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Now & Then.. Ardennes Iconic Image Journey..

Article about: Many thanks for your time and effort Luckystrike , this is an awesome thread many injoyable times , cheers Raymond

  1. #51

    Default Re: Now & Then.. Ardennes Iconic Image Journey..

    The Stone Bridge



    Peipers Kampfgruppe commenced it's advance out of Ligneuville at 5.00pm on 17/12/44 heading West. He was heading for Stavelot and the stone bridge one of few capable of taking the weight of his Tiger IIs.
    Just before reaching Stavelot a US roadblock had been set up and AT mines strung across the road just behind a bend. They also had one Bazooka and an MG.
    Two and a half hours later Peipers spear head started rolling down the hill toward Stavelot and it's bridge. Suddenly a 'Halt' rang out in the cold dark night, a GI was challenging the Panzers (brave man). Almost immediately this was answered with small arms fire which raked the US positions. The German infantry riding the Panzers had replied. In response the GIs fired one shot from their bazooka. Surprisingly Peipers column then pulled back up the hill leaving just one Panzer to cover them. I guess in the darkness Peiper assumed he was facing a stronger force. He remained there all night, until first light.
    The GI's didn't wait around, they left the mines across the road and pulled back into Stavelot. Reaching the bridge they were surprised to discovered an unknown US unit of 40 to 50 made up of Engineers and Infantry. The bridge was ready, packed with explosives.
    But when the attempted to blow it was made the demolition failed, the explosives had been fixed! Later it was discovered that the team the retreating GI's found is now believed to be part of Skorzeny's disguised Brigade. During the night some US tank destroyers and Armoured Infantry arrived in Stavelot and set up some sort of defence just behind the bridge.
    Early next morning following a small barrage, Peiper moved out down the hill at first light, reaching the bridge the first tank drove onto and across and was soon followed by more. They spread out through the town. Major Solis the Commander of the US tank destroyers had decided to withdraw. On moving up the hill on the other side of the town he gave the order to set fire to the huge petrol dump. But later this order was counter mandered and the burning was stopped. Lieutenant Col Frankland Commander of
    117th Inf Reg (30th Inf Div) had come to Stavelot to reinforce the defence. Peipers column was away though it didn't stop and kept going West toward Trois Points.
    The next day Kampfgruppe Knittel still unable to break through at Poteau headed North to support Peiper and crossed the bridge in Stavelot around 7.00pm. But by then it was getting dangerous but he was lucky and made it.
    The battle was raging in the centre of Stavelot with the Tank Destroyers of the US 843rd Batt and the 117th US Infantry Regiment battling toward the Bridge. By 8.00pm German vehicles in the centre were being picked off and the US 118th Field Artillery Reg was pounding the Bridge. It was at this time that it's believed our Tiger II. number 222 (we've followed all the way) was knocked out just next to the bridge.
    Savelot was now back in US hands and the route over the bridge was blocked. Peipers Kampfgruppe was now in imminent danger of being cut off.

    My first picture was taken from an upstairs window in the Abbey just after the battle. You can see our Tiger II. marked (x) near the bridge where it was knocked out. I wasn't able to get into the Abbey myself to take a comparison so took a picture looking the other way at the Abbey. I've marked the window the picture was taken from (A) and the position of the knocked out Tiger II. (x). The next picture is the best I could do showing the rebuilt bridge and the Tigers position (x).
    The next three show close ups of the Tiger and todays comparisons.
    The building behind the Tiger in the last picture, has the Street name mounted on it and it's named after the battle 18th December 1944. Across the street is a memorial to the civilians killed in the fighting, this was blamed on Peipers Kampfgruppe.
    Near the memorial stands this US Halftrack in tribute to the US forces. My final pictures shows a close up of the bridge and two further memorials.
    LUCKYSTRIKE
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  2. #52

    Default Re: Now & Then.. Ardennes Iconic Image Journey..

    Next lot!
    LUCKYSTRIKE
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  3. #53

    Default Re: Now & Then.. Ardennes Iconic Image Journey..

    Luckystrike

    Incredible picture of that house today with the lovely garden and 65 years ago had a bloomin' great King Tiger in it !!!

    keep em coming

    Nick
    "In all my years as a soldier, I have never seen men fight so hard." - SS Obergruppenfuhrer Wilhelm Bittrich - Arnhem

  4. #54

    Default Re: Now & Then.. Ardennes Iconic Image Journey..

    La Gleize - A study of the Tiger II.

    Whenever I'm in the area I'm alway's drawn to La Gleize !..
    Its only a small place but its like a drug that Tiger II !!!!
    Although I didn't take any of the Then and Now pictures there, I did take a series of close up studies of that Tiger for you to enjoy. One of Peipers Kampfgruppe it was left behind when the survivors withdrew.
    Please note that after this post I'll have one more to add which I think has some great comparison pictures.
    LUCKYSTRIKE
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  5. #55

    Default Re: Now & Then.. Ardennes Iconic Image Journey..

    A few more.
    LUCKYSTRIKE
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  6. #56

    Default Re: Now & Then.. Ardennes Iconic Image Journey..

    Back to the famous Poteau-Recht sequence, the 'Nuts!' book I mentioned is available to view on Google Books and is well worth buying for its rare pictures and extensive research (just like this thread in fact).

    I wonder if those captured cigarettes in the pictures are Lucky Strike?

  7. #57

    Default Re: Now & Then.. Ardennes Iconic Image Journey..

    Thanks Wolfspear for the link, I think I'll treat myself it looks a very good book..
    I've seen film footage of German troops with their captured booty smoking Lucky Strike before (the brand was popular with the US troops) but sadly can't be sure this time.
    LUCKYSTRIKE

  8. #58
    Jonesy
    ?

    Default Re: Now & Then.. Ardennes Iconic Image Journey..

    Quote by Wolfspear View Post
    Thanks Luckystrike

    I will one day take you up on that offer!

    Your thread has "unsettled" me! The Ardennes is definately on the radar!

    Nick
    Note to self - "start saving, possible jolly to Normandy on the cards"

    Outstanding pics LUCKYSTRIKE! Forgive my ignorance but is the TIGER II the same tank as in the period photos?

    Mark

  9. #59

    Default Re: Now & Then.. Ardennes Iconic Image Journey..

    The end of the road!

    La Gleize

    After leaving Stavelot, Knittel's Kampfgruppe finally caught up with and joined Peipers in the small village of La Gleize in the early hours of 19th Dec 1944. Soon after this meeting a much needed supply column also managed to reach them via a different route. These supplies were enough to sustain Peipers advance and when the trucks left they also carried away some of the wounded.

    Stoumont

    At 9.00am Peiper began the attack toward Stoumont 7Km NW, they almost reached the village hidden by the mist but just before were spotted and the American AT guns and artillery opened up. The first Panzer into the Village a Panther kept advancing but was hit and knocked out by the church.
    Peiper had sent the infantry off road West to then attack the village from the South whilst the Panzers followed the road. The US forces 119th Infantry Reg (30th Inf Div) put up a spirited defence taking 250 casualties with 100 taken prisoner but after 2hours the village was in German hands.
    Peiper didn't stop his Panzers who continued down the road toward the Railway Station on the other side of Stoumont. But already a strong US roadblock had been erected across the road, and they were awaiting the Panzers.
    Suddenly out of the fog a Panther appeared almost upon them it was 3.30pm and the battle was resumed this time with ample US firepower (1st Batt of 119th Reg, 2 x AAA Batteries 110th and 143rd together with 740th Tank Batt) reactions quicker, the first and then the second Panther were knocked out and then a third taking a ricochet shell through the hull floor.

    This was as far as it got, Peiper's Kampfgruppe made the deepest pentration into the Allied lines of the German Ardennes offensive toward the West.

    Peiper's kampfgruppe, Knittels and other supporting units were ordered onto the defensive. German patrols were sent out, one learning the position of a US Fuel dump just north from pro german locals went to investigate. But soon ran into US troops guarding it and withdrew. The dump was just North of La Gleize and held as much as 2 million gallons. It was even marked on Peipers maps, so to this day no knows why he did not concentrate at the time on its capture. No further action was taken following the patrols skirmish.
    Due to the geography of the area hilly with few roads and steep banks it was difficult to attack and US attempts on 20th were soon stopped a couple of knocked out Shermans blocking the road.
    Peipers HQ was in the Gatekeepers Lodge for the Froide-Cour Chateau. Assessing the situation and realising he would not be able to hold the whole area in the vain hope that reinforcements could get through, he called a meeting of his Senior Commanders and ordered a withdrawl to La Gleize.
    They left in the late afternoon with little interference from the US forces by now Peipers gruppe was effectively surrounded.
    On the 22rd Dec continuous heavy US artillery and mortar fire had been falling all over the German positions. Ferocius US attacks on the perimeter and German counter attacks to force them back were not always successful US forces were breeching the defences.
    During the night an attempted air resupply failed with most falling to the Americans. In the distance the sound of battle could be heard with the distinctive 'Nebelwefer' and talk was 12SS Hitler Jugend and 9th SS Hohenstaufen Division were fighting toward them. This boosted the moral but nothing came except the constant US artillery shells. By breakfast on 23rd they only had two Panzers with enough fuel for manoevrer and they were surrounded by 18 Shermans!!!!!
    This position was now untenable, a message sent by Peiper stated 'Position considerably worsened', 'only infantry ammunition available', 'this is last chance to break out!'. Corps realising there was now no way of reaching Peipers Kampfgruppe gave permission for the break out. The order arrived at 5.00pm.
    At about 2.00am Peiper lead what was left of his Kampfgruppe around 1000 out on foot.

    The first pictures are still frames taken from film actually made at the time of the attack to capture Stoumont.
    The first picture shows the first two Panthers approaching the Village. Suddenly there's a dull metalic clang?, the first Panther's been hit the shell fired from a US 90mm AT gun, it's knocked out with only one survivor. The second Panther continues the advance cautiously forward. Very little has changed in this village.
    Meanwhile in the field to the left of the Panthers, Fallsschirmjager race across under fire to its NE corner for a clear view down the main street, whilst a Panzer IV uses the house as cover as it also creeps toward the main street.
    Reaching the corner, with in seconds Fallschirmjager have set up their machine gun and are firing down the road keeping the heads of the US troops down. Notice the smoke from the burning Panther. Sadly the local Police station now occupies the spot (Progress hey) but good comparisons are still possible.
    Next SS Sturmbannfuhrer Werner Potschke running across the field toward the MG team notices a panzerfaust and returns to it. Which he then fires down the street probably to disorientate the defenders.
    They push on and move down the old main street a little cover provided by smoke, notice the Sdkfz 251 halftrack covered in foliage camo to the right.
    Looking back up the street we see a Panther pushing forward, this Panther was later knocked out at the road block set up by the retreating US troops just outside the Village. To the left is a Wirbelwind quadruppel 2cm mobile AA gun.
    Turning back down the main street the advance continues, Grenadiers ahead need support and the Panthers is waved forward. It drives past.
    Soon the first prisoners are captured and moved back away from the fighting, because the route to the rear was precarious it wasn't possible to send them East and they were all soon released when Peipers Kampfgruppe withdrew from La Gleize.
    Too the victors the spoils.... Waffen SS enjoy wine and cigarettes. More prisoners come in these are at the back of the house next to the field shown in the opening pictures, it wasn't possible to get to the back for a comparison picture.
    On the other side of the Village stood this Sanatorium during the German occupation heavy fighting took place all around and inside the building much of it hand to hand. The building changing hands several times, The Germans named it Festung Sankt-Edouard. The picture was taken by a US photographer when the village was recaptured. The Sherman is one of five lost attempting to gain control. The road runs along the bank just behind the knocked out Sherman.. Due to the tree growth it was not possible to take an exact comparison so I moved a little to the left side to take my pic. I also noticed that the tree stump is the tree behind the Sherman turret (A), I took my picture from the Road with the Sanatorium behind me. It is now used as a school.
    Just up the road back into the Village, this PAK40 AT Gun was knocked out, it had been using the stone shed for cover and is pointing down the road in the direction the US forces would have to attack. Behind it stands another abandoned Panther, maybe not knocked out just lacking fuel.
    The next picture shows the 'Wirbelwind' mentioned earlier, I walked the whole village but sadly could not finding the sloping roof to identify this position.
    Finally earlier on in this thread I showed several pictures of US prisoners being led to the rear, well to balance this is a picture of German prisonners walking into a US POW camp maybe they were the lucky ones. Note this picture was not taken near Stoumont

    The price for so many of the Ardennes Offensive on both sides....

    and with this so ends my journey and this thread.....

    (I found a few items whilst away which I'll post under the Relics threads shortly, you might be able to help identify a couple)
    Thank You
    LUCKYSTRIKE
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  10. #60

    Default Re: Now & Then.. Ardennes Iconic Image Journey..

    More
    LUCKYSTRIKE
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