III. Battalion, Assault Platoon, Staff Company
Field-post number 50510 A LPGA Unna/ Westphalia.
(Page 1 of this report appears to be missing)
On November 27, 1944, 15th Company received orders from First Lieutenant Havighorst to move into the prepared cellar position in Düren during the night. Ludwig Havighorst then asked Lieutenant Müller-Reichenau and two sergeants to meet with him. He told them to move ahead of the main force as an advance guard. The three men left on motor cycles while Havighorst himself led the Company. The march on foot began at sunset. The heavy engineering equipment had been put on a truck to make the march faster by reducing the weight every soldier had to carry. On the march, Havighorst practiced with the Company and while he was in the back of the column word came that the CO was needed up front. "I thought the men were just fresh and trying to kid me," Cpt.[sic!] Havighorst later explained. "But when the command was repeated, I knew that it was serious and ran to the head of the column. Arriving there I found a Lieutenant Colonel who ordered us to relief a VolksGren unit in the Frenzerburg."
Reportedly, US troops had already bypassed the Frenzerburg to the left and right and might hit the road we were on any minute now. Since I didn't even know that officer I refused to deploy my combat engineers for an infantry task. They were too specialized for that and the order went against the most basic military rules. I requested to see a written order. This I received a little while later from our regiment and now I had to obey.
This was serious. I gave my orders and the Company advanced at the Frenzerburg in a wide line. The first losses were suffered due to artillery fire. Cadet Krüger, Rifleman First Class Bittner, and Kranz, another cadet, were wounded when a salvo from an enemy mortar battery hit just as they were trying to relieve the MG shooters. Cadet Krüger was hit in stomach and thigh, Bittner was hit in the chest, and Kranz had taken a splinter to the head – he was severely wounded and subsequently captured. Rifleman First Class Heine had gotten splinters in the eye.
When the relief-protocol had just been completed, a Sherman tank, firing wildly in each and every direction, drove into the front yard of the Frenzerburg. I ran into the castle with the anti-tank gun and three men to work it. We set this thing up on a large table in one of the halls. We had a great view at the tank through the window. But as we just targeted the tank, it fired a shell into the wall just opposite our position. Rocks fell on us. If he just lowered the gun by an inch or so and then fired again, he could hit us right on the table.
"Change of position! To the other hall!" I ordered and we ran there and set up the gun again. We had an ever better view from here, targeted the tank, fired, and saw that this enemy had taken a direct hit. Flames came out of the rear, the crew jumped off and got away.
The commanding officer of the Volks Grenadiers was enthusiastic and happy about how fast the men of 15th Company, ParaReg 9, had been able to get things under control. The relief-formalities had been concluded and just as the Volks Grenadiers were getting ready to leave, an American captain appeared, a parlementaire, a surprising turn of events. His German was perfect and Havighorst asked him where he had learned it. He wasn't surprised when the man said that he was originally from Nuremberg and had emigrated to the United States from there. Havighorst asked: "So why do you fight against us?" The answer was as follows: "I don't fight my German brothers, but against the national-socialist terror regime." This sounded well and good but the "German brothers" still had to bear the brunt of US artillery barrages and air raids. And it wasn't only the soldiers at the front, but also the women and children in the cities who received their share of this brotherly purgatory. The paratroopers weren't interested in hearing such ridiculous phrases.
The Ami promised us that captivity over there was like paradise. He had brought boxes of Chesterfield cigarettes to underline this point. But that couldn't change the fact that Germany's enemies demanded our unconditional surrender. It was easy to picture what was to follow then. They hadn't told us for no reason that Germany was supposed to be turned into farmland with barely enough room for 20 million Germans!
Nevertheless, the paratroopers offered corn schnaps to the parlementaire. They talked for quite some time. The Havighorst asked the captain directly what he wanted. The captain explained that he had liked negotiating with the Volks Grenadiers better because the paratroopers were such tough customers. But all right, he let the cat out of the bag.
"If you want to lead your whole Company to our lines this is possible between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. We won't fire at that time. You can pass our line as long as you came in peace and without guns."
"What if we refuse?" Havighorst asked without hesitation. "In that case we'll shell the castle and everyone in it. Either way we will take the castle. We have already bypassed the Frenzerburg and can attack form all sides."
"Many tanks for the friendly advice," Havighorst said sarcastically. "We will adjust accordingly and prepare a warm welcome."
The parlementaire was led back to his lines, blindfolded. A ghostly silence lay over the Frenzerburg. No shot was fired during the two hours, just as the Ami had promised. This was helpful in that the Volks Grenadiers could finally leave the castle.
The paratroopers were able to recover their wounded and take them back to the German lines. They could also finally unload the equipment off the truck. First Lieutenant Havighorst reported the situation in the Frenzerburg by phone and he didn't leave the American offer out either. The answer he got was simple: "Hold the castle!"
The ghostly silence remained. The Frenzerburg actually stood on fire in several places. No engine noises, which would have given enemy preparations away, could be heard. When would the American storm troops advance? First Lieutenant Havighorst decided to send battle-proven men on a reconnaissance mission to the rear. They were to look for a suitable fallback position in case the order to retreat did come after all.
Just as he had expected, Havighorst indeed received the order to retreat. There were left until the ultimatum would expire. Time was clearly running out now. Literally in the last seconds he left the combat post with a group of the Company and one of the platoon leaders. Sergeant Barnessen approached Havighorst with request for permission to destroy the tank the enemy had abandoned earlier. So they couldn't repair it later he reasoned. "All right Barnessen. But you'd better be quick for the Amis will attack any second now!" Sergeant Barnessen ran over to tank and attached a heavy TNT charge to it, with a time-delay fuse. When he came back the three-kilogram bomb exploded and the tank had been destroyed indeed.
Little later the Company reached the fallback position that had been selected. It was near the railroad tracks, about 1000 meters east of the Frenzerburg. A runner reported to Havighorst. "Sir, First Lieutenant, sir! Over there by the bridge lies Lieutenant Müller-Reichenau, I think he is dead." The message caused the Company leader to react immediately.
"Group Fichtel out, take tent squares and fetch the lieutenant!" These were Havighorst's orders. A medic accompanied the men and he discovered that a grenade splinter to the head that had hit right behind his right ear had killed the platoon commander. Only now Havighorst learned of the fate of the advance guard that had been sent under Lieutenant Müller-Reichenau when we had been in Düren.
At about 3 a.m., 15th Company received orders to move into quarters in the school in Lucherberg. Just as makeshift arrangements had been made and the men had fallen asleep, an allied air-raid hit Lucherberg. The paratroopers cursed when orders came to leave the school immediately and find cover in the open terrain. They thought they had been safer inside. But not long after they had left the building took a direct hit and collapsed. The corpse of Lieutenant Müller-Reichenau had been left behind and was now buried under the rubble. Rifleman First Class Hackebracht and Rifleman Bös fell victim to the attack.
After another report had come in, 15th Company got the order to withdraw to the Lützeler estate, as regimental reserves. A glance at the map showed that it lay east of the Erzbahn (Iron Ore Railroad) on the road from Langerwehe to Lamersdorf, near the Wehebach. The Company had lost 37 soldiers dead and wounded in the last 12 hours.
On November 29 194 the Americans launched a massive infantry attack west of Lucherberg after hours of artillery preparation. Tank troops should tear holes in the German lines. This attacked was stopped by several counterattacks. 15th Company was caught in fierce close combat. First Lieutenant Havighorst repeatedly encouraged the men to a tremendous defensive effort, he led by example. Havighorst almost got larger than life in such close-combat situations. Americans and paratroopers shot at each other out of windows of the townhouses that had been built around a courtyard.
First Lieutenant Havighorst and an American officer then negotiated a cease-fire so that both sides could recover their wounded. Our wounded soldiers were driven back to the main aid station where care could be provided.
In the afternoon of the same day ParaReg 9 suffered heavy casualties in yet another American air raid. Elsdorf was nearly destroyed by carpet-bombing and since part of the regiment had made quarters there another 24 men died and 32 were wounded. Havighorst later commented: "It is shocking and tragic: without a fight, without an opportunity to defend themselves these paratroopers were now buried under the rubble of what just minutes earlier had been houses. My Company moved its quarters to the western outskirts of Düren. I set up my command post in a basement. Now the Company wasn't thrown into battle as a coherent unit any longer. Instead small groups at a time had to be deployed to those battalions that needed our knowledge in bunker and dugout construction the most.
Time and again our quarters were an artillery target. Just as a runner from the regiment tried to leave the command post of my Company, a shell exploded nearby. The man was severely wounded. One of the medical orderlies provided first aid. Then the man was driven to the hospital in Frechen where surgery was successfully conducted. But a few days later word arrived that he got killed in an air-raid on Frechen when a bomb hit the hospital."
Since the Lützeler estate the group of Rifleman First Class Andenhäuser was missing in action, five men and we haven't found out to this what happened to them.
On December 3, 1944 Rifleman Eismann was buried in a shell-hole that he had used for cover when American artillery hit right there. He could only be recovered dead. The regimental command post, just set us in the basement of the destroyed city-court building in Düren also had to accommodate the regimental staff. Düren had been leveled by allied bombers on 11/16/44. This meant that the paratroopers deployed there had to live sub-surface, in cellars.
On December 9, 1944 Havighorst's Company received orders to gather up and march to the Ardennes...........................................................................................
(Pages 1-3 appear to be missing)
Between 12/5/44 and 12/9/44 the pressure on the 3rd ParaDiv was low. This can be traced back to reorganizations and the arrival of reinforcements on the enemy's side. The fight for Lucherberg, Luckem, and Merode still raged but the enemy didn't advance with more than one Company at a time any more. Furthermore there were fewer tanks. All of the attacks could be repelled.
The expected new major offensive of 1st American Army began on 12/10/44 along the front from Altdorf to the Hürttgen Forest. This had been prepared by several hours of artillery fire and carpet-bombing by fighter-bombers. 3rd ParaDiv was hit by an assault of superior enemy tank forces and infantry coming from Luchem and Langerwehe. This seemed parts of 3rd American tank division. A three-kilometer-wide gap opened up and about 100 enemy tanks and infantry reached the heights west of Echtz. Other forces, including 50 tanks advanced along the road to Düren and reached the cross-roads at Rothaus, southwest of Obergeich, near D'horn. There were also attacks in the Merode sector.
To the right, the enemy advanced against 3rd ParaDiv of 246th VGD, near Altdorf and Inden he crossed the Inde. The enemy also gained ground against the right flank of 7th Army. The next days the attack was continued schematically without decisive deep thrusts. The German troops managed to keep an intact line despite the shortage of good artillery ammunition. This was done by a mobile defense. But the troops were slowly driven back to the Rur into a bridgehead in Düren that was only about 2 kilometers deep.
On 12/12/44 the enemy took Echtz and penetrated Mariaweiler to where the command post of ParaReg 5 had been moved. On 12/13/44 246th VGD lost Pier while parts of II./ParaReg 5 were able to hold Konzendorf despite enemy assaults. The paratroopers of the 3r Division repeatedly repelled attacks by day and night. All our hopes crumble in the area right in front of the bridgehead. The neighboring divisions of 3rd ParaDiv were driven back behind the Rur. After 12/13/44, 3rd ParaDiv was taken out of the order of battle by 47th VGD that had been led back to the front after a brief period of rest. The ParaDiv began its march to the gathering point for the Ardennes offensive on 12/15/44. It was in the Schnee-Eifel.
3rd ParaDiv had shown excellent morale, at least in the judgment of the commanding general of LXXXI. Corps. But there had been shortcomings in leadership and combat training of the infantry reserves. The division had played a major role in slowing down the enemy's advance to the Rur and had inflicted heavy casualties.
They had made it possible for 47th VGD to hold the well-fortified bridgehead in Düren for some time. This was crucial to the success of the Ardennes offensive.
This report, written by Lieutenant General Friedrich Sixt in June of 1954 only shows a part of the story. Not mentioned at all are the enormous difficulties or the lives and death of the paratroopers. It is a very matter-of-fact report. Those who were there know what it says. General Sixt died on 8/4/1976, at age 81.