A Command Ops Christmas Special No. 11 – Breaking the Siege

December 26th, 1944

On December 26th, CCR of the 4th Armored Division pushed along the road toward Remichampagne, and by 3:00pm they had reached Clochimont. The plan at that point called for turning northwest on Sibret, but Creighton Abrams didn’t get a tank named for him by blind adherence to his superiors’ orders:

As Abrams and the infantry commander, Colonel Jaques, were standing at the road junction discussing their next move, they saw C-47 aircraft droppoing supplies at Bastogne. That so vividly underscored the plight of the men at Bastogne that Abrams took an ever-present cigar from his lips and proposed that they say to hell with Sibret and barrel-ass through to Bastogne by the shortest route, a secondary road from Clochimont through Assenois. Jaques agreed, but as the two officers made their decision, they neglected to tell their commander.

C Company of the 37th Tank Battalion and C Company of the 53rd Armored Infantry Battalion made the attack. Artillery firing in support of the drive put 420 shells into Assenois, and the two companies rolled into the town just as it ended at 4:20 p.m. A company of German paratroopers had taken to the cellars during the bombardment, and on account of their ambush, much of the column was delayed in clearing out the town. Some, however, surged past the town:

The advancing column consisted at that point of three medium tanks in the lead, the stray half-track, and two more Shermans bringing up the rear. As Lieutenant Boggess in the leading tank neared the woods beyond the town, where the trees were close to the road on both sides, his machine gunners maintained a steady fire to keep any Germans pinned to their holes. So fast were the tanks moving that the half-track and the other tanks following it soon fell behind. That afforded time for the Germans in the woods to put a few anti-tank mines on the road. The half-track hit one and exploded.

Riding with one of the tanks, Captain Dwight directed them onto the shoulders of the road, and while they pinned down the Germans in the woods with fire from their machine guns, surviving armored infantrymen removed the mines. Then with the infantrymen hanging on, the tanks raced ahead to catch up with the others.

Meanwhile, as Lieutenant Boggess emerged from the woods, just over a hundred yards ahead of him, at a point where a farm track crossed the road, he saw a small pillbox (an old Belgian fortification) and American troops nearby, seemingly getting ready to assault it. With a quick round from the tank’s 75, Boggess’s gunner knocked out the pillbox and sent the American troops diving for cover. Standing in his open turret, Boggess shouted: “Come here! This is the 4th Armored!”

As the men emerged, their commander, 2nd Lieutenant Duane J. Webster of the 326th Airborne Engineer Battalion, came forward, and Boggess leaned down from his perch to shake his hand.

At 4:50 p.m. on December 26, Boggess and his men lifted the siege of Bastogne.

Very little of interest happened during my attenuated 26th of December. A task force engaged the infiltrators on the road from Champs and began to drive them back. CCR finally managed to push on through to Clochimont and, by 8:00 a.m., had fought its way to Assenois. Their added heft and an attack by the 37th Tank Battalion flipped the Assenois objective to me, which would have yielded a decisive victory, except:

As the scenario ended (therefore providing me with this map, a German engineer company, which had infiltrated through the gap in the lines at Champs, got inside the Bastogne objective, which flipped it to ‘neutral’ and robbed me of another 25 victory points. Oops. That’ll teach me to leave holes overnight.

There was an additional problem developing as the scenario ended: at about 7:30, scouts spotted about a thousand German troops moving across the Neufchateau highway and toward Remichampagne, which would have cut my supply lines for those parts of CCA and CCB in Assenois. If I hadn’t been playing for the decisive victory, I would have left CCR in defensive positions around Remichampagne, which would have held a supply line open. The 8th Tank Battalion and the 1st Battalion, 318th Infantry Regiment would have been more than capable of holding Assenois with sufficient security for supplies to pass through into the town.

To the east, you can see a large concentration of Germans southeast of Bastogne. Looking closer, I think they’re mostly support and headquarters units, which explains why that part of the line hasn’t folded like a cheap suit. The attack from Neffe finally, finally tailed off early on the 26th, and by the end of the scenario, the only attack still in progress was the one from Marvie and kinda-sorta the one from Remoifosse. In casualties, at least, I think I won more decisively.

Lieutenant Boggess broke the siege of Bastogne at five o’clock on December 26th, but that success didn’t end the story. Bastogne was no longer the hole in a doughnut, as it had been called by an officer of McAuliffe’s staff, but it remained (per MacDonald) a balloon on the end of a very fragile string, and the stalwart 101st Airborne, the 4th Armored Division, and the two infantry divisions securing the eastern flank had little time to savor their victory before they were thrown once more into the breach.

That victory, however, does end this story. It’s been educational and entertaining for me to write this account. I hope you were able to take something from it, too, whether entertainment or a greater appreciation for the heroism shown by the US Army one Christmas long ago.

This entry was posted in The Battered Bastards of Bastogne, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A Command Ops Christmas Special No. 11 – Breaking the Siege

  1. Fishbreath says:

    The astute reader will notice that the scenario ended before Bastogne was actually relieved historically, and that’s because I made a mistake: I thought the scenario began just before midnight on the 21st, when it actually began just before midnight on the 22nd. That partially explains why I looked so good against General Gaffey on the first few days. Had I been correct about the date, I would have beaten history into Bastogne by about 12 hours instead of 36. Still, I call that a win.

Leave a Reply