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tv   Reel America The Battle at St. Vith - 1965  CSPAN  January 25, 2020 2:59pm-4:01pm EST

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those who were seen as neutral, including the u.s., who sells discriminant way. it was a real boon time for the american economy. like most countries, when the war began, there's a retraction. people are concerned. the stock exchange was closed in new york, just as it had been closed in vienna and london and paris and berlin. but by december, people start coming out of their caves again. americans realize this is -- this war is an amazing boon for economy. because if nothing else, while the europeans are fighting each other, a cannot produce things and the country that produced
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the best and the most >> learn more about america's neutrality and hurled war one -- in world war i. when the classroom here on american history tv. all the boats began on december 16, 1944 in belgium, luxembourg, and france. a keyth was a key -- crossroads. episode fromicture 1965 telling the story of the desperate fight around the small town from the perspective of men from both sides who were there, including lieutenant will rogers junior. >> not wealthy, not well-known. before what happened here in .ecember, 1944, or since
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for seven days, history paused at a crossroads in this village and then passed on. unless we call history the echoes of the men who make it, as they did the battle of st. vith. ♪ >> not much time for sleeping, eating at irregular hours. everyone in every unit was fighting for its own life. maybe this is it. >> firing at 150 yards. >> when you are cold, you stay cold. there is no way of getting warm. >> we have no orders to retire.
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♪ >> in 1944, p german army had been fighting for five years. high. confidence was strength overwhelming. the hold across europe regarded this. the forces of the rooms dead hello denver's -- hello desperately. reinforcements answered by inferior materials or silence. siegfried -- general
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siegfried recall these days as the most uneasy he spent until in late october when he learned the reason for the silence of the high command. >> [speaking foreign language] us he wasinformed planning a large-scale offensive in the near future. we were going to receive 20 infantry divisions, newly and completely equipped atalanta operations would be supported by 3000 fighters. this operation, which was to be initiated was at a south of cologne, would be the capture of the fort of antwerp. >> three german armies would launch the counteroffensive to split allied forces and capture their point of supply, antwerp. biggestld and as the
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cattle bought by american troops, the battle of the bulge, would burst without warning on the first army front. in december, 1944, it was held in the north by the 99th division. they -- the fourth divisions to the south, by the newly arrived 106th, spread at the center. miserable.ns were it was raining and snowing. we were relieving the second division. -- we, a new ad on extensive division, where brought into their sector. we were introduced ironically as byecall, most of the battle the second division cap talking to each of the units of the 106th, talking about what i
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country club area this was to be . if you shots fired each day. -- a few shots fired each day. >> december 1944, i was a second lieutenant. franceision landed in and went into the line to straddle with -- on the ninth of december. looking back, i think the division was about as green as i was and you could not be much greener. >> war preparations were in the and of the commander-in-chief's -- participants were the sixth as as army on the right, the fifth
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army and the seventh army the -- army at the left-wing. while the operation was being prepared, it was important to keep this a secret from the allied forces. >> [speaking foreign language] >> movements were made during the night only. vehicles in the vicinity where rock and straw to keep the noise to a minimum. nobody could predict how the situation would go by december 16. >> [speaking foreign language] hitler's generals sought no guarantee of success. he was adamant. his plan was irrevocable.
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his key elements were surprise, speed, and to prevent allied air cover, bad weather, as specified in his order from the high command. >> [speaking foreign language] place operation will take under favorable weather conditions. these will be ordered by the fuhrer. i inquire whether his flare was ordering the weather -- whether fuhrer. hitler was ordering the weather. >> the weather did take sides. it was a confusing at any to combat command of the seventh division. the weather was a close ally of commander.rmy panzer
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december 1944, you and i saw , all green and quiet hills covered with hay and missed -- and mist and turning into rain and mud and the snow. i cannot help but think how weather played an important role at that time. >> [speaking foreign language] hitler's plan to start the offense during bad weather. during the days prior to the attack, the weather was bad. the german high command was afraid it might change to clear whether blue skies, in which case the aerial combat forces might have stopped the attack in its early stage.
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the weather on december 16 was as you described it. visibility was bad. observers would not have been able to make out individual targets on the hill. >> [speaking foreign language] >> over there, the vital men had views of fire. the tanks were able to recognize their targets at a distance of 2000 meters. the air force started the attack early. to take advantage of the darkness of the bad weather, which would enable us to advance by noon.e hills >> [speaking foreign language]
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[explosions] >> our preparations, evaluations, and shortcomings became academic on the morning of december 16, this supposedly quite sector, we found ourselves hit with an immense artillery ,arrage that included guns landing in all sectors. immediately after this barrage hour,, it lasted about an i started to get reports from
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various companies, each of which was attached to each of the .hree infantry regiments , theyreports were excited showed we were being hit by a massive force. >> in the 28th division to the south, the opening guns in the offensive around the commanding officer of the 112 regiment. >> i jumped out of the bed, ran divisions, ada rang up headquarters, which was 40 miles away. phone,ight major on the asking what was going on in the honeymoon sector. he said he did not know. i said, you better find out. going ona major attack and artillery is going on.
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[explosions] >> even though we in the division thought we understood ,hat this was a massive attack we got difficulty in getting acceptance of this information to the army to our veer. they thought we were a young division and slightly excited. the same type of information began filling back to them from our neighboring divisions, the 99th on our left and 28th to our right. the seriousness of the situation became evident to eight score later in the day, at which point they attached to us, the primary command of the ninth armored division.
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comment -- comment comment to was preparing an attack when his new assignment based him. went and reported to the general, commander of the 106th division. he told me there was an attack along his front and two of his regiments were partially surrounded to the east of st. vith. pictureot have a clear as to the nature of the attack, but said it was very strong. he directed me to move to st. vith as soon as possible. >> that same day, we were
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, themed by the first army seventh army division was attacked to our east, and we were to hold these roots, which were vital and strategic in that area, for this attack. the counterattack attack by the isenth army to our position very critical, because it influenced the division's from there on out. the seventh army division was to counter attack to the east, the general was instructed to attack to the southeast when his armor arrived . another regiment of the 106th was cut off. at the seventh armored division headquartered 60 miles away to the north in holland. there was little urgency in the cry for help reached the commander.
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>> it was a quiet day, but 5:30, i received a message from a message from ninth army, which read, prepare your command for movement to century. sentry was code for the eight car. g2, and from the situation, it appeared it was a quiet front where troops were indoctrinatedr be . message, iving this decided to send a general immediately to the headquarters of century to learn the situation and what our probable mission would be. >> i arrived about 2:00 in the
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december, the 17th of reported to general middleton, was told what he knew about the situation, which i was impressed was not too much. i was told, after i had some sleep, i would go the next morning to st. vith and report to general jones and move my commander there and give him some help. >> the first night at the battle , into our rear areas. >> now, we know they were moving in on both sides of us. we had been almost cut off. it is practically covered with trees. the young soldier fired from the right, the left, behind him, and
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in front of him. some people advance, others go back. .here was some confusion >> [speaking foreign language] oni met the first prisoners december 18 on my way from the northern part. i must say, they seemed confused. the questioning of young people confirmed this was a division which had been a newly assembled or contained a great number of men with no war experience. >> [speaking foreign language] >> [speaking foreign language] operation had been
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initiated according to schedule your the seventh army are talking -- attacking from the front gate a certain -- gained a significant amount of terrain. especially since they had managed to surprise the americans along the entire front. on the morning of the 17th, war reached st. vith from the east. >> the reason the commander up a defenseet line, to hold the road up for te counter attack on the seventh route foras an escape our regiments to the front. >> the armor that might have relieved colonel riggs had passed through st. vith at dawn
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heading southeast. on its mission to attack winters felt. the seventh armored division left holland before dawn, but it generalion was where a arrived ahead of his columns to learn of his columns to learn the trouble was somewhere else. proceeded to join general clark, arrived there -- who had arrived there previously. we found the situation rather desperate to the east of st. vith. toke coming from the woods miles heat indicated german tanks were there. troops between these germans and the town of st. vith was the 116th engineers of a 106th division. >> i arrived at 10:30 and general jones needed help.
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then the problem was to get my tomand marching behind me come to st. vith. my greatest problem on the 17th of december was confusion and traffic on the road. your initial success on the 16th lot ofmber had started a vehicles, like supply vehicles, extra headquarters of vehicles, and service vehicles, going to the year. severe, the road junction to the west of st. vith, i had to go out and play military police man a directed traffic to get it flowing to the front. i am sure you had the same problem because there is only one road through st. vith. >> [speaking foreign language] >> exactly the same situation.
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on the afternoon of the 17th, i was on my way in a small vehicle, and i had to dismount because it was impossible to get ahead on this road. i walked toward the front and try to make myself useful as a military policeman. it was hopeless to try to untangle the vehicles when suddenly i heard someone calling in a loud voice. at the front, i thought i saw a military policeman and i approached. , who had auperior same intention as i. we continued our efforts and try to separate the column, but until nightfall, a certain confusion and perplexity remained. we were not able to separate the vehicles. you realize as well as organizedhe battle is confusion. the job of the general is to see
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that the confusion is not too disorganized. >> one human element was seventh armored division private bill -- dasinger.bill >> trucks, and equipment going the opposite way. , what are wehink getting ourselves into? later on, we found out. >> another was lieutenant will rogers junior. >> down a side road. at this time, the roads were packed with traffic, all kinds of vehicles coming out of st. vith. way very find our slowly against this one-way stream of traffic. we arrived at a little town, a
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of 10oad belgian village or 12 farmhouses. >> a colonel was returning from paris. we came back in a mercedes sedan, which belonged to the commanding general, and when we had a crossroad, we would cut north to holland to rejoin our units, we saw an armored column cutting to the east. a looked familiar, so we dismounted, talk to the military police, and found out it was our own division. nobody would tell us where it was going, so we followed it. >> the armored columns, like thousands of other troops on the 17th of december, was approaching st. vith.
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converging from every direction, , some in in panic .onfusion, some in urgency from the east, remnants of the 106th, from the south, units of the 28 division were withdrawing before an assault of magnitude no one could explain. from north and west, the seventh armored division struggled on, their arrival awaited with impatience by general clark. why this particular town? why st. vith? >> [speaking foreign language] ,> st. vith is a small place that it gained this tremendous significance. when planning the attack, we knew it had to be captured at all costs since it represented a trapping center, a junction of many roads, which cannot be
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bypassed. st. vith had to be taken because all reserves which tried to attack the northern flank of my army or six army in the north had to come through st. vith just as you did. conscious of the importance of st. vith and plant its capture on the 17th -- planned its capture all the 17th of december. >> [speaking foreign language] i proceeded to leave and join my unit st. vith. unfortunately, i was unable to join in that night. we were shot off two of the roads and returned and left the next morning. >> i saw we could not get onto st. vith that night. we went to sleep in a hayloft over what was a dairy. >> that night was spent still waiting for the seventh armored
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division and reinforcing our division -- our position. a general clark formed defensive. they were in this defensive line. >> i sent men to the point of the horseshoe, which was held by colonel raikes and others to the east of st. vith. this went on during the afternoon and night and all of my troops did not close into the same area until 3:00 the next morning. >> sunday night, we were fighting desperately to get ourselves in a horseshoe arc position around the town. this area was the nearest to the enemy, the eastern approaches, about 2000 yards east of the town. american troops under the command of the seventh armored division attempting to hold the town away from them.
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colonel, united states army. .t that time, a major arrivals where the reconnaissance troop, which i deployed with automatic weapons and this skirmish line established, but placed them on the left side overlooking the field of fire, to better utilize their automatic weapons. the rest of that day was spent assembling any other support we could find, included in that support where medium tanks that we were able to secure from the night armored division. , we weremonday morning hit with our first attack.
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the germans punched a hole in our lines, we counterattacked and restored the lines. out, one knocked assault on destroyed. -- one assault gun destroyed. the germans again attacked. the end ofthe end of an hour, oe still held, but we started the long will of losses. >> the battle of the bulge had begun. more than 50 german columns for attacking. there were penetrations everywhere. south of st. vith, the 28th division was split. thes to the east, where 106th was surrounded. forces were approaching from three sides. st. vith was not since the eight but a timetable of the
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counteroffensive. it was already he recoverable. recoverable -- irrecover able. next, part two of the battle of st. vith. ♪ >> on the 18th of december, 1944, the conflict that would become the battle of the bulge was two days old. it had started with a huge german counter offensive planned with a strict timetable. by the 18th, two panzer armies should have reached the river, driving toward their objective , antwerp. instead, thousands of hitler's finest troops were fighting to take a small town in belgium. a junction of roads and railways, the key to success for the counter offensive was the timetable.
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a key to the timetable was st. vith. ♪ [explosions] >> at dawn on the 16th, the massive german assault had achieved its first object, surprise. it overwhelmed the inexperienced american troops in the forest east of st. vith, where some, like colonel oliver patton, were still trying to fight back to friendly lines on the 18th. >> we made the last attack down the road. in that attack, i was hit for the second time that day. i was hit through both legs and i couldn't walk. late that night, i remember the
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battalion commander came through and told us that the battalion had to pull out. they had orders to continue to try to break out. they were going to leave us. there were four or five of us. they would leave us with a medic. >> to the south, the german attack had split the 28th division, cut off the 112th infantry of colonel nelson. >> that afternoon, i received orders from division which was then at bastogne to fall back and fight stiff, delaying action, direction bastogne. i knew that this was impossible. >> the german attack in this sector was made by troops of the 5th panzer army. the capture of st. vith with the roads and railways was vital to the advance. they had been expected to take st. vith with little resistance. on the 18th, their commander came up himself to see what was
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delaying the advance. >> [speaking foreign language] >> i suspected the presence of scattered though very courageous forces which had come here from st. vith or other directions to assist the fighting troops. i was under the impression that up to the 17th and 18th, the small, scattered battle troops were not under centralized command. however, on the evening of the 18th before nightfall, it became obvious that new enemy forces were approaching. >> the general's surmise was correct. but american intelligence of the size of the german attack was still so limited that some units of the 9th and then 7th armor divisions hastily strung out to extend the american defenses
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from the original roadblock. to a long horseshoe line were still unaware that a little crossroads could be vital. there, most troops had already withdrawn when lieutenant will rogers junior woke on the morning of the 18th to word that a german tank was in the street below. >> so we raced around in my jeep to get this bazooka. and the rest was sheer laurel and hardy. we couldn't get the strap off. because it was covered with mud. finally, we fought and got it unstrapped and we got it tangled in some camouflage netting. i was so excited that when i grabbed for the rockets, i took them out and they fell down into the mud. finally, we got everything set. went down to the edge of this long hedge, and here was a german tank, very thankfully waiting just right there waiting for us. we got the bazooka set, started
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to fire at the tank. nothing happened. we had forgot to wire the terminals properly. finally, we got the terminals wired. we got off one shot at this tank, big explosion by the tank, but we couldn't see any result. however, the german officer in the tank closed down the turret and slowly backed down out of this little town. >> the significance of any threat to the defensive horseshoe was clear to the man who was building it, commander general robert hasbrook. >> early on the 18th, i received bad news. the crossroads town, which lay to the left rear of general clark, had been captured by the germans. since there was a road leading directly to the rear, it was imperative that this be recaptured at once. accordingly, i ordered cca, my
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division reserve, proceed immediately and recapture poteau. >> the northern front was being held by the 7th armored division combat command b under general bruce c. clark. >> it became apparent that a command post in the town of st. vith was too far forward. and so, in the afternoon, i sent my aide back around to find a place where we could move and move into a room where there were tables and chairs, a place for messengers and officers to park, a room that could be blacked out to use it at night. the 19th of december was characterized by strong attacks by the germans all around the defensive horseshoe. most of these attacks were about one company in size and were apparently looking for a soft
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spot. >> on the southern front of the horseshoe, combat command b of the ninth armored division found itself backed up against a railroad cut and embankment which could not be crossed. the commander fought side by side with general clark throughout the rest of the battle. >> in order that general clark, who was on my left, would know what i was doing, i conferred with him and told him of the situation, and that i intended to withdraw through st. vith and take up the new line on his right after dark on the night of the 19th. >> this very difficult operation was carried out in darkness and was very successful. we were most happy that that had occurred some two nights later, when the attack took place, which drove us out of the forward end of the horseshoe and took st. vith. >> on the morning of the 20th,
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we of the seventh armored felt pretty lonely. we had enemy on all sides and on our rear. we were out of touch with the 8th corps, which i learned had been forced to retreat. i decided to send a staff officer of mine to try and locate first army headquarters and apprise them of our situation and ask for help. >> the defenses east of st. vith still held. there, colonel, then major, don boyar was in the point of the horseshoe. >> communications were sparse. but they were sufficient to pass requests for artillery fires and exchange the necessary coordination for the attacks of the various battalions of the division as we received attacks from the germans and kicked them out with counter attack after counter attack. >> the colonel was in the
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horseshoe's northern curve. >> i can't recall too many details at that time of specific attacks, because it seems that they went on around the clock. the battlefield is an extremely lonesome place. it's not milling with people. you don't see much. you hear things, tanks blowing up, artillery, small rounds, and things like that. >> for a private like bill, the battlefield was everywhere. >> minute by minute, things changed. i only know what it is to be in just that little hole. maybe a squad or two around us. that is all we know. we know that little bit of territory that we have. >> you were constantly getting rumors. i remember one time we heard that the brightest spot on the western front was st. vith. many men believed the rumors that different units had pulled
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out and in turn were panicked. i remember reading one of jim thurber's stories entitled "the day the dam broke." and it seemed so apropos to the situation that i asked every member of my staff to read that book and take it to heart. >> continued attacks went on during the day on the both of the combat command b's. we were told we had prisoners of war who were identified from five german divisions. this seemed impossible to me, but was later events showed it to be correct. >> the defensive horseshoe was now a good 25 miles long, reinforced by colonel nelson's regiment that had lost touch with its division. but the line was being pounded from a horseshoe into a fortified goose egg.
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lieutenant patton knew why. he was riding wounded on the hood of a jeep driven by a german officer back toward a german aid station. >> there were two things going on on the road that even a lieutenant as green as i was could add up and make sense of. first was the number of troops moving west along that road, infantry on either side of the road. and the other was the number of vehicles coming down, tanks, trucks, cars. and they were the biggest tanks i had seen in my life. every time they would go by i would look at it and the lieutenant would grin. >> as i occupied my positions here on the east, on the night of the 20th, 21st, snow flurries in the air, all of us with frostbite, some with frozen fingers and legs, to our front,
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to our right flank, to our left flank, all night long, we heard the noise of trucks and the noise of tanks moving into position. >> at last, the delayed coordinated german attack on st. vith fell. but general hasbrouck's search for first army headquarters and his efforts to convince them he was facing more than a local german counter attack had been successful. >> on the morning of the 21st, we were overjoyed to find the 82nd airborne had arrived in our general vicinity and had made a tenuous contact with us near a bridge. this was an eventful day in our sector. ccb of the 7th armored was attacked by a full german corps. >> by noon, heavy concentrations of german artillery started breaking on the woods in which my forces were located.
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screaming mimi barrages started. these sounded like a huge spring being compressed and suddenly cut loose. it was a horrible din that came through the air among the trees. >> i remember one unit commander who i had who several times reported to me that he had to be relieved or had to have reinforcements, that he could only hold maybe another hour or sometimes three hours or sometimes eight hours. i remember telling him very definitely that -- saying, how the hell do you know how long you can hold? you hold there as long as you have the ability to fire back. >> time meant nothing. but between 12:00 and 13:00 on the 21st until 23:00 hours or 11:00 that night, i saw my own
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immediate force, which had been in the neighborhood of 680 men, go to less than 200. >> the eastern point in the horseshoe defending st. vith was now an island defending only itself. there, colonel thomas j. riggs, the 106th division engineer whose roadblocks had been the first defense, still held the road under his original orders. >> by that evening, the germans were building up their intensity and were starting to break through on both of our flanks. by about midnight, we had lost communication on both flanks with the two units. so we knew we were being completely isolated. >> knowing that st. vith was now filled with german troops coming in from the east, the north, and the south.
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off to the right, until we got in the vicinity of the road that we broke into five and eight-man groups. i gave them a compass baring and told them to work their way to the west to rejoin general clark, combat command b, where we might continue the fight. by nightfall, i and the four men in my group were prisoners of the germans. and i realized that in the furious fight in the day before, that i had been wounded. and for me, the world had come to an end at that point. >> we could then, in the dawn's light, see that all of the roads leading into st. vith were full of german troops concentrating on and going
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through st. vith. we obviously could not counterattack. i attempted at that time to split them up into patrols so they could attempt to work their way back to the friendly line, the u.s. lines. we started two of these patrols out and watched both of them captured. and shortly thereafter, i was captured with the remainder of the group. >> on the afternoon of 21st december, general clark informed me that the attack on st. vith was becoming so heavy, they would be forced out of that position at evening. he said he would retreat to the west. i agreed to conform with his movement. >> [speaking german]
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>> [translator] the delay we had suffered in my schedule left its mark on the army in the central corps as well as in the southern sector. until december 22nd, therefore, my efforts were concentrated on the coordination of the attack on st. vith, in other words, the cooperation of all arms, infantry, storm guns, artillery, tanks, in a final attempt to take st. vith. >> as i remember the 22nd of december, i remember it as a day
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of mud and rain and considerable confusion. as you pressed your tank in the morning of the 22nd against our new defensive line, our forces were driven back. and the same time, pressure from the north and the south was applied against our flanks. so as a result, by the night of the 22nd, our forces banked pretty much in a semi-circle. >> it should be pointed out that when the men were disbursed on the ground, they were like fingers of a hand. and as they withdrew, as i later pointed out to them, they gained strength by coming back as the fingers would, and forming a fist. this gave them strength and coordination. >> the town would be the last
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defense. from there, general clark immediately sought an escape route to the the west, a dirt road through the woods. although the battle of the bulge would last for another month, its turning point had been reached. the defensive places like st. vith had given the allied armies what they needed: time to rally and regroup. next morning, the skies were clear. the ground, which had been a sea of slush and mud and would have mired hopelessly the withdrawal of 23,000 men and thousands of vehicles, was frozen hard. >> during the early morning hours of the 23rd, both ccb of the 7th armored and ccb of the 9th armored were engaged with the enemy. it was difficult for them to disengage. but also during the day, the 82nd airborne was attacked from the south. i finally sent a message to general clark and general hall,
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telling them it was imperative they start their withdrawal, if they did not start now, they would be withdrawing into a bunch of germans instead of into the ranks of the 82nd airborne division. >> there was no time to issue formal orders or orders under code, so i instructed that the radio to all units under my command be opened up and that the orders would be given in the clear. >> general hasbrouck told me i would have to withdraw across the bridge by noon or else the bridge would have to be blown because of the pressure of the german army coming in from his flanks. and i directed that the withdrawal would start immediately. and the plan would be that they would withdraw down the dirt wood road on a first come, first served basis. this required that i personally
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direct traffic at the crossroads at komanster. so i started the battle as a military police, and i ended the battle as a military police. but of course, that was necessary. >> i met bruce clark in the town where he was directing traffic at the time, trying to ease the confusion of the milling vehicles passing through. we went into position around the town. >> withdrawal started at 7:00 a.m. and went on constantly throughout that day. it went very smoothly, the covering forces operated efficiently, and only one unit had trouble. that was task force jones on the southern flank, the last to withdraw. >> so the american column passed through these little towns, and as they did, they became part of task force jones, which was the rear guard of the american unit coming out of st. vith. and my little platoon became
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part of the rear of the rear guard of the last unit out of st. vith. >> as we fell back onto the road , i found it choked with vehicles from a task force of the 7th armored division. we attempted to work our way through these vehicles to find out what the trouble was, and we found that there was a burning tank and that the germans had apparently come around behind us with an anti-tank gun. >> in the meanwhile, someone had discovered a side road, up a sort of a side canyon, that went up this high mountain beside this somme river. just then, a beautiful thing happened. a full, bright moon came up over the hills. >> we went up this side road and then across country. and then one place we had to detail some of the tanks of the 7th armored division to pull the
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wheeled vehicles over this -- over a highland swamp. and about 2:00 in the morning, we finally wound up behind the 82nd airborne lines. >> mile after mile, and we came out through the snow, this brilliant, beautiful, moonlit night, and then we saw another wonderful sight. about every 100 feet or so, we saw a man in a white parka standing there, and that was the 82nd airborne. and we came out through the 82nd airborne division, out of the battle of the bulge, out of st. vith. and that was task force jones, we were the tail end of the rear guard of the 7th armored division. >> i climbed up the slope in there, where i was greeted by general hasbrouck, drawn, tired, out on his feet, but still the type of commander standing there with his troops to the very last minute. threw his arms around me and said, boylan, thank god you got them out.
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>> and toward the end, i figured that i got practically no sleep for the last 72 hours before reporting to general hasbrouck behind the 82nd airborne lines. i wished him a merry christmas. it was the day before, but i wished him a merry christmas. >> but to us, it was just a big step to get home. >> i was and still am proud of the men and officers of the 106th infantry division with whom i went through such a dreadful bath of blood during this action. i was so proud, as a matter of fact, that i returned to that unit after escaping from prisoner of war camp some 28 days later. >> [speaking german] >> translator: it is the war of the small men, the outpost commanders, the section commanders, the company commanders. those were the decisive people here who were responsible for success or failure, victory or defeat. we depended upon their courage.
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they could not afford to get confused and had to act according to their own decisions until the higher command was again in a position to take over. i believe i can say, and i have the right to make this judgment, that the germans did this admirably well. at the same time, however, i am also convinced this was the case with the american forces who, after all, succeeded in upsetting the entire time schedule, not only of the attacking unit in st. vith, but also the 5th and 6th panzer armies. that is a fact which cannot be denied. >> just one month later, in january, you can imagine how we felt. the satisfaction of regaining what we had been forced to lose. there was snow on the ground. a small road leading down to the right, a few farmhouses and trees, and st. vith itself.
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no moon, no noise, no dogs, no smoke, lifeless. flattened. >> such is the rush of history, that st. vith, belgium is almost lost in it now, but not in the memories of those who made history there that winter or those who must take life up again when history is passed. >> translator: and then we came back. one by one. the first to return were my father and my elder brothers. but when we came back, things weren't over yet, by far. everything was destroyed here, but it wasn't too bad. somehow, children don't care too much for material values. but the destroyed tanks were a horror. everywhere, sometimes there were still burned bodies inside. soldiers, germans, americans. and when we were playing
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sometimes, or ventured into the woods, which was very dangerous, when we tried to jump across the trench or something, suddenly we saw -- we were startled with horror because there was a body lying in there. but gradually, things came back to normal. accidents were less frequent and in time, they were forgotten. and then it went on like that, and in spite of everything, we grew up and became strong. but still, something has remained. sometimes when one talks about it, it comes back to one's memory, how awful it is. >> one of the things that's always bothered me most about the battle of st. vith is a number of heroic actions went unrecognized and unrewarded. of course, there were a good many silver stars and bronze stars awarded, because i
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delegated that authority to my commanders and they carried them in their pockets and were authorized to put them on the man at the time. but the higher decorations, which many deserved, were not forthcoming because the sworn statements of witnesses were hard to get in the heat of battle. afterwards, the witnesses were gone, in some cases, and in others, the act was forgotten only too soon. ♪ [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2020] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> with the iowa caucuses days away, we take a look at the history of the first in the nation iowa caucuses, sunday at 3:00 eastern on american history tv. >> the carter campaign creates this sense that something is going on in iowa and manages,
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partly on the follow-up to the story about 1972, to convince the national media that what happens in iowa is going to matter and it uses iowa as a springboard, a way to say, this guy you never heard of is a viable candidate because a bunch of people in iowa who never heard of him voted for him. >> a discussion on the history of the iowa caucuses, sunday at 3:00 eastern on american history tv on c-span3. sunday night, on q&a, with the iowa caucus a week away, we discuss the history of the first and the nation caucuses with iowa public television. state demographics of the , it is a white state, rural. the argument is made that is not
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all bad. to theprovide a boost first african-american president. clintonlevate hillary with an early victory. in 2016, on the republican side, they point out that ted cruz, marco rubio, cuban-americans, had come forward and want. iowa right now with pete buttigieg is poised to give a boost to the first openly gay presidential candidate. the feeling that either wins have, we are white, but it is not a hostile place. >> what our coverage of the iowa caucuses on a, february 3, at our interview sunday night at 8:00 eastern on say spec -- on c-span's q&a. this year marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of auschwitz. the largest nazi concentration
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camp. next on history bookshelf, holocaust survivor thomas buerg his memoir ofbout surviving auschwitz as a young boy. we recorded his remarks at the los angeles public library in 2009. [applause] thomas: hello. i can't quite see anybody. thank you for coming tonight. i am nick goldberg. we are very lucky to have judge thal herell -- buergen tonight. he has worked on the inter-american court for human rights. he has done all kinds of extraordinary and wonderful things with his life but today we're going to talk almost exclusively about things that happened before he was 11 years old.


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