The Story of the 99th Infantry Division

LIEGE by Christmas, Brussels by New Year's" was Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt's promise to his soldiers. But his operation backfired. Battle Babies—the men of the 99th Infantry Division—know why.
For two days, Dec. 16 and 17, 1944, doughs of the 99th stood alone at a hot corner of the Battle of the Bulge—in front of Elsenborn, at Krinkelt, Wirtzfeld, Bullingen—while the Wehrmacht's best troops lowered the boom against their thinly-held line.
Spread over a 20-mile front and without reserves, the green troops under Maj. Gen. Walter E. Lauer battled six divisions—the 12th, 246th, 277th and 326th Volksgrenadier, the 3rd Panzer and the 12th SS Panzer Divs., plus elements of paratroop outfits. This display of power called for a show of guts to face it, much less to beat it off.
There was no doubt von Rundstedt was springing the strategy which he believed would decide the outcome of the war. The capture of a Nazi document by the 394th Inf. Regt. on Dec. 16 was complete evidence. The German commander's order read:
Soldiers of the West Front: Your great hour has struck. Strong attacking armies are advancing today against the Anglo-Americans. I don't need to say more to you. You all feel it. Everything is at stake. You bear in yourselves a holy duty to give everything and to achieve the superhuman for our fatherland and our Feuhrer!
To achieve the superhuman is difficult in any man's league. Von Rundstedt didn't get the job done. Approximately 4000 "Supermen" were killed by the 99th alone. History will record von Rundstedt's action as one of the most spectacular military gambles ever made and lost. Checkerboarders of the 99th always will remember the Bulge as the battle in which they proved their mettle as a fighting outfit.
Shortly before midnight, Dec 20, the 393rd Inf. Regt. reported "all quiet". From then on, the entire front north of Butgenbach, Belgium, simmered down as the blows of German armor glanced to the southwest.
The 99th had fought hard and it had thrown the Nazi's do-or-die offensive hopelessly off schedule. Gen. Lauer's star Checkerboarders had been hit by superior numbers of men and equipment, but they had successfully defended a prime enemy objective—the Eupen-Malmedy-Butgenbach-Elsenborn road net—the key route to Liege and the great Allied port of Antwerp. They had delayed what surely was the German supreme push.
When the crisis was over, Gen. Lauer received verbal commendations from Field Marshal Sir Bernard L. Montgomery, 21st Army Group Commander, and Gen. Courtney Hodges, First Army Commander, on the vigorous and effective stand contributed by the 99th. From Maj. Gen. Leonard T. Gerow, then V Corps Commander, came the following commendation:
I wish to express to you and the members of your command my appreciation and commendation for the fine job you did in preventing the enemy from carrying out his plans to break through the V Corps sector and push on to the Meuse River. Not only did your command assist in effectively frustrating that particular part of the plan, but it also inflicted such heavy losses on the enemy that he was unable to carry out other contemplated missions in other sectors of the Allied front.
Gen. von Manteuffel, commander of the 5th Panzer Army, stated in the address to his troops prior to the attack that "our ground mission must be continuous; otherwise we will not achieve our goal". Due in part to the 99th Infantry Division, this ground mission has not been continuous, and he will not achieve his goal...