Company "A"
33rd Armored Engineer Battalion
17-23 December 1944

7th Armored Division
Bookmark this page as
Last updated: November 30, 2015 - What's New?
7th Armd Div Patch

The Problem

This web page addresses the following problems.

  • The research that led to this web page began with trying to determine what might have happened to Pvt. Harvey H. Bryan who went missing 22 December 1944 and has never been found and identified.

  • That research led to the recognition that during the Battle of the Bulge, A/33's role was almost entirely undocumented in the company or battalion records -- which is the main reason that the post-war search for Harvey Bryant failed. In addition, none of the numerous 7AD combat interviews conducted in January 1945 included A/33 officers or men.

  • So this page documents the story of A/33 during the defense of the St. Vith salient in the Battle of the Bulge (17-23 December), seeking also to determine what happened to Pvt. Harvey H. Bryan and the other A/33 casualties.

  • PLUS: This research led to the recognition that 1/A/33 and AT/B/48 AIB fought as a combined group, so that the 21-24 December 1944 MIAs of Company "B" 48th Armored Infantry Battalion web page should also be consulted for relevance to 1/A/33.

  • PLUS MORE: There is a possibility that some B/33 men were moved to the area north of Rodt only a day or two prior to the 22 Dec attack by the Germans. In particular, there is a strong possibility that B/33 half-track driver T/5 Robert W. McCormick was killed in this area, since his remains were recovered with those of A/33 and AT/B/48 and buried with them at Henri-Chapelle after recovery.

  • AND MORE: Robert W. McCormick was recovered with and buried at Henri-Chapelle between Thomas Shutt of A/33 and Walter J. Zrada of the 27th Armored Infantry Battalion, 9th Armored Division. 27 AIB was in CCB/9AD, which was attached to 7th Armored Division in the St. Vith salient. But 27 AIB was on the line southeast of St. Vith. So how did his remains end up being recovered at the same time as those of A/33 and B/33 men? All of those recovered in early Feb 1945 whose IDPFs I have so far are shown as having been killed at "Cromback". I do not have Zrada's IDPF, but I suspect this is what it will show for him. With so many men shown killed at "Cromback" on 22 and 23 Dec 1944, who were not at Crombach just the day before, I suspect that either (a) the Graves Registration team that did the early Feb 1945 recoveries was based at Crombach and gave their own location for all those recovered from the vicinity or (b) there was an abandoned collection point at Crombach where remains of those killed in the vicinity had been brought only to have to point overrun by the Germans or (c) the various withdrawing units (B/48, A/33, B/33, 27AIB/9AD) were all compressed into the area of Crombach - possibly on 22 and 23 Dec and not on the same date - and were actually killed there. There were definitely men killed just east of Crombach on 22 Dec when a German tank came down the railroad line and fired on them for an extended period, cutting down those who left their foxholes and tried to flee. But these were most likely B/38 AIB men, not recovered with the others in Feb 1945 as far as I know (though I have not yet double-checked this). The bottom line at this time is that the variety of units of remains collected in early Feb 1945 at "Cromback" is greater than would have been expected for this small town.
  • Contents
  • A/33 Morning Reports and 33 AEB After Action Reports
  • A/33 in Reports of Other 7AD Units
  • Post-war Accounts
  • Maps
  • Conclusions

  • A/33 Morning Reports and 33 AEB After Action Reports

    The A/33 Morning Reports are the only company-level records. They were completed as of midnight (2400) each day and turned in the next morning, hence their name. They contained (a) the location of the company as of 2400, (b) specifics of all personnel status changes, (c) strength counts, and sometimes (d) a Record of Events entry. The following format contains for each day the location (underlined), the Record of Events entry (if any), and the list of personnel status changes. Some of the personnel status changes were made retroactively in later Morning Reports but are included here under the actual date of the event with a notation, such as "(MR 27 Dec)", of the date of the Morning Report in which the retroactive "as of" report was made.

    The After Action Reports were written by Battalion Headquarters at the end of each month. The S-2 (Intelligence) and S-3 (Operations) reports and/or journals were usually included, but they are not included here, since they were separated from the After Action Reports at the National Archives, so that I do not have the 33 AEB S-2 and S-3 reports.

    As a supporting element of the Division, the nature of the way in which the engineers were assigned within the Division meant that 33 AEB Battalion Headquarters often had little or no knowledge of the specifics of what any 33 AEB company (A/33, B/33, and C/33, which were typically attached separately to CCA, CCB and CCR, respectively) was actually doing. So the Battalion-level After Action Reports usually could not shed much light on events in complex situations.

    A/33 Morning Reports
    33 AEB After Action Reports
    17 Dec Rogery Belgium VP 7383
    Left Area at Scherpenseel Germany VK 6360 Nord de Guerre at 0835, closed into present location at 1750, distance traveled 78 miles.

    On 16 December 1944 the Division was alerted for movement into Belgium. The movement was made on 17 December 1944 as an administrative march; Company "A" moved with Combat Command "A", Company "B" moved with Combat Command "B", and the battalion less attachments moved with Division Troops. The Battalion arrived at the designated area near Vielsalm, Belgium early on the morning of 18 December 1944.

    18 Dec Rogery Belgium VP 7383
    Organized tactical defense positions in this area.

    On 16 December 1944 the Division was alerted for movement into Belgium. The movement was made on 17 December 1944 as an administrative march; Company "A" moved with Combat Command "A", Company "B" moved with Combat Command "B", and the battalion less attachments moved with Division Troops. The Battalion arrived at the designated area near Vielsalm, Belgium early on the morning of 18 December 1944.

    19 Dec Rogery Belgium VP 7383
    Established and maintained road blocks.

    On 19 December 1944, Company "C" was attached to Combat Command Reserve for operations, and the battalion plus the "C" company trains moved on to Goronne, Belgium. Late the same day the battalion again moved on Division order west of the L'Ourthe River near LaRoche, Belgium, meanwhile the companies had been committed as infantry with the Combat Commands in the St. Vith area.

    On 19 December 1944 over eighty percent of the officers and enlisted men of Battalion Headquarters and Headquarters Company were organized into defense squads and platoons to be used in manning road blocks on the avenues of approach into the LaRoche area which was already threatened by enemy forces. All personnel, vehicles and weapons suitable for use in defense were placed under the command of the trains Commander to be employed at locations deemed advisable for defense of the area.

    20 Dec Rogery Belgium VP 7383
    Maintained road blocks. 2 Germans captured.

    Late on the afternoon of 20 December 1944 the Trains Commander ordered all non-tactical vehicles and equipment to move to Marche, Belgium. This movement was made over an enemy-controlled and marked route without loss of any equipment, vehicles or personnel.

    21 Dec Rogery Belgium VP 7383
    Co maintained road blocks. Weather: Cold and cloudy.
  • O 409 598 Foster, John C CE 1st Lt - Fr dy to MIA 21 Dec 44 (Battle) (SSN 1531) (MR 24 Dec)
  • On the afternoon of 21 December 1944 the remainder of the personnel, vehicles and equipment on order from the Trains Commander was moved to the Marche, Rockforte area.

    22 Dec Rencheux Belgium VP 7089
    Co left former area at Rogery Belgium at 1045 arrived at this sta at 1145. 2d and 3d Platoons maintaining road blocks.
  • 37 579 768 Wafar, Raymond E (SSN 533) Pvt - Fr dy to trfd to 102d Evac Hospt LWA (Battle) (MR 24 Dec)
  • 39 463 565 Parsons, Donal H (SSN 339) Pvt - Fr dy to trfd to 56th Gen Hosp (Battle) LWA (MR 24 Dec) - Returened to duty from 3rd Repl Depot 8 Mar 45 (MR 8 Mar 45)
  • 36 054 059 Seitz, Chester P (SSN 245) Tec 5 - Fr dy to MIA (Battle) (MR 25 Dec) - Fr dy to KIA (MR 21 Jan 45)
  • 36 054 059 Fykerude, Norman L (SSN 653) Sgt - Fr dy to MIA (Battle) (MR 27 Dec) - Fr dy to KIA (MR 19 Feb 45)
  • 39 603 080 Christensen, Clifford (SSN 245) Pfc - Fr dy to MIA (Battle) (MR 27 Dec) - later determined KIA (MR not yet found)
  • 36 308 104 Orrico Mike J (SSN 189) Pfc - Fr dy to MIA (Battle) (MR 27 Dec) - later determined DOW as POW
  • 33 873 385 Shutt, Thomas N (SSN 533) Pfc - Fr dy to MIA (Battle) (MR 27 Dec) - Fr dy to KIA (MR 19 Feb 45)
  • 37 614 437 Bertrand, Arthur H (SSN 521) Pvt - Fr dy to MIA (Battle) (MR 27 Dec) - Fr dy to KIA (MR 19 Feb 45)
  • 38 087 134 Bryan, Harvey H (SSN 521) Pvt - Fr dy to MIA (Battle) (MR 27 Dec) - later determined KIA (post-war finding of death)
  • Since the enemy had already cut the Division Main Supply Route and denied us use of alternate routes to supply combat units on 22 December 1944 Division Trains and all service trucks moved via Puy, Liege, Aywaille to the Harze area. The Battalion bivouacked at St Roch, Belgium.

    23 Dec Harze Belgium VK 5307
    Co left former area at Rencheux Belgium at 1350, arrived at present location at 1530, distance traveled 23 miles. Weather: Fair and cold.

    [No After Action Report entry for 23 December. The following is a summary, which follows the 24 December entry.]
    During the period from 18 December 1944 to 24 December 1944 the line companies had continued to fight as infantry with the Combat Commands. Upon withdrawing from St. Vith area engineer demolitions were laid to form a barrier along the defense line established in the Manhay area. Major losses by Company "A" were: Company Commander evacuated for broken leg, one officer missing in action, fourteen enlisted men, one Brockway Truck, Bridge, and two 2-ton trucks. Company "B" losses included one officer evacuated, nine enlisted men, including the 1st sergeant, one half-track M3A1, and two 2-ton trucks. Company "C" lost its Company Commander as a result of a foot injury in the turret of a tank. Headquarters Company had one enlisted man evacuated, the company mail clerk, for shrapnel wounds received while defending a bridge in LaRoche, Belgium.

    Observations on the Morning Reports and After Action Report
  • 1st Platoon was not with the rest of the Company. This is made somewhat clear in the 22 December MR, in which the withdrawn company HQ and 2nd and 3rd Platoons are together, but 1st Platoon is not included.
  • Battalion Headquarters was not at all involved with the front lines, until the Germans nearly encircled the Division, forcing all elements of the Division to be on the front lines. Thus the After Action Reports are primarily about Battalion Headquarters, with only a few references to the line companies (A, B and C).
  • The A/33 CO who broke his leg inside the turret of a tank was Capt. Louis C. Christian, Jr. who remained in command until evacuated 27 December, when command of A/33 went to Capt. John C. Messenger, who was transferred that same day from B/33.
  • The A/33 officer who went MIA was the Executive Officer, 1st Lt. John C. Foster, listed in the 24 December MR as MIA as of 21 December. The Company entered combat with one Captain, one 1st Lt, and two 2nd Lts. The 2nd Lts survived unscathed. Thus it appears that 1st Lt. John C. Foster was commanding 1st Platoon, although this cannot be confirmed from these reports alone.

  • A/33 in Reports of Other 7AD Units

    No unit fought alone. It is a great mistake when researching a unit to only consider their own reports. This is especially true of support units, such as the engineers, who were typically split up and assigned to support different elements of the Division.

    Thus the After Action Reports of the Division, of the Combat Command (in the case of A/33, it was CCA), and the other units in the Combat Command all potentially can have references to A/33. These references are grouped here by the date of the action.

    IMPORTANT NOTE: In the following, all references to CHERAM or CHERUM acutally refer to CHERAIN, BELGIUM - just west of GOUVY.

    17 December
  • 7AD Divison Artillery After Action Report (p 10)
    CCA coming along behind CCB was sent to the vicinity of Poteau to protect the north or left flank. CCA had the 40th Tank Bn., the 48th AIB Bn, "A" Co. 33rd Eng and "D" Troop of the 87th Cav Rcn Sqd.
  • 18 December
  • 7AD Divison HQ After Action Report (p 4)
    Combat Command A Attacks / Combat Command A moved out at 1010 from its assembly area at BEHO (P7581) to proceed to POTEAU (P7791). D Troop, 87th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, was to remain on the south to occupy outpost positions vacated by the 48th Armored Infantry Battalion vicinity THOMMEN (P8181), ESPELER (P8079) and DEIFELT (P7679). Likewise, Company D, 40th Tank Battalion and Company A, 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion, remained in positions near BEHO (P7581) and ROGERY (P7284) respectively.
  • 7AD Divison G-2 Notes (p 5)
    Enemy in force occupied STAVELOT, and were reported to control GOUVY and CHERAM on the South flank of the Division's positions. Many reports, inspired by the unwholesome confusion of the elements in the rear of the Allied sector, told stories of deep and strong penetrations far to the westward. Many of the reports were true; the Germans were exploiting to the fullest their breakthrough. Their physical gains were not, however, nearly so impressive on the ground as the consternation that they caused. Supply routes and installations, far to the rear, were jepardized by these enemy moves, and it was to protect these elements that screening forces were posted along the southern flank of the horseshoe occupied by the Division.
  • Col. Dwight A. Rosebaum, CO CCA, Combat Interview (p 2)
    The Colonel talked with the General and after inquiring about the situation to the S (which was still "fluid"), he suggested that the CCA be employed on the N flank vicinity POTEAU. To the S the situation as viewed by the Colonel was under control. The General approved this recommendation.
    Colonel Rosebaum left his light tanks (D/40) and the company of engineers at BEHO, and proceeded with the remainder of the tanks and the infantry battalion toward POTEAU. To the E of POTEAU he put the tanks in the woods, and then sent the infantry thru the woods to the W of POTEAU. When the infantry had secured a portion of the town he sent a platoon of the tanks on into the town. The remainder of the tanks were outposted along the road toward ST VITH. The boundary of CCA was POTEAU, inclusive, to RODT, exclusive.
    [Wesley Johnston observation: The "company of engineers" was A/33.]

  • Anti-Tank Platoon, Company B, 48th Armored Infantry Battalion, Combat Interview (p 2) (northern defense - this really is entirely about 1/A/33, since 1/A/33 and AT/B/48 fought as a combined unit)

    The platoon took up its positions 18 December, with four tanks of A/40 and a platoon of A/33d Engineers. The engineers mined roads and acted as infantry.

    During the first four days, there was no infantry action. Patrols were sent out daily, and lots of tanks and vehicles were heard the other side of the woods toward Recht, but neither tanks nor infantry came at the position.

    There were 36 officers and men of the AT platoon and 38 engineers. 18 members of the AT platoon and 14 engineers got back.

    The men were dug in on a line centering around 811896 (see overlay). They were on the west of the road behind a line of small fir trees, across the road, and at the edge of the woods to the right of the road. Two medium tanks were behind the advanced positions and two were further back. Positions of D/40 light tanks were in town. 17th Bn tanks and 23d AIBn units held the crossroad at 820895.

    Capt _____ Davenport was in charge of the block.

    There was continuous enemy patroling the night of 21 December, but no action until 0400 22 Dec when the enemy attacked in unknown strength on the left (west) flank. It was probably a combat patrol. Shortly thereafter, other patrols struck to the west of the platoon's positions, circling the flank, and to the east of the road. The Germans shouted, whistled, and sang. The engineers, the anti-tank platoon and the tanks opened up and inflicted heavy casualties, but they were outnumbered and the enemy was able to circle the flank to the west and infiltrate the positions, getting into the general area of the command post and into the houses which lined the road. Between 0400 and 0600, three men were killed and two were wounded. This does not include engineer losses. The enemy got into the same house as the CP and killed three engineers. The Americans managed to get out the back way. The Germans captured the AT platoon's headquarters track. One of the wounded infantrymen crawled beneath the track and spent the rest of the night there, unnoticed by the Germans.

    One prisoner taken, a man of about 40, told his captors that there were three companies. One had made the initial attack, and the other two were to follow with tanks. One of our tanks had six bazooka shells fired at it. Five missed and the sixth glanced off. Through it all, the men in the forward lines held their positions. Our tanks ranged about firing at the enemy. The 50 calibre machine guns did a great deal of damage.

    At 0600, the enemy in the houses along the road apparently became confused, probably because the expected reinforcements failed to arrive. Many of them tried to get back to their own positions. Pfc Dumbrowski and Cpl Finke killed nine of them with rifle fire. As it grew light, the tanks began to clean up the houses and the woods to the north systematically, spraying the area with m/g fire. The infantrymen and the engineers cleaned out the area. The CP was set afire by a tank, and Pfc EVERETT and two engineers entered it. The Germans were in one room and the Americans in the rest. The Germans surrendered and the Americans put out the fire. The half-track was recaptured.

    About 0830, enemy mortar fire became very heavy, and there was a great deal of machine gun fire from the woods. One mortar shell exploded in the left (west) flank positions, knocking out an anti-tank gun. Cpl. Finke, who was in charge there, gave leadership of the squad on the flank to another man, loaded five wounded men on the half-track and drove it out.

    The houses, however, were not completely cleared and many of the enemy remained hiding out in them.

    About 0900, enemy tanks were heard in the woods to the north. One hit the mines in the road and apparently was immobilized. Visibility at the time was only about 100 yards. For about an hour, the men were unable to move because of heavy m/g fire. Lt. Smart finally ordered the men to fall back to positions nearer the town. Most of them made it, but the squad on the left flank were unable to move. None of them got back. As the others retreated, they cleaned out the houses. In one house, 13 Germans were captured and three dead were found. The 13 were taken to the TD's at Krombach. About 45 other Germans surrendered at this time. As the Germans were taken to Rodt, others voluntarily came from the houses and joined the column, One tank went into the town with the prisoners.

    As the prisoners went down the road and were lined up, German tanks appeared. The number is not known, but there were at least four. One pulled into town from the west unnoticed, and got behind a building on the other side of which the prisoners were lined up.

    The order to withdraw was given by Captain Davenport. The men who were in front of the prisoners were ordered to the rear while the prisoners kept their hands above their heads. Then the men withdrew toward Krombach, covering the Germans. Some of the men followed the road, others went cross country. This was a little after noon. The enemy did not follow. The infantrymen and engineers caught up with some 40th Bn tanks and rode into Krombach on them.

    [Wesley Johnston observation: This is probably the best single record that exists that tells the story of 1/A/33. It covers the entire period from 18-22 December, with most of the text being about the events in the early hours of 22 December, but I have kept it all here, since it is the complete account.
    The fact that B/48 soldier Pfc. Andrew J. Baziow went missing on the same date (22 Dec 44) as the A/33 men were killed may be because they were all in the same place.]

  • 19 December
  • 7AD Divison HQ After Action Report (p 7)
    All Around Security Established / In the meantime the Division was receiving all manner of reports indicating the enemy to be on every side. The enemy was reported to be in strength at HOUFFALIZE (P6172), LAROCHE (P4678), SAMREE (P5081) and TROIS PONTS (P6798) as well as on the southeast, east, and northeast of ST. VITH (P8588). / Hence, A Company, 33rd Engineer Battalion, and D Company, 40th Tank Battalion --elements of Combat Command A which had been left on the south flank-- were ordered shortly after daylight to outpost CHERAM (P6677) and GOUVY (P7278). At GOUVY (P7278) they found an army ration dump containing 50,000 rations which had just been set on fire by army quartermaster personnel to prevent its capture by the enemy, already threatening with small arms fire. D Company of the 40th Tank battalion drove off the enemy and extinguished the fire, which had done little damage, and began the issuance of rations to all units of the Division. Also found at GOUVY (P7278) was an abandoned army prisoner of war inclosure containing over seven hundred German prisoners of war guarded by one officer and eight military police. These prisoners were successfully evacuated by the Division.
  • 20 December
  • 7AD Divison HQ After Action Report (p 8)
    Task Force Jones is Created / The most significant change in the composition and disposition of troops that occurred on the 20th December was the formation of Task Force Jones, commanded by the commanding officer of the 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion, and its disposition on the southern and southwestern flank of the Division. Centered at BOUVIGNY (P7082) with outposts at CHERAM (P6677), GOUVY (P7278), OURTHE (P7478), and DEIFELD (P7679), the force consisted of the 17th Tank Battalion (-A Company), 440th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion (-Companies A and B), 2 platoons of the 38th Armored Infantry Battalion , 1 platoon of the 31st Tank Battalion, 3M-4 tanks of the 40th Tank Battalion, Company D, 40th Tank Battalion, Company G, 112th Infantry, Company A (-1 platoon) of the 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion, and a Detachment of the 14th Cavalry Group (15 M-8 Armored Cars, 5 assault guns, 13 light tanks). A restriction was placed on the employment of the 17th Tank Battalion by Task Force Jones. It was not to be employed without authority from the Division Commander. This task force absorbed the elements of Combat Command A remaining on the south (Company D, 40th Tank Battalion and Company A(-), 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion) and Task Force Hawks of the 14th Cavalry Group. The strength of the enemy and the seriousness of the situation on the south leading to the formation of Task Force Jones was obtained in part from a Lt. Col. STONE with whom the Division had been in touch for about two days. This officer was located at GOUVY (P7278) with an assortment of about 250 stragglers, including ordnance, quartermaster, engineer, and signal personnel whom he had collected. He had established a defensive position and said, "By God, the others may run, but I'm staying here and will hold at all costs!" STONE's force was incorporated into Task Force Jones. The force, in position by about 1600, immediately became engaged at CHERAM (P6677) and GOUVY (P7278) and by 1800 was receiving a strong German attack which it successfully repulsed.
  • 7AD Divison HQ After Action Report (p 9)
    At noon the elements of Combat Command A on the south (Company D, 40th Tank Battalion and Company A(-), 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion) were detached and placed under control of Task Force Jones.
  • 7AD Divison G-2 Notes (p 8)
    Action flared in the South of the area, with an infantry attack being made from the high ground to the South into GOUVY at midday. The infantry in this instance was supported by mortar and some artillery fire. No penetration of the positions was affected, however, and heavy losses were inflicted on the enemy.
  • 7AD Divison G-2 Notes (p 10)
    The enemy entered into a new phase of operations against the Division on 20 December; in addition to all of the pressure that he maintained on the front, he was able to get parties of some strength through our lines, and with these; he laid ambushes which proved extremely lucrative to him. These ambush parties operated in the thickly wooded area to the South of PUTTEAU, and succeeded in ambushing several vehicles, capturing a number of prisoners, both officers and enlisted men, and taking (it was believed) documents of some importance. These ambush parties operated well to the rear of the forward elements, were extremely aggressive, and difficult to counteract.
  • 7AD Divison ARtillery After Action Report (p 13)
    It was evident that our South and Southwest flank were in a very vulnerable position, threatened by road nets controlled by the towns of Gouvy and Cheraim. For this reason, Task Force Jones was created. It contained the 17th Tank Bn (-), 814 TD Bn (-), 2 Platoons of the 38th Inf, 1 Platoon of medium tanks from the 31st Tank Bn, 3 M-4 tanks from the 40th tank Bn and "A" Company (-) of the 33rd Eng Bn. Remnants of the 14th Cav Group had been picked up in the area and 15 M-8 Armored Cars, 3 M-8 Assult Guns and 11 light tanks attached to T F Jones.
  • 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion After Action Report (p 2)
    7. On 20 December Task Force JONES was formed under the command of Lt Col JONES of the Battalion to cover the south flank of the 7th Armd Div sector from Deified Ourth Gouvey Cherum. The CP was set up in Bovigny. TF JONES consisted of the following units: ... 2 Platoons Co A 33rd Engr Bn ... With the force under control of Lt Col JONES organized, four forces were formed and assigned missions of setting up road blocks as follows: One at Deifeld Two at Gouvey (East and West) One at Cheram, with one in reserve.
  • 21 December
  • 7AD Divison HQ After Action Report (p 10)
    The enemy established a very effective ambush on the ST. VITH (P8588)-POTEAU (P7791) road in the thick woods southeast of POTEAU (P7791). Before it was discovered, he had succeeded in capturing the occupants of eight peeps and one light tank which he knocked out, including such key officers as the Executive Officer, Combat Command A; Liaison Officer, Combat Command A; Executive Officer and the Adjutant, 48th Armored Infantry Battalion; second in command of A Company, 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion; and numerous others. [Wesley Johnston observation: Note 1st Lt. John C. Foster MIA in the A/33 Morning Reports.]
  • 7AD Divison G-2 Notes (p 10)
    Pressure, actually more detrimental and jeopardizing to the positions that the Division occupied than that from the East, began to build up in the South. Tanks were reported along the east-west road out of SALM CHATEAU, or slightly southward of it; and because of this, and the fire that they were laying on the road, traffic had to be diverted from this road, further narrowing the neck of the horseshoe that the Division hold. Pressure at the crossroads of highways N 15 and N 28 had been serious for about 48 hours, but such pressure was built up during this period that the position became virtually untenable. Enemy troops were gathering in strength along the road GOUVY-CHERAM-SAMREE, and made attacks during the period on GOUVY in approximate company strength. All of these attacks were dispersed and repelled, however, and the town remained in our hands at the end of the day's operations.
  • 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion After Action Report (p 2)
    9. The force at Cherum was attacked on the night of 21 December, but the attack was driven off. Another attack developed on the night of 21 December, but it too was driven off.
  • 22 December
  • 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion After Action Report (p 2)
    10. On 22 December the forces at Gouvey and Cherum were withdrawn to permit the Air Force to bomb, but the bombing never materialized. After this, Company C of the 814th TD Bn was attached to CCB and the Cherum force was withdrawn to Courtil and the Gouvey force remained to the north of the town.
  • 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion After Action Report (p 4) (re A/814 which had been at St. Vith, attached to 38 AIB in the eastern defense)
    4. At 0230 hours 22 Dec all available men from Hq section were dismounted and joined with others of 23 AIB to dig in one mile north of Crombach, Belgium. At 1500 new positions were dug about 1000 yards in advance of these. From these positions they repulsed enemy infantry attacks with the assistance of artillery.
    5. The second platoon in the meantime had picked up the remaining destroyer of the third platoon. At about 0100 the platoon moved to position 1000 yards east of Neundore, Belgium where it remained until 1000 hours when it joined the first platoon. The Hq section men joined them and they moved to position between Neundorf abd Chrombach. Here one M-36 was hit and destroyed about 1830. The Company joined with 87th Cav and 31st Tk Bn to stop an attack by the enemy. In this action No. 1 gun of first platoon destroyed 3 Mk VI tanks by direct fire. About 2000 an M-36 became mired and had to be abandoned. It was destroyed by incendiary grenades prior to abandonment.

    [Wesley Johnston observation: This is included, even though it does not mention A/33, since it confirms the presence of TDs at Crombach, which is relevant to the recovery of several of the A/33 KIAs.]
  • 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion After Action Report (p 4) (re B/814 which had been at Petit-Thier, attached to CCB in the northern defense)
    4. The company moved with the battalion to Vielsalm and on 18 Dec (- 1 Plat) was attached to CCR and went into position in town of Petit-Thier where they remained until the withdrawal. They reverted to control at Harze, Belgium on 24 Dec.
    [Wesley Johnston observation: This is included, even though it does not mention A/33, since it confirms the presence of TDs at Crombach, which is relevant to the recovery of several of the A/33 KIAs. The forces withdrawn from Petit-Thier came south through Hinderhausen and Crombach.]
  • 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion After Action Report (p 5) (re C/814 which had been at Cherain-Gouvy, with Task Force Jones in the southern defense)
    4. On arriving on vicinity Veilsalm the Company remained under Bn control forming part of TF JONES until 22 Dec when it was attached to CCB and moved to vicinity of Crombach, Belgium. Upon reporting to CCB, the company was split; 2 platoons attached to TF Boyland and placed north of Crombach and NE of Hinderhausen, with the 3rd platoon attached to TF Erlenbusch in position north of railroad cut at Crombach. At 2200 hours the enemy shelled the railroad bridge and enemy infantry attacked. Assault guns, AT guns, and friendly infantry withdrew and the Company Commander was ordered to pull his platoon back. The Platoon however, was in contact with the enemy , and during the withdrawal through the town was surrounded, but the TD's overran many of the enemy infantry, and here the Company commander met the CO of the 17th Tk Bn. They found forces and arranged a defense which held the town until daylight on 23 Dec 1944.
    [Wesley Johnston observation: This is included, even though it does not mention A/33, since it confirms the presence of TDs at Crombach, which is relevant to the recovery of several of the A/33 KIAs.]
  • 23 December
  • 7AD Divison G-2 Notes (p 14)
    The Southern flank was the quietest of the sectors, remaining relatively inactive until our forces began their withdrawal. At that time, the Germans pressed vigorous tank attacks on our columns from BEHO to ROGERY to SALM CHATEAU. There were numerous casualties (tank) inflicted on the enemy in this attack, however, and disengagement was effected without serious consequence. The enemy had occupied SALM CHATEAU before contact was broken, causing our forces to move to the westward to enter new positions.
  • 7AD Divison G-2 Notes (p 15) (Summary for the entire period 17-23 December)
    The length of the line (or semblance thereof) that was held against the enemy made it extremely difficult to keep the entire picture clear during the fighting. For all practical purposes, the Division was by itself, protruding well out into the enemy's territory, and it was for this reason that so many of the enemy's units contacted elements of the Division at one time or another. There were not, at any time, concerted efforts on the part of the enemy to break through the crusts to the counter-salient that the Division held except from the due East. Most of the contacts that the units of the Division and with enemy forces on the South flank were with those elements of the enemy's forces that were pushing, and pushing fast, towards the West, expanding the salient as much as possible before Allied units could be formed to halt it.
  • 7AD Divison G-2 Notes (p 16) (Summary for the entire period 17-23 December)
    ... Higher Headquarters acknowledged that the hold against the odds at ST VITH interrupted to a certain extent the time table that RUNDSTEDT had established for the expansion of the salient into Allied territory. As a matter of fact, the center of the bulge was contained for the period that the Division remained in contact, and prohibited the enemy from providing himself with a solid front to press into the Allied territory. His forces were divided into two separate salients for the time, minimizing his overall efforts to a great extent. In addition to this fact, the hold of the Division denied the enemy the use of one of the main arterial networks of roads leading directly into the salient.
    [Wesley Johnston observation: This really has nothing specific to do with A/33 but is a very good concise overview of what 7AD and A/33 accomplished at St. Vith.]
  • 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion After Action Report (p 5) (re C/814 which had been at Cherain-Gouvy, with Task Force Jones in the southern defense)
    5. A plan of general withdrawal plan was announced at 0700 23 Dec with 3rd Platoon of Company C occupying high ground to SW overlooking Grombach and balance of CCB withdrawing through its position. When CCB cleared the ridge the 3rd Platoon fell in as rearguard and fought its way through Braumlauf in spite of heavy small arms and bazooka fire, towards Maidingen. Upon reaching Beho it was attached to TF Jones and acted as rear guard for that unit.
    6. The 1st Platoon executed the withdrawal without contact with the enemy.
    7. The 2nd Platoon with mission of covering withdrawal, found Crombach route cut so used an alternate route. At close range they repulsed enemy tank attack on Hinderhausen with the loss of two M-36's, but in the fight knocked out three Mk VI's and one Mk V. The platoon then withdrew to high ground to the SW, but the Platoon Sgt. reported that they were being encircled. One gun was ordered to Commanster while the rest of the Platoon covered CCB's withdrawal and then it withdrew to that town. Upon reaching the town it was again subjected to enemy tank attack, and in the fight knocked out one Mk VI and two Mk V's, but lost a third destroyer, which left the Platoon with only one M-36. It was then ordered to withdraw to Neuville where it set up a road block with infantry. It held this position until 1900 hours when it withdrew to Harze, Belgium without further incident.

    [Wesley Johnston observation: This is included, even though it does not mention A/33, since it confirms the presence of TDs at Crombach, which is relevant to the recovery of several of the A/33 KIAs.]

  • Postwar Accounts

    The research into the recovery and identification of the A/33 men who went missing 22 December led to the gathering of personal accounts in Individual Deceased Personnel Files (IDPFs). And the finding of remains further led to information that related to the others who were lost and to the Company as a whole. In the following, in the case of IDPFs, the page numbers refer to the page number in the PDF file of that IDPF, which can be seen by clicking on the link that is the title for that section.

    IMPORTANT NOTE: The nature of the condition of the remains of the men may hold important clues about what happened, so that information is included here. Be warned that these condition reports are very explicit and may be something that you do not want to read if you are excessively disturbed by the harsh reality of what happened to these men -- war really is Hell.

    IDPF of Pvt. Harvey H. Bryan (not yet recovered and identified)
  • Identification Data (stamped received 3 Sep 1946)
    Last seen while preparing to ride a tank destroyer during withdrawal operation near St. Vith, Belgium 22 Dec 1944 (PDF p 33)
  • Memorandum for Record (24 Mar 1950) "Review of Circumstances Surrounding the Disappearance of Private Harvey H. Bryan" (PDF p 14)
    2.a. Missing Report, dated 10 January 1945, submitted for Private Bryan, states that Private Bryan was last seen on 22 December 1944 near St. Vith, Belgium with the 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion, preparing to ride a tank destroyer out in withdrawal to rejoin the 33d Armored Infantry Battalion.
    b. USFET Casualty Form 5 contains the information that the enemy had been attacking with the armored and infantry elements for four days and were subjecting the area to heavy fire from artillery and small arms. Our troops were outnumbered and were forced to withdraw. Search was impossible as enemy tropps captured the area. Attached to the Form 5 is a statement by Tec 5 John Monahan, 34124844, in which Monahan reports that Private Bryan was last seen five miles south of St. Vith. The terrain is described as rolling, included wooded area with heavy underbrush. Technician Fifth Grade Monahan states that he believes Private Bryan was killed by enemy fire, but did not see Private Bryan wounded or injured in the action.

    [Wesley Johnston Observations: Neither the Missing Report nor the USFET Casualty Form 5 nor the very significant attached statement by T/5 Monahan are in the IDPF. There also seems to be confusion in the above paragraph 2b of the Form 5 attachment information supplied soon after the events by Monahan and of Monahan's 1949 letter (below) in which his memory had clearly becoming dimmer about the details of the events.

    The presence of tank destroyers suggests Task Force Jones, which was commanded by Lt. Col. Robert Jones, CO of 814 TD Bn. 2/A/33 and 3/A/33 were elements of TF Jones. But 1/A/33, at Poteau, also had tank destroyers among the elements with them. The location 5 miles south of St. Vith, if it was really 5 miles southwest of St. Vith, is consistent with the area of Crombach (which is actually 3.7 miles from St. Vith), which is where the remains of Fykerude and Christiansen are recorded as having been recovered. TF Jones, with 2nd and 3rd Platoons of A/33 was much further to the southwest: Cherain (the correct name for "Cheram" is 16.2 miles from St. Vith, and Courtil 12.9 miles). So the evidence is strongest that Bryan, Fykerude and Christiansen were members of 1/A/33 which had been at Poteau on the northern flank of the St. Vith salient.

    There is clearly a conflict between the unattributed statement (that Pvt Bryan was last seen preparaing to ride out on a TD) on the "Identification Data" and T/5 Monahan's personal account. The personal account merits the greater credibility and is the source for the 5 mile distance that is a crucial factor.]

  • John Monahan letter (stamped received 21 Oct 1949) (PDF pp 27, 25) - spelling left as in original
    Col. Metz
    Sir I wish I could tell you just what happen but its been so long now I dont no exactly now but the last I remember seeing or know anything of him he myself an 4 other fellows all ran together a long way an we all found some German fox wholes and went en thems and from there I dont - cant remember if he left there with me or not we were there most all the night of Dec 22 and slipt out before day on the 23rd tho I got away from those fellows. One was Sgt. Fikerude. I cant think now of the others names but Im sentding another Sgt.s address. Sgt. Fred Grant
    Winfield, Tenn.
    he and those fellows were together last Im quite sure I got with B Co. 33rd Engr Bn. and those fellows left us. So thats all I no sir except Im quite sure he was killed with those others they were found later. Im afraid Im not helping very much but thats all I remember
    Sincerely yours
    John Monahan
    Rt # 2, Latta, SC.

    [Wesley Johnston Observations: He says his memory has dimmed; it has been 5 years since the events. He no longer even recalls Bryan's name. He does recall Sgt. Fykerude (the correct spelling) who was indeed killed and recovered. So it seems likely that Bryan and Fykerude were together.
    I also find his claim that they were in German foxholes to be dubious, since in December 1944 there would not have been German foxholes in the area where they were nor to their rear. It makes me wonder if he was confusing a January 1945 event with these events.]

  • IDPF of Pvt. Arthur H. Bertrand
  • Report of Burial (PDF p 21)
    Recovered from vicinity of St. Vith, Belgium, and buried 10 February 1945 at Henri-Chapelle, Belgium, US Military Cemetery NNN-10-188 - Cause of Death: Direct Hit to Upper Part of Body
  • Disinterment Directive - Condition of Remains (PDF p 2)
    Disinterred 23 October 1947: Fractured Left Pelvis, Right Pelvis, Left Fibula, Left Tibia, Multiple Fractures. Head Crushed.
  • IDPF of Pfc. Clifford Christensen
  • Report of Burial (PDF p 24)
    "Body evacuated from vic. Cromback, Belgium, coordinates 810860, Sheet 93, 1/50,000" and buried 11 April 1945 at Foy, Belgium, US Military Cemetery J-1-8 - Cause of Death: Stomach Wounds
  • Disinterment Directive - Condition of Remains (PDF p 4)
    Disinterred 17 Septmeber 1948: Fractured Skull, R/Femur. Missing R/Radius, Ulna, Humerus. Advanced Decompostion.
  • IDPF of Sgt. Norman L. Fykerude
  • Report of Burial (PDF p 68)
    Recovered and buried 10 February 1945 at Henri-Chapelle, Belgium, US Military Cemetery NNN-10-192 (next to Thomas Shutt in 191) - Cause of Death: "M W Body" (Multiple Wounds to the Body?)
  • Disinterment Directive - Condition of Remains (PDF p 6)
    Disinterred 23 October 1947: Disarticulated. Crushed Skull.

  • Maps

    The Company was in three separate locations. Thus the maps cover all of these areas, sometimes together and sometimes separately.

    1. Rogery - The Company HQ apparently remained at Rogery the entire period 17-21 December, per the Morning Report locations.
    2. Northern Defense at Rodt (Sart-lez-St Vith) - 1st Platoon was in position at and just north of Rodt, with AT/B/48 AIB
    3. Southern Defense at Cherain - 2nd and 3rd Platoons were at or near Cherain, becoming part of Task Force Jones

    Since the maps are usually larger than 1MB, they are not shown as images. So click on the link to see the image.

    Overall Area

    Northern Defense (1/A/33 at and just north of Rodt, with AT/B/48)


    At this time, I am forced to curtail significant work on this page, since the 2015 7AD Association Reunion is next week. So I am giving here the tentative conclusions that I now have, which are based on the information on this page and the B/48 page and also on several IDPFs that I have quickly looked at but not yet worked in detail nor added to this page.

    Seven men of A/33 died on or as a result of the events of 22 December. Three of those are specifically mentioned, without names, in the AT/B/48 combat interview, which includes 1/A/33. Orrico is known to have been captured and then died of his wounds on 5 Jan 1945. So three of the remaining six (Seitz, Fykerude, Christensen, Shutt, Bertrand, and Bryan) were the three mentioned as killed at the Command Post at Rodt, but I am not yet sure which ones.

    The remains of Fykerude and Christiansen were shown as being recovered from Crombach on their burial reports. And Shutt was buried next to Fykerude after recovery, so that he too was probably recovered from "Crombach". However those burial report locations were often wrong. For example, Crombach may have been the collecting point for remains, so that the remains of men killed elsewhere could have been brought there and then abandoned when the Germans overran Crombach on 23 Dec. Or it might have been that the Graves Registration team who did the recovery was using Crombach as their base and the remains were found nearby but not actually at Crombach.

    Another aspect of the events in the records leads me to wonder if 2nd and 3rd Platoons of A/33 also wound up at Crombach. These two platoons were with Task Force Jones, which included C/814 TD Bn. But the 22 December accounts above show that all three 814 TD Bn companies were at Crombach that day. So it is very possible that all three platoons of A/33 were in Crombach that day. So I am very uncertain as to which platoons the 7 A/33 dead belonged.

    Having said all of this, my tentative conclusion is that Bryan and Fykerude probably were in 1/A/33. Since Bryan and B/48's Baziow both were last seen 22 Dec and have never been recovered and identified, it seems very likely that they were killed in the Rodt area and their cases should be worked together. But I cannot yet do more than give an educated guess that it would have been near their forward positions (at 811-896, near the present-day Beer Museum). It certainly is possible that they were captured and either murdered or died of wounds, although there are no German records of them as POWs. Monahan's two accounts in Bryan's file -- the early one known only in reference and the later one filled with dubious memories -- conflict with each other: the earlier one not including any of the later story of five men fleeing. The earlier account seems more in line with the 1946 document that says Bryan was last seen preparing to ride a tank destroyer out, and the location (5 miles south of St Vith) is more consistent with Crombach than Rodt -- if his assessment of their position in relation (south) to St Vith was accurate.

    More research is needed into the IDPFs of the others, both from A/33 and B/48, who died that day. I do not have all of those IDPFs, but I do have some that I have not yet processed. Doing that will be my next step. But that may not happen until after the Reunion.

    Return to top of page

    Click here for information about contacting me.
    Copyright © 2015 by Wesley Johnston
    All rights reserved

    7th Armored Division Association Home Page

    Active overview of all pages at the 7th Armored Division web site