The German Ardennes Offensive began December 16, 1944, along an 80-mile front. Now known as the Battle of the Bulge, it remains the largest battle ever fought by the United States Army. The Germans met with initial success in most parts of their central thrust, spearheaded by Battle Group Peiper. Their plan was for the central thrust (by Sixth SS and Fifth Panzer Armies) to have parallel thrusts to the north (Fifteenth Army) and south (Seventh Army), which would prevent American reinforcements from reaching the flanks of the main thrust toward Antwerp. However, the troops on the northern shoulder held most of their ground, thanks to the efforts of the 99th and 2nd Infantry Divisions. This allowed the U. S. 7th Armored Division to move, on the morning of December 17, from north of Aachen, Germany to the center of the front, at St. Vith, Belgium.
St. Vith was an extremely important town. The dense Ardennes forest had few roads that could carry heavy traffic, and what roads there were were canalized by the trees. But St. Vith was the easternmost major crossroads in the path of the central German armies. And St. Vith was the only place along the entire front where a railroad line crossed from Germany into the battle area. It was critically important to the German flow of supplies that they take St. Vith very early in the battle, which was their plan. However, the rapid movement of the 7th Armored Division into St. Vith upset their plans. The 7th Armored Division and attached troops (from the 106th and 28th Infantry Divisions and Combat Command "B" of the 9th Armored Division, as well as non-divisional units) created a defense that held up long against German assaults, even as other German units of the two central German armies drove far beyond St. Vith, to the north and south of the defensive perimeter.
On December 18, the day after 7th Armored Division moved into the Vielsalm-St. Vith area, 7th Armored Division Trains (the supply and maintenance and medical units of the Division) were ordered to move well to the west, where they set up in Marche and the area from there to Rochefort, with a battery of 203rd Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion at Marche (B/203) and one at Rochefort (D/203) to protect the Trains from aerial attack.
The road from the Trains to the main force of the Division went east from Marche to Vielsalm. The crossroads of north-south roads that intersected the line of supply thus became critical points to be defended. From west to east, the critical points were at La Roche (with the Ourthe River bridges), Samrée, and Baraque de Fraiture. 7th Armored Division forces were deployed to defend each of these crossroads.
The importance of Baraque de Fraiture had also been recognized by Maj. Arthur Parker of the 106th Infantry Division's withdrawing 598th Field Artillery Battalion, and he set up the initial defense there. Troop D of 7AD's 87th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron and Battery D of 7AD's 203rd Anti-Aircraft Artillery both were in the defense of the crossroads at Baraque de Fraiture. (Click here for the web pages on the 7th Armored Division's role in the defense of the crossroads at Baraque de Fraiture, which was called "Parker's Crossroads" by the GIs.)
The two crossroads to the west, La Roche and Samrée, were defended by units of 7th Armored Division Trains. These were men whose usual job was supply, maintenance, cooking, and other support tasks. But the fact that the Germans had penetrated far to the west on the right (southern) flank of 7th Armored Division's zone meant that 7AD had a front line that stretched from St. Vith [more than 20 miles to the east of Samrée] to La Roche [5 miles west of Samré'e] and units all the way to Rochefort [25 miles west of Samrée]. they were now front line troops.
On December 19, German troops reached the area of La Roche and found that their path was blocked by the destroyed bridge over the Ourthe River and American troops.
On December 20, two German divisions (20,000 men or more) attacked, with the main force directed at the 7AD Trains forces in Samrée, at which an entire regiment of German tanks was the directed. The defenders held out until mid-afternoon, when they were finally overwhelmed by the vastly superior German force.
Reinforcements were sent to all three crossroads on December 20. But they came too late for the defenders of Samée. Three task forces of 3rd Armored Division were sent south to La Roche, Samrée, and Baraque de Fraiture. The task force headed for Samrée ran into strong German forces at Dochamps, north of Samrée and split into three forces, one of which circeld to the west and then south to Samrée but by the time they had reached the town, in fact probably before they even reached Dochamps, the Germans had overrun Samrée and were solidly in control, so that no attempt to re-take the crossroads succeeded. Two of those attempts were by 7th Armored Division troops. D/87 was sent west from Salmchâteau through Baraque de Fraiture, but they could come no closer to Samrée than one mile to the east. A small force with 2 tanks and a tank destroyer was sent east from La Roche, but the commander was killed and the force was not heard from again.
So who were those men who held Samrée on December 20, 1944 until they were overwhelmed by vastly superior forces? And what were their experiences in the defense of Samrée?
(all from the 7th Armored Division.)
This web page is about these men of the 7th Armored Division and their role in the battle. There has been an absence until now of detailed material about this crucial battle, and this web page is intended to provide that detail, to bring to light the men and events of this little-known but critical battle, which became the first crack in the 50 mile-long zone of 7th Armored Division's salient -- a salient that on a map resembled a thumb stuck down the throat of the German advance.
Hugh M. Cole's "The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge"
This is a volume of the official U. S. Army in World War II series. The Center for Military History has put the complete text and the in-text maps on the internet. (Click here for the Table of Contents.) The map at the top of this page is from page 355 of this book.
Here is a complete list of all index references to and maps including Samrée, as live links to the text. NOTE: These links are mostly to the first page of a section, so that you will have to scroll down to the correct page or else use FIND to search for "samr".
"The action at Samrée had delayed Krueger's corps [German LVIII Panzer Corps considerably. But the gasoline stores captured there had refueled all the vehicles of the 116th Panzer Division; despite assurances by American prisoners that sugar had been mixed with the gasoline the enemy drivers reported that it suited the German motors very well."
Division Trains and Division Quartermaster
3967th Quartermaster Truck Company (Negro) - half of the company
440th Armored Field Artillery Battalion's Service Battery - part of the battery
203rd Anti-Aircraft Artillery (Automatic Weapons) Battalion - two sections of Battery D
Note that D/203 was also engaged (with B/203 and elements of 7th Armored Division Trains) in the December 20 action at Samrée (to the west of Baraque de Fraiture), for which there are B/203 combat interviews (which mention D/203). The defense of Samrée should not be overlooked. While the location at Samrée was not as strategically significant as the Baraque de Fraiture crossroads, the defense of the town did have a bearing on the defenders of Baraque de Fraiture.
Note also that D/203 was involved in the December 18 action at Stavelot, Belgium against German Kampfgruppe Peiper, for which there is a separate combat interview.
87th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, Mechanized - light tank and half-track
The identity of the light tank and half-track of 87 Rcn have not yet been established.
Note that D/203 was acting separately from the rest of the 87th Cavalry Reconnaissance Battalion, whose units were distributed in different areas of the fortified goose egg, under different commands.
17th Tank Battalion Headquarters Company - tank
Combat Command B Headquarters Company - light tank
7th Armored Division in the defense of Baraque de Fraiture, Belgium ("Parker's Crossroads")
The Heroic Defense of the Aisne Valley by Gerard Roggen of CRIBA - 3rd Armored Division's task force defends Dochamps (north of Samrée) after the fall of Samrée