The 100th Infantry Division was part of General Patch’s 7th Army. The 397th, 398th, and 399th Infantry Regiments was part of the 100th Infantry Division. I was in the 398th Infantry Regiment. The 398th Regiment spearheaded most of the attacks with the 397th covering our left flank and the 399th covering our right flank. General Patton’s 3rd Army was on our left and the French 1st Army on our right.
General Eisenhower ordered General Patton’s 3rd Army to Bastogne, Belgium to support the 101st Airbourne Division; which was surrounded by the Germans at the Battle of the Bulge.
The 7th Army moved over to cover most of the 3rd Army sector. The front lines were spread thin. The 7th withdrew to consolidate the front lines. The 100th Division had entered the Forts of Maginot Line; after a long bitter engagement with heavy casualties, they withdrew to the consolidated lines. There were two German Panzer Divisions; the 11th and 25th, plus the crack 361st Volks Green Div., setting across the front line. Large search lights were moved to the front lines to observe any movement of the enemy.
On New Year’s Eve the Germans attacked. The attached armored unit ran for fifteen miles. The 44th Infantry Division on our left withdrew out of artillery range and the 117th Calvary Recon withdrew on our right, leaving our left and right flank exposed. The 100th Infantry Division was almost surrounded by the Germans. Two 397th machine gunners stayed up front for a time before falling back. Large hordes of Germans, screaming and shouting obscenities, came across the front lines. Private Outlaw, of M Company said, “This is what I’ve been waiting for.” He killed over 100 Krauts with his machine gun and Sergeant Steiman, of K Company, also killed over 100 Germans before falling back.
With the use of bazooka teams, grenade launchers, fitted on rifles, and field artillery they were able to stop the German tanks.
This was the last large scale offensive of the enemy during WWII. Adolf Hitler, in a bunker several miles away, directed the offensive. Code name of the offensive was Nordwind (Northwind).
The 398th Infantry was the first to receive the Combat Infantry Badge. We received $10 more in our pay each month for the added risk involved.
Two men from the 398th Infantry received the Medal of Honor. Lieutenant Silk was one of these. There was a French farm house full of Germans. Lieutenant Silk left his men in protection of a wooded area and ran to the farm house under machine gun fire. He lobbed a grenade at a machine gun nest in a wood shed. And he tossed a grenade in the window where a machine gun was being fired. He ran around the house firing in the window. The Germans thought they were surrounded. Lieutenant Silk ran out of ammunition and ran around the building hurling rocks through the windows. He kicked the front door open and captured a house full of Germans with an empty gun.
The other Medal of Honor was given to Private 1st Class Mike Colalillo, he was nineteen years of age. Company C was pinned down from machine guns, mortars, and artillery fire. Colalillo rode a tank into battle, firing at the enemy. A shell fragment hit his gun and rendered it useless. He grabbed the machine gun; mounted the tank, and began firing. His one-man attack knocked out several machine gun nests. The tank ran out of ammunition and withdrew. Colallillo advanced on foot and the rest of Company C followed him into battle. He dashed to the side of a wounded man and helped him back to safety of company holes. At all times Colalillo was under intense artillery, machine guns, and mortar fire. The enemy withdrew.
Later General Burress received a letter from German General Von Mellenthis, commending the 100th Infantry Division on halting the drive of the 11th and 25th Panzer Division. He also stated the U.S. 100th Infantry Division, which was known to us from the Vosges Campaign, as being a crack assault division with daring and flexible leadership.
After Victory in Europe Day, the 100th Infantry Division was scheduled to leave for the Pacific Theater of Operations and be part of the assault against mainland Japan. Dropping the atomic bomb may have saved many lives of the 100th Infantry Division men.
-- Written by Zane G. Nuckolls