on Christmas morning, in the bitter cold, the 80th Division returned to the attack.  It's main thrust aimed at Bourscheid.  Colonel Fisher sent the 1st and 3rd Battalions of the 317th Infantry toward Kehmen and Scheidel, hoping to open the road east to Bourscheid.  At Scheidel, the attack surprised the enemy infantry.  One platoon captured the hamlet and a large number of prisoners.  But when the two battalions turned north toward Kehmen, the enemy, a battalion, and the 266th Regiment was ready and waiting.  Each assault made across open ground was repelled by deadly fire from the village and the woods to the north."

 

According to the 702nd Tank Battalion S-3 report:

 

"The Combat Team was committed from Neiderfeulen the night of 25 December, to take Welscheid.  Second Battalion, (317th Infantry) with Company 'A' attached, started the advance from Neiderfeulen after dark; plans had been made for members of the infantry to guide the tanks. However, due to extreme darkness, the assembled platoon became separated from its guides and ran off a cliff, thus losing four tanks."

 

From the 702nd’s S-2 Journal:

 

December 26; 8:25am-patrol of forty Germans in the vicinity of P733428, came from the west and headed northwest at 8:45pm, last night.  10:03am-six German vehicles at 730486.  One tank firing at 717508.  Four to six German guns in the vicinity of the chateau 811463, on the ridge west of Kehmen.  2:53pm-two German tanks moved into Goesdorf P7348 at 2:34pm.  Considerable German action in Dahl P7349.  3:53pm-German elements enter Goesdorf from the north, leaving town headed east- 4 to 5 vehicles included.  4:23pm-one tank seen at 804467-others suspected.  5:10pm-Regimental Command Post of the 208th Volks Grenadier Regiment at railroad station at Golbelsmuhle P792485.  5:20pm-German column retreating north at 787483.  5:26pm-P.W. states position of 1st Battalion is horseshoe formation around Hill 430, coordinates P7648.  7:42pm-received message #20-18-226th Regiment, 2nd Battalion Command Post as of 8:00am in Welscheid.  Western boundary of 26th Regiment to include Scheidel.  Three to four 120mm mortars at 796444.  79th Division Command Post on 22 December in Bourscheid in hotel in center of town.  9:00pm-Germans continue a determined defense of Kehmen.  Our troops attacking that area were opposed by heavy small arms and machine gun and artillery fire.

 

December 27; Patrol reports woods quiet north and northwest of Oklahoued City and Nero.  7:15am-212th Regiment not identified through P.W., but 1st Battalion believed to be in position on the high ground at P7748, east from Goesdorf P7438.  10:20am-Blue reports five to six direct fire and some artillery fell on the vicinity west of Kehmen, coming from azimuth 35 degrees.  1:00pm-Captain Nordstrom, S-2 and Sgt. Olson out to front lines to inspect German weapons-up to front lines and contact companies.  3:45pm-counterattack north of Ringel, coming from the south and southeast at 2:55pm.  9:00pm-Germans attempted to retake the high ground north of Ringel, but at the end of the day, counterattack broke down under pressure of our troops in that area.  Platoons encountered small arms and machine gun fire west of Kehmen and west of Scheidel.  160 P.W.'s taken.  One tank knocked out.

 

December 29; 7:00am-Battalion to establish a holding position.  7:30am-tree across trail at P788414-booby-trapped.  11:00am-Germans digging in on most positions.  Noon-forty rounds of German artillery fell on Neiderfeulen-three casualties.  1:00pm-100 German planes coming from the north.  2:13pm-one German diver [dive bomber] at 809288, flying south.  3:10pm-booby trap at 789411.  3:30pm-black smoke coming from Scheidel.  Three P- 47's over Neiderfeulen at 1,000 feet-Red.  6:00pm-flying rocket or bomb coming from 70 degree azimuth, flying in direction of observation post and then disappeared at 5:15pm.  6:30pm-German artillery landing at 829407.  One gun firing in the vicinity of Bastneorf at 5:00pm, caliber unknown.  6:34pm-German command post at 73024849.  7:09pm-at 823397 are three Teller-mines on south end of bridge.  Five American anti-personnel mines on north end of foot bridge.  9:00pm-approximately two companies of German troops were observed forming for a counterattack east of Ringel P770480, but were taken under fire by our artillery and by the end of the period counterattack failed to materialize.  9:30pm-P.W.'s taken-44.  10:17pm-one German aircraft flying west in sector.  11:20pm-six rounds of artillery fell on road junction at Neiderfeulen from the northeast at 11:09pm.

 

December 30; 1:22am-heavy small arms fire in the vicinity of Warken for about three minutes.  Four rounds of artillery fell in the vicinity of Warken.  3:00am-eight rounds falling approximately 500 yards north of Ettlebruck.  9:38am-23 P.W.'s identified from 1st Company, 1st Battalion, 212th Infantry-1st action in this area.  No officers captured.  P.W. states considerable losses.  12:40pm-five German vehicles northwest out of Warken, turning north at main road junction.  German observation post in Haystack 807448.  German tank moving slowly around that area.  1:30pm-many German aircraft ten miles east of Mirsch.  2:10pm-at Wocher P738512, vehicular activity at 2:00pm.  2:30pm-timed fire-ten rounds southeast of Weruen 825405.  4:15pm-P.W. from 6th Company 226th Volks Grenadier Regiment, 79th Division states that company strength is 70 to 80 men-mission to defend Welscheid together with other companies of 2nd Battalion.  5th, 7th, and 8th Companies in support, also on line-assault platoon of approximately 30 men.  6th Company Command Post in woods about 270 yards from the last house in Welscheid, 500 yards on the right side of the road to Scheidel.  P.W. states our artillery is very effective.  P.W. was a deserter.  9:00pm-German vehicular traffic on the road northwest of Ringel P758488.  P.W.'s today-15.  Total for the division-10,669.  No tanks today.  109 tanks to date.  10:00pm-nine P.W.'s from 2nd SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment, 1st SS Division taken in the vicinity of Loutre Bois P5653.

 

The 702nd Tank Battalion S-2 Journal records the first nine days of January: “January 1; 8:00am-message that two civilians were caught in division area cutting wires.  9:00am-German plane overhead-guns open up, but did not score a hit.  1:00pm-three German planes overhead, bombing and strafing.  Have red nose and German marking, resemble P-47's [see commentary at end of January's entries.].  German troops and vehicles at 79994929.  1:02pm-20 Germans moving in draw at 770447.  1:30pm-many German aircraft ten miles east of Mersch.  1:10pm-two German tanks 100 yards west of coordinates 845424.  1:12pm-two German tanks moving southwest at 847435, disappeared behind hill.  1:20pm-German activity observed at 799471.  1:30pm-eight P.O.W. deserters captured in the vicinity of Kehmen by wire patrol, identified as 6 from Engineer Platoon Company and Anti-tank Company.  According to P.O.W.'s, Kehmen is occupied by an estimated 100 men from the engineer platoon.  Higher headquarters reports seven tanks at P733512.  1:45pm-Flash: eight German planes reported ten miles north of Luxembourg.  1:52pm-four Germans east of Luxembourg, going south.  2:00pm-six German vehicles, one tank, troops and one horse-drawn anti-aircraft gun moving southeast at 850439.  2:15pm-German column previously reported in message of 2:00pm, coordinates now 865455, going northwest on road from Bastindorf to Brandenburg.  3:15pm-two German horse-drawn vehicles moving southwest out of Constheken, coordinates 7853 at 12:40 and 12:55pm.  9:00pm-German aircraft very active in the division sector.  Germans continue to harass our positions with artillery, nebelwerfer and mortar fire.  Small groups of German infantry and vehicles observed moving about the German rear areas.  However, no predominant direction of movement can be determined.

 

January 2; 9:50am-6 rounds of estimated 105mm German artillery fell on 746455, coming from the northeast.  10:30am-one ME 109 heading south to north at 2,00 feet, at 777400.  11:35am-one diver, very high, going west.  11:40am-Haggle reports tunnel at 718461 clear.  11:55am-German standing guard in front of second building east of street in southeast part of the town of Scheidel.  Four men observed working on this point.  11:59am-one jeep and one 2 1/2 truck moving east out of Goesdorf.  1:35pm-considerable small arms fire and mortar received from the vicinity of 665515.  1:36pm-an estimated battalion of Germans dug in on the high ground along the road from P706523 to P730511.  Thirty Germans seen digging in along the road from P732508 to P733502.  Bridge at P705538 and P712541 blown.  German roadblock at P694522 covered by fire.  3:05pm-two hostile P-47's 15 miles south of here.  3:08pm-two P-47's dropped two incendiary bombs in Colmar.  5:20pm-Headache patrols are back-none out until 6:30pm.  8:25-two German tanks burning-pulled out of woods at 807444.  Alot of activity at Welscheid.  Twelve to fifteen Germans in the street in Welscheid at 4:30pm.  8:40pm-two trucks in the vicinity of Goesdorf.  Observation post at 730500.  Bridge blown at 712498.  10:00pm-German air force active in the division zone.  Germans continue to harass our positions with artillery, nebelwerfers and mortar.  Small groups of German infantry and vehicles observed moving about in rear areas.

 

Ed Wizda wrote: "Snow today!  How we long for the sunny South.  Artillery is gradually slowing down, but we still don't go anywhere without hugging a cement wall."

 

The S-2 Journal records the 12th- 17th: “January 12; 1:02am-minefield on the road, in the vicinity of 757489, and on the road bridge at 755475.  9:50am-radio half-track going to maintenance-will be off the air for two or three hours.  11:25am-fifty rounds of artillery and some mortar hit in the vicinity of Dahl in the last forty-five minutes-estimated caliber up to 155mm.  Artillery position 76124960.  11:28am-P.O.W. reports one artillery position at 750561.  150mm guns at 748564.  German kitchen at 740541.  Counsel reports forward elements.  Two 88mm guns seen firing last night at 715514.  German battery at 70345416.  Thirty-two rounds of artillery in the last five minutes at the south edge of Goesdorf.  12:10pm-four rounds received in the vicinity of 825410, direction-Burden.  12:12-Captain Nordstrom out on check-up on companies-brings back report that two German tanks in position at 813441.  12:30pm-tanks being painted white, as to blend with cover.  3:30pm-two P.O.W.'s deserted observation post at 700520, from 5th and 7th Companies of 986th Regiment, 276th Division say their Battalion Command Post, consisting of four officers located at Rouldinger.  P.O.W.'s say company strength is twenty to twenty five men-been there past two days.  3:31pm-seven Germans observed digging in at 795452, wearing camo suits.  3:32pm-Fusilier Company of 79th Division, formerly in Kehmen, according to P.O.W.  Division boundary has been moved to a line from Kehmen to Goebelsmuhle.  2nd Battalion, 226th Regiment was removed to a new position north of the Sure River.  2nd Battalion, 916th Division taken sector north of Scheidel-Welscheid.  Kehmen-Derback is being held by 208th with 2nd Battalion on the south.  3:50pm-at 1:00pm, twelve rounds of mortar fell at 798428, from the direction of Welscheid.  4:52pm-unknown number of Germans dug in at 760493.  5:34pm-four rounds of artillery fell in Ettelbruck, coming from the vicinity of Burden.  Germans maintained his defensive attitude.  Patrolling revealed extensive digging by Germans opposing our positions north of the Sure River.  Heavy artillery concentrations received at Goesdorf and Dahl."

 

As you can see, the fighting in the area where these artifacts were found was hot and heavy, as well as fluid and often confused.  It does seem clear that the area where the artifacts were found was most likely from 2nd Battalion, 317th Infantry Regiment.  From what was found, and where, I would hazard a guess that the man to whom these artifacts belonged, was probably killed in action.  It is possible he was wounded and carried away, however.  Still, I would bet that these artifacts are the personal effects of a man killed in action.  The soldier's body may have been taken away, or he may have been unknowingly left where he died.  With the amount of time that has passed, there has certainly been enough time for the human remains to deteriorate to nothing.  As you look at the following photos, consider the circumstances faced by the young man who used this hole for shelter.  Among the artifacts found, was a camera.  The camera contained film, which has been developed.  The photos on that film very well may be the last things this young man saw before he died.  Whether he lived or died, this time capsule left in a hole in Luxembourg speaks to us from six and a half decades ago, about what must have been a terrifying, miserable existence.  If this young man died, he is no longer forgotten, even if we don't know who he was.  I pray that his spirit knows we honor his last moments, and that we see what he left behind.  If by chance he survived, then I also pray he learns that his personal effects have at last been found.  Should anyone be able to shed further light on this subject, please contact the webmaster, and I will forward any information on to Capt. Anderson.

 

Without further ado, I give you the following photos:

 

Part Of The Personal Items Recovered

 

The Remains Of A M1 Garand Rifle With Bayonet Still Attached

 

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