World War II: The Bulge--St. Vivth

Figure 1.-- The retaking of St. Vith ended the Americn Bulge campaign. The press caption here read, "U.S. Red Cross Gives Gum to Belgian Children: Belgian children of St. Vith, whose homes were cleared of the Nazis January 23, 1945, by First U.S. Army soldiers, receive chewing gum from an American Red Cross worker, Marjorie Wiogland of Eagle River, Wisconsin. St. Vith was the last ememy-held strongpoint on the northern shoulder of the German salient into the ardennes Forest." The population of t. Vith was largely German speaking, but unlike many othervarea (Saaeland, Austria, Sudetenland, and Poland), not strongly pro-NAZI. This was the main reason the Germans shot a number of civilans, including women and children. Source: U.S. Signal Corps Photo WTO-HQ-45-12956.

A major initial target for the northern shoulder of the German attack was St. Vivth. This was an important marketplace for the region for centuries (12th century). It had been part of Luxembourg . until the defeat of Napoleon. As a result of the Congress of Vienna it was awarded to Prussia. St. Vith after World War I was transferred to Belgium (1925) as a resilt of the Treaty of Versailles. It was only a few kilometers from the German frontier and the West Wall defenses to which the Germans had withdrawn. As it was an important road and railway junction, an connections leading just the right way with roads leading directly from the Muese River to Antwerp--which with its vital port was the German target. St. Vith was thus vital to the German plan. The Germans expected to seize the town witin hours without a major fight. This was vital for the German success. U.S. Army units, much to the German's surprise, stoped the advance cold in the north. The American 7th Armored division blocked Dietrich's Sixth Panzer Army at Saint Vith (December 17). This action delayed the German advance from the onset and forced the Germans to redirect the advnce over less favorable terrine and pooer roads. The American armor and retreating infantry units managed to hold out in St. Vith for 5 full days. It was a disaster for the Germans. This was vital because the delay gave the Americans 5 days to bring up needed forces to stop the Germans furher west. The American defenders were able to retreat battered, but in good order (December 21). The Americans set up a new defense along the Orne River supported by the 82nd Airborne Division (December 21). The Germans finally took St Vith, but their timetable was in disray. Once in German hands and when the weather cleared, Allied air plastered the town. The U.S. Air Force bombed (December 25-26). RAF Bomber Command conducted a major raid (December 26). The town was essentially leveled by the ground fighting an air attacks. American units retook the town (January 23, 1945). All that was left was the Büchel Tower.


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Created: 11:05 AM 2/28/2016
Last updated: 11:05 AM 2/28/2016