The 99th Drives on the Fatherland

After the fury of the first week of the breakthrough, men of the 99th hugged their snow-filled foxholes in the open land before Elsenborn, repulsing weakening German thrusts until the division switched to the offensive in late January. Col. Robert B. Warren, Windom, Minn., joined the division as chief of staff.
Limited patrolling, then more and more aggressive forays into the enemy-held woods beyond Elsenborn revealed a thinning Nazi line and signs of withdrawal. The Bulge was becoming a complete bust. Constantly hammered by artillery and bombings, the Bulge was flattened out until it ran parallel to the line so valiantly held by the 99th in front of Elsenborn.
Reinforced by new men from training centers in the States, the 99th received the order to advance at 0300, Jan. 30. In a concerted attack with divisions on either flank, Checkerboarders moved out through hip-deep snow for the Monschau Forest. Their mission: to recover the ground they had so bitterly contested the month previous.
So fast were Germans pulling out of some sectors that a Co. M, 394th, machine gun squad under Sgt. Richard Daugherty, Curwensville, Pa., advanced 8000 yards through waist-deep snow and took its objective without ever spotting the enemy. Daugherty's squad carried a gun, tripod and tool kit weighing a total of 160 pounds but didn't fire a shot.
It wasn't all that easy. The 393rd, moving along a draw towards Krinkelt and then swinging north into the woods, was caught and pinned down by rear guard action of retreating Germans. Only through sheer guts, advancing through murderous small arms fire, did the regiment reach the edge of the woods and clean out the Nazis.
In early February, 1945, the division wheeled across the country through the bitterly-remembered towns of Wirtzfeld, Rocherath, Bullingen, Krinkelt. CPs were set up again. Then, Checkerboarders ripped anew into the Siegfried Line, past Losheim and Hollerath and through the first belt of pillboxes to points in advance of their past drives. Battle Babies probed inner defenses when, after three months of continuous action, the 99th was relieved by the 69th Inf. Div., Feb. 13, 1945.
By the last week in February, all three regiments had arrived at Aubel, which the division previously used as its assembly point before going into combat in November. It was a country of long, soft ridges, sloping pastures and wide valleys. The sun was shining and the grass in the apple orchards already green when the soldiers moved in to rest.
During the 10 days the 99th stayed in the area, it engaged in mild doses of training, principally for the benefit of the reinforcements, and in rehabilitation of equipment. Showers, haircuts, movies and food—pies baked by Belgian farm wives, and eggs "liberated" from farmhouse coops—featured the stay. Meanwhile, the 799th Ord. Bn. had the opportunity to give division vehicles and weapons their first thorough checkup. The pass percentage was increased and men went to the U.K., Paris, Brussels, and the VII Corps "Jayhawk" Rest Camp at Verviers.
"Battle Babies" (so dubbed by U.P. War Correspondent John McDermott) knew that big things were ahead and when the order came, Feb. 27, to move out, they were rested, ready.