Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Battle of the Bulge: 62nd Volks-grenadier Division

A companion post to the 18th VG Division.

Reference is MS # B-026, Report on the Ardennes Offensive. The 62 VGD by Brigadier-General Friedrich Kittel. This study. at 32 pages is one of the longer ones I have come accross and is divided into three sections along with fourteen sketches and one annex*. This post will transcribe items I believe will be interesting to war gamers and those military history enthusiasts who want to know about the why behind what happened.

* The fourteen sketches were not part of the scanned documents received from the U.S. National Archives.


Notes

All of the Foreign Military Studies B series manuscripts are the results of interviews with German leadership relying on memory after still ongoing dramatic events (imprisonment, interrigation, etc.).  Thes statement by Kittel that his "..memory has become greately weakend by the events of the last twelve months" could serve for many of the others.

The 62nd VG Div was assembled in the last weeks of November 1944 in the area of Wittlich-Cochem-Gerolstein, then about the beginning of December drawn forward to Preum-Schoenecken-Densborn-Lissingen (i.e. close to their offensive starting positions) and subordinated to LXVI Army Corps.

The mode of bringing up the artillery and the amount of ammunition was to be alloted were decided by the Corps, likewise the plan of fire to be followed, in which the wishes of the Division had been taken into consideration.

One regiment of the 18th VG was positioned on the right and on the left the 116th Pz Division. "These formations were only loosely connected with each other".

Kittel's manuscript is more chronological oriented than the 18th VG one. At some future date I would like to map it out.

The rifle companies amounted to fity men on average.

Tactics

American air superiority forced German troops to keep away from villages.

Artillery and antiaircraft troops were used to repel enemy large scale attacks allowing disrupted  German regiments time to reorganize at night.

Weather conditions were favorable up till 22 December.

The terrain required the employment of troops furnished with mountain equipment.

I. The attack from 16 December 1944 to 28 December 1944

The 62nd VG Div was to move forward at 0530 hrs and, after the taking of strongpoints from the enemy, was to break through into the area of Gross Langenfeld-Cigelscheid-Heckhuscheid as far as the vicinity of St. Vith.

The main objective was to attack over a wide front in order to tear to piece the American defens and to clear the road along Habscheid-Steinebrueck up to St. Vith. In addition:

a. Breakthrough into the wooded area of the switch line near Cigelscheid ('551') up to Winterspelt (center of gravity), taking the clearing south of Gross Langenfeld ('538 to 540') and the plateau of Heckhuscheid to prevent a flanking attack by the enemy along the road toward St. Vith.

b. Then, take the bridge at Steinebrueck by a detachemnt, especially made mobile for this purpose, together with an assault against St. Vith (railway station and western exit) and the taking of Gross Langenfeld and well as the gaining of the railway-bridge north-northwest of Thren. 

Clearning up the eastern band of the river Our in the sector of Auel-Steffelhausen and the building of a bridgehead in the directino of Maspelt. 

The positions of hte enemy as we saw it: Facing us, the 106th American Division arrived from England three months previously. Twenty to thirty battery positions among which was a heavy one. Several groups of field forifications, mines.

The telephone network of the West Wall was to be made available at the beginning of the attack. 

II. The defense from 29 December 1944 to 9 January 1945

Up to 5 January: "Over and over again wide gaps had appeared on the front, owing to the merely moderate fighting strength of the infantry, in the first three day s of the defense all reserve troops had to be commiteed in the sector of the 164th Regiment. The only people who still were not committed for combat were engineers and 'Panzerjaeger' whose guns had been damaged. 

It was now essential for our troops to prevent the enemy from gaining access to the Valley of Salm and advancing from Trois Ponts and across Garonne-Lart. 

At noontime on 9 January, the command was passed over to the 326th VG Div to which the remaining portions of the 62nd VG Div (minus the 183, 190 Regts and one artillery battalion) remained subordinated. 

III. The defense from 16 January 1945 to 27 January 1945

During the month of January, after bringing up approximately 800 men as replacemetns of which the greater number were very poorly trained, and by drawing upon the "Fuehrer" Rese3rve in the Field Replacement Battalion - again it was possible to reorganize units which were fit for use. 

A rest from fighting from eigth to ten days was badly needed. In general, a sufficient amount of material was still at hand, above all there was once more completed the issueance of ammunition, there was a pronounced lack of signal equipment (cables), assault guns and crews. 


Supply

No winter clothing or special outfit badly needed for fighting amidst mountains was available. Winder equipment was only envisaged for possible employment on the East and remained behind in the area of assembly.

Material had been brought up to strength except for field glasses; we had only twenty percent of what was needed in this respect.

The Antiaircraft Company never arrived up at the Division.

There was always an ample supply of motor fuel. Renewal of supplies took place with two 30 ton columns (horsedrawn) assisted by one 120 ton truck column (of which 60 percent ran on wood-gas).

Captured American matieral was not part of initial supply planning so that "considerable surpluses occasionally were in hand". Above all, material was captured at Steinebrueck, Galhausen and in the valley of Salm.

"Supply was always sufficient".

Outcome

Ignorance of the configuration of the attack zone and of the strength of any possible resistance by the enemy prevailed; no useful data acquired ground and air reconnaissance was at our disposal (compare this to the 18th VG where local reconaissance located a gap in the American lines).

Resistance by the 106th American Division offered on the first day was strong, contrary to what we had expected. From documents captured on the second day, the thoroughness of preparations in the defense area of Heckhusscheid-Winterspelt and Steinebrueck was noted.

Giving up the advantage of fire by beginning the attack at 0530 hrs; for fire not obsrved the available supply ammunition was much too low.

Since 22 December daylight, supply routes were under control of the American Air Forces. Theire effect on the attack formations was not worth mentioning! (believe Kittel did not mean that American air power was ineffective as in his chronology he doesn't mention air power much but did say that American air power was "very lively" on the 23rd and later mentioned it was one of the many difficult obstacles working against moving forces forward).


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