7th Armored Division 22 December 1944 Dead
Later Recovered from Vicinity of Crombach, Belgium

7th Armored Division
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Last updated: October 3, 2016 - What's New?
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The 7th Armored Division and attached units in the St. Vith salient -- the "fortified goose egg" -- held for several days in December 1944. But because they were almost completely surrounded, there were no reinforcements. German forces 5 or 10 times greater attacked over and over, reducing the number of defenders with every attack. With such attrition of men and supplies and no hope of more and in fact the great likelihood of the one narrow exit route being closed by the enemy, the 7th Armored Division defense began to fail on 21 December 1944 when German forces first penetrated southeast of St. Vith and took the town later that night. This forced the easternmost defenders to fall back to the vicinity of Neundorf and Crombach on the night of 21-22 December. On 22 December, German forces north of Rodt (French: Sart-lez-St Vith) swept west and then southeast toward the defenders north of Rodt, pushing them back to Hinderhausen, just north of Crombach, so that the defenders to the north at Poteau could no longer withdraw to the south but only to the west.

Thus, many 7AD and attached units were compressed into the area of Neundorf, Crombach and Hinderhausen on 22 December 1944. And the situtation on that day was in great flux. All of the defenders of the salient successfully withdrew under fire west across the Salm River the following day, 23 December. Thanks to careful planning and frozen ground, they suffered relatively few casualties during the withdrawal, despite the much larger German forces attacking on their heels from multiple directions.

In January 1945, 7th Armored Division retook St. Vith. And Graves Registration units followed, recovering the remains of those who had been killed during the December 1944 defense but whose remains had to be abandoned in the face of the very strong enemy attack. In some cases, the Germans had collected remains and buried them - either in foxholes or rough graves.

The Graves Registration unit that recovered remains from the vicinity of Crombach apparently used the town as a temporary base for the operation. In some cases, they carefully noted the coordinates where remains were recovered; in others they did not. And in almost all of the cases, the Report of Burial at the temporary U. S. Military Cemetery at Henri-Chapelle, Belgium, simply gave their place of death as Crombach, even when specific coordinates placed the recovery half a mile or more away from town.

The result is that it is very difficult to tell just what happened on 22 December 1944 and where and how those who were killed suffered their fate. This makes it very difficult to determine what may have happened to those soldiers killed that day whose remains have never been recovered and identified.

This web page brings together the records of all of those thus far known as recovered from the vicinity of Crombach and those still unaccounted who died in the area at that time. The hope is that by compiling all of these records in one place, a better understanding can lead to hope for finding the remains of those still unaccounted, as well as providing the families of those men killed with some idea of what happened in their soldier's final hours.

  • Context Maps
  • Those Recovered

  • Context Maps
    Click on any map to see it full size.

    While there will be maps for specific soldiers or groups, this section brings together the various maps of the overall area and the routes of withdrawal for troops on the eastern perimeter and the northern perimeter of the St. Vith Salient.

    Overall Context

    The entire St. Vith Salient was in the shape of a goose egg - an oval with a long horizontal axis - as German forces moved far to the west both north and south of the perimeter. While the goose egg extended from the defensive line along the Prümerberg Ridge east of St. Vith on the east more than 10 miles to Vielsalm on the west, the reality was that the defensive perimeter -- due to German penetration far to the west on the southern perimeter -- actually extended more than 30 miles west of St. Vith to what would normally have been the rear, where supply and support troops of 7th Armored Division Trains battled German troops at Samreacute;e. In fact, St. Vith and Samreacute;e were so far apart that even though St. Vith was almost at the eastern boundary of the 1:50,000 Vielsalm grid map, Samreacute;e was on the next map to the west, the Durbuy map.

    So here are these overall context maps:

    • (1 & 2) two grid maps (sheets 92 & 93) actually used during the battle that show the complete length of the defense, although only the eastern one (Vielsalm, Sheet 93) will be relevant to the vicinity of Crombach. Both maps are sheets of GSGS 4040 at a scale of 1:50,000.
    • After them is (3) the map from page 468 of Gen. Omar Bradley's "A Soldier's Story", showing the finger of the St. Vith salient sticking down the throat of the German attack, clearly illustrating the elongated 7AD defensive perimeter with St. Vith on the fingernail. (It actually grew longer on the south on 21-23 Dec as German forces pushed much further west there.)
    • The map (4) on the right is a marked version of part of sheet 93, highlighting the main relevant towns and directions of the initial German attacks in the east and north. Note that Rodt is shown on the map with its French name: Sart-lez-St Vith.
    Sheet 92: Durbuy
    Sheet 93: Vielsalm
    Overall Context-Marked
    Salient 20 Dec
    German Attacks 21-22 Dec
    German Attacks 21-22 Dec

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    Those Recovered

    This list is very much incomplete. At this point (see St Vith Known Dead), I have identified 67 soldiers of 7th Armored Division who died 22 December 1944. Some of them have never been recovered and identified. So this list will grow slowly as I deal with specific soldiers. But it is a long way from being complete right now. The list is by battalion/squadron and alphabetically within that.

    Note that any referenced PDFs are those of Individual Deceased Personnel Files (IDPFs) of those killed. The PDF files for these men are in the image files for their battalion/squadron in the 7th Armored Division Document Repository's images files.

    Overall Context
    • 434th Armored Field Artillery Battalion
      • Shively, Ray W. (434) - Rank: 2nd Lt. - Last Day on Duty: 1944-Dec-22 - Last Duty Location: observing "for tank destroyers and dismounted elements then south of the railroad at NEUNDORF", Belgium - Remains recovered from vicinity of Crombach, Belgium 814868 (Charles Brown PDF p 39) which is just north of the railroad cut due north of Crombach crossroads but also reported (Brown PDF p 47) as 820871 which is "about .6 miles northwest of Neundorf, Belgium in a wooded area" (See web page on Crombach recoveries.) - Died Actual: 1944-Dec-22 - Died Official: 1944-Dec-22

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