The Inde, right behind us, is a river that the enemy will have to cross in order to get to the Rur. It is about 8 meters wide, cold, the current is wild, it is very difficult to wade through it, tanks cannot drive through the riverbed. The river crossings in Altdorf, Inden, and Lamersdorf are prepared to be blown-up.
Our bridgehead is narrow and it is centered on the towns of Altdorf (II./8 and 3./PanzerJäger Unit 3), Inden (Assault Battalion AOK 5), and Lamersdorf (III./Panzer Unit 103). We also hold the heights west of the Inde Road. The last position is defended by bases only. I./ArtReg (motorized) 3 has its firing positions in Niederzier, II. Unit lies to its left, III. Unit on the eastern banks. The infantry has also crossed the Inde already thereby trying to prevent the enemy from advancing onto the eastern banks.
North of us the right neighbor holds bridgeheads around Jülich, i.e. Koslar and Kirchberg. The enemy concentrates his forces on the right neighbor and takes Bourheim (11/24) and Koslar (11/25). He also attacks the left neighbor in order to advance along the Inde. Opposite us lies 30th US InfDiv, rather quietly.
Thus our division has three quiet days in the Inde positions after 11/24. Only artillery fire and fighter-bombers disturb the peace. Finally the soldiers can make up some sleep, fortify the positions, and mine the area. On 11/24 the artillery destroys two jump-off lines near Pattern. The next day (25th) the right neighbor tries to enlarge its bridgehead by recovering Bourheim but fails. The left neighbor records a defensive success at Weisweiler but then has to retreat to the line: Point 123.6 (1 km northwest of Frenz)-western fringes of Frenz-Frenz Chateau-Merberich Estate. In order to keep the connection, the division takes the right back to Lamersdorf.
On 11/26 the enemy increases the artillery on the hinterland and also send more fighter-bombers. Smaller assaults on Inden and especially Lamersdord are repulsed. The day brings some relief for the right neighbor because the bridgehead is enlarged due to the envelopment of Koslar.
The enemy plans to attack along the whole front of our corps on 11/27. This is supposed to pin down the bridgeheads and drive us across the Inde. To our right 29th US Division is supposed to take Kirchberg after overrunning Koslar. To the left 30th US Division will attack Inden. From the south 104th US Division intends to conquer Lamersdorf and then march on to Inden as well.
Simultaneously the enemy attacks with a battalion (III./119) from Pattern and Altdorf. Tanks cannot follow the infantry on the very loamy ground. The attack falters 750 meters away from our main-combat line. It dies in the ferocious defensive firepower that is enhanced by Jägern of 3./PanzerJäger Unit 3. Subsequently the enemy abandons his plans. Thus the assault on Inden does not occur although the enemy does attack the town with fighter-bombers quite frequently and directs a two-hour long barrage at it around noon.
The enemy does, however, attack on the left, from Frenz to Lamersdorf, after a prolonged artillery preparation and with strong infantry forces. But the attack is repelled by III./PanzerGrenReg 29 with support of three anti-tank vehicles and the enemy is forced back into his initial jump-off lines (104th US Div).
Thus, the division has been able to hold on to its position even though the front-line to the left has been pushed back and it has been enlarged to the right to Lamersdorf which has in turn stretched thin the defensive lines. This rejection at the Inde comes as a surprise to the American.
The relief of the division has been planned for the night 11/27-28 but cannot be followed through due to the heavy enemy pressure. Instead the GrenRegs receive support of a mobile reserve battalion, 200 men, most of them officers and NCOs of the Luftwafe. But this does not figure in as reinforcements because it is so difficult to integrate these troops during a battle. To our left, 12th VGD is relieved by 3rd ParaDiv while 246th VGD secures the Rur positions in our rear.
The American plan intends an attack before dawn on 11/28. A battalion is supposed to secure the heights west of Altdorf and a second battalion shall march through that area, take Altdorf itself, and clear more terrain to the north. 104th US Division plans to attack Inden from the west at the same time. The attack is prepared meticulously. The several groups and squads are briefed about their objectives with the help of aerial photographs. In order to surprise us, the attack is not preceded by artillery fire.
The enemy attacks and overruns the widespread bases between Altdorf and Inden. Still at dark, he advances to Altdorf in the north and Inden in the south, monitored by 12 tanks in a hollow west of Altdorf. Tow hours of bitter street fighting follow in Altdorf. When II./PanzerGrenReg can no longer withstand the pressure, Captain Dr. Schütze calls for a reduction of the bridgehead and shifts the bulk of his troops to the eastern banks of the Inde where they are positioned to the right of I. Battalion. This denies enemy reconnaissance across the river. Six tanks also retreat. The bridge, which had already been taken by the enemy is recovered. A bridgehead north of the Altdorf mill is held by 8./PanzerGrenReg 8 (First Lieutenant Stöhr) and three anti-tank guns of 3./PanzerJäger Unit 3 (Lieutenant Golkowski) until noon. Since the fuses of the explosive on the bridge are lit by the fire, only few of these men can save themselves. They have to wade through the cold water and fight their way to the German positions after the guns have been blown up. First Lieutenant Stöhr receives the Ehrenblattspange.
The enemy also infiltrates the north of Inden at dark, a full battalion advances to the Inde. They have good artillery support. An immediate counterattack recovers the western exit of the town, toward Pattern, but to the north only reached the church, due to strong enemy defense. A second counterattack, with tanks, scheduled for early afternoon, has to be canceled because the necessary infantry cannot be freed up for it. Only at night this attack can be conducted. Inside the town parts of Reg 29 (II./29 under Lieutenant Herford) and the subordinate assault battalion of 1./Panzer Unit 103 and 1./PanzerJäger Unit 3 attack near the northern bridge, supported by FEB 3. The attack advance well and causes heavy enemy losses of men and materiel. We take 84 prisoners. But at midnight the attack bogs down short of the city limits because the enemy's close-range-combat means are very dangerous to our tanks. The grenadiers dig in for the moment and secure the area they have already taken, together with the assault guns.
During the day the defenders of Lamersdorf repel three attacks, even though these were supported by artillery and fighter-bombers. After dark, the enemy, attacking from the southwest, infiltrated a few houses on the southern fringes of town. Lieutenant Wilde, Lieutenant Schramm, and five corporals and privates immediately counterattack, accompanied by two assault guns and three tank-breakers. They clear the village and bring back 18 prisoners.
The enemy has thus only reached his goals in the right sector of the division, while we still hold two bridgeheads.
Our forces, advancing for a more thorough counterattack in the north of Inden, are stopped at 1 a.m. on the 29th by an enemy attack against Inden with newly arrived troops. Every house is contested. A counterattack advances all the way back to the church as soon as the enemy pressure decreased. In the afternoon the enemy brings in tanks and attacks from the northwest. The defenders manage to disable a few tanks, repel the attack, and keep possession of the town.
At about 9 a.m. the enemy breaks through into the southern part of Lamersdorf with mechanized infantry and ten tanks from Frenz. Lieutenant Seidel disables two tanks, another one is taken out by grenadiers in close-range action. The gap is sealed. Artillery helps a lot in that and it is based on the excellent spotting possibilities that the heights west of Lucherberg have to offer. Around noon the defenders are ordered to retreat to the neighborhood of the bridges, the tanks are ordered to shift to the other banks of the Inde. But the order cannot be followed up on before dark due to the enemy activities in the air and the constant combat the troops are in. At 1 p.m. a new attack starts, launched from the west. The enemy builds a wall of fog between Lamersdorf and Inden and then attacks the factory on the southern fringes of Inden. It is quickly taken. The enemy advances with 8 tanks to the western fringes of Lamersdorf but this attack is defeated when the assault guns hit three of the tanks. The enemy tries to take the town once again in the afternoon. 24 tanks are involved in an attack from northwest, west, and southwest. Tank-breakers and assault guns hit five tanks, grenadiers take out another one in close-range combat, but our assault guns and tank-breakers are also disabled, one of them is destroyed. The Combat Group now retreats across the Inde and destroys the bridge.
The bridgehead Inden is still safely in our possession and shall remain so until 12/6/44.
Our division is relieved in the night 11/29-30. Our sector is taken over by 246th VGD; 3rd ParaDiv takes over a small part of it to the left. Our division gathers with the train in Troßdorf. We are now reserves and have a chance to regroup briefly. The armored units are pulled out of the front in the following night. The assault guns help clearing out the north and south of the town on 11/30, in cooperation with PanzerJägerUnit 519. 31 prisoners are taken. While defeating an enemy attack from the south in the afternoon, our assault guns are finally pulled out as well.
The Third Battle of Aachen rages on for another 14 days. On 12/3 9th US Army reaches the Rur between Linnich and Jülich. Inden and the heights near Lucherberg hold out until 12/6, Pier even until 12/13. Subsequently, the Rur remains the main-combat line for another two months.
In 14 days of defensive battle our division has destroyed 42 enemy tanks and made 174 prisoners, including 9 officers. Enemy combat casualties must have been high because the interrogations of the prisoners brought to light that there were more than 50% replacements in the enemy lines and 30th US Division even had to be pulled out on 11/30.
The effort of our division in the Third Battle of Aachen is lauded in the Wehrmacht bulletin of 11/26:
"In the battle of Aachen so far, 3rd PanzerGrenDiv under the command of Major General Denkert and 12th VGD under Major General Engel have distinguished themselves with steadfastness and fierce resistance. It is mostly thanks to their laudable attitude and stamina that the enemy offensive has all but failed in that sector of the front."
In radio report, broadcast by all German stations on the following day, the divisional commander mentions several single heroics as well as the heroics of all the different outfits. The enemy's judgment concurs.
The casualties, however, are severe. The infantry has lost more than 75% and this cannot be made up for with replacements. 3rd Pioneer Battalion (Lieutenant Fischer), which is deployed outside of the sector of the division, in the Hürtgen Forest, is completely destroyed. The Panzer Unit has only seven assault guns left, the PanzerJägerUnit has three anti-tank guns and eight tank-breakers left. Flak Unit 312 loses eleven guns between 11/17 and 11/22 and I./ArtReg 3 has only one small field howitzer standing east of the Inde.
Although the heroic efforts of the grenadiers cannot be mentioned often enough, it also has to be admitted that the experiences made in Italy were further underlined. Eventually, the defensive capability of the division rested squarely on the shoulders of the artillery and flak, as well as on the effort made by armored vehicles. The significance of this resistance, which the allies have faced since the invasion, is elucidated by two letters. Montgomery assesses the battle as a strategic setback. Eisenhower writes that the fighting has not shown any signs of a moral collapse of the German people. After all, the enemy achieved his objective, the Rur, only after weeks of fierce combat and heavy casualties. And the effort of our division sets the conditions for the Ardennes offensive. This is so because there is no need to deploy the forces of 6th SS Panzer Army, which is trained in the rear. But it is also true that five divisions, ours included, which are scheduled to participate in the offensive have been seriously weakened. Furthermore, the enemy has reached the positions that two months later will serve as the jump-off line for the advance to the Rhine.