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The Hoesdorf Memorial
On the occasion of the 60th Anniversary of the Ardennes Offensive, or 'Battle of the Bulge' as it is more commonly known, the virtually unknown Southern Flank on the Luxembourg/German border was highlighted through ceremonies and events.

GR916 (WW2 LHA) working in conjunction with the National Museum of Military History in Diekirch, AMBA and the Luxembourg Army, took part in three major events during the anniversary week in December 2004.

The Southern Flank has been overlooked by many historians, books and films possibly because it could be considered a 'side show' and because no famous or elite units fought there initially. There were many hard fought battles before (September 1944 when the West Wall was pierced for the first time) during (December 1944-January 1945) and after (February 1945) the offensive in the area.

Hoesdorf Memorial

Until the morning of Saturday 16th December 1944 , the River Our valley had been considered a rest area for weary American units such as the 28th 'Keystone' or 'Bloody Bucket' Infantry Division which had been decimated in the Hurtgen Forest campaign. The 109th Infantry Regiment had taken over the positions previously held by the 5th Armored Divsion along the high ground facing directly towards Germany and the West Wall on the opposite side of the Our. On the Hoesdorf plateau, companies L, I and M of the 109th were dug in with machine guns and mortars covering the open ground on the right towards Reisdorf and down the sloping ground towards Hoesdorf village. At 5.30am, a gigantic artillery and Nebelwerfer barrage ripped into the plateau and searchlights switched on from the German side bouncing off the clouds to provide artificial daylight. At Ammeldingen directly opposite the plateau, the assault companies of GR916, 352 Volksgrenadier Division, streamed across the swollen and fast flowing R. Our using makeshift footbridges that had been built using farm carts with house doors laid across them and rubber dinghies. The Grenadiere swiftly seized Hoesdorf village which was undefended and had been evacuated in September.

The Grenadiere then had to climb up the very steep path towards the American frontline which they achieved almost unharmed. They did, however, come under intense flanking machine gun and mortar fire when they reached the crest at the opening of the barren plateau. Having no cover at all, the inexperienced young Grenadiere tried to cross the clearing in the direction of the nearby woods overlooking Reisdorf. They were mowed down row after row by the fire primarily from L Company commanded by Captain Embert Fossum. The crew of a water cooled .30 Browning machine gun dug in right at the edge of the woods had a 'turkey shoot' as the Grenadiere ran straight across the open field fully exposed. After a day of hard fighting and three unsuccessful assaults plus almost 400 casualties suffered attempting to take the top of the plateau, the attack from this angle was abandoned.

Heavy fighting and hand-to-hand combat continued on this high ground until the afternoon of 18th December when the exhausted Americans, outnumbered by the enemy, were ordered to withdraw. The advance of 352VGD continued and Diekirch was captured on December 20th.

Members of our group have visited the Hoesdorf Plateau several times and stood in the foxholes of L Company, gazed across at the barren open field in front of that .30 Browning machine gun and wondered how anyone could have survived the assaults. Shell craters from the opening barrage can be made out along the crest and American foxholes are everywhere. Men fought and died here yet there were no memorials.

Working in conjunction with the National Museum of Military History, we commissioned a memorial plaque to be made here in England and a large natural stone to mount it on was donated and set in place by Reisdorf City Council. The stone was set in front of the .30 Browning machine gun position right at the edge of the woods.

The plaque is in the shape of the 28th ID's shoulder patch, the Keystone - the symbol of the state of Pennsylvania, where the division originated from as a National Guard unit.

On the morning of 16th December 2004 at around 6am, the Memorial Plaque was officially dedicated and unveiled. Present were the Crown Prince of Luxembourg and his younger brother, Roland Gaul the Curator of the National Museum of Military History, two German veterans who fought in the area during the offensive; Albert Summerer of AR1352/ 352VGD and Theodor Friedrich of FJR13/ 5FJD, the museum staff and friends, plus 21 members of GR916 (WW2 LHA) and 14 members of the 82nd Airborne Division (WW2 LHA) re-badged and dressed as 109th Inf Regt, 28th Infantry Division.

Hoesdorf Memorial Plaque Ceremony Hoesdorf Memorial Plaque Ceremony Hoesdorf Memorial Plaque Ceremony

The area around the stone was lit by torchlight and a heavy frost covered the woods as well as a thick mist - in Spring weather for the occasion. Roland Gaul made a speech in English and then the German and American commanders removed a Union Jack flag (Roland Gaul's suggestion as it was a British effort) from the stone and the plaque was revealed. Both units came to attention and the commanders saluted the plaque.

Now at last, the brave men of both sides that fought and died on the 'forgotten' Hoesdorf Plateau have been honoured and remembered by a lasting memorial that will hopefully inform and remind visitors for many years to come of their sacrifice.

Further information about all the commerorative events can be found on the website of the National Museum of Military History - Diekirch.

GR916 during ceremony Hoesdorf Memorial Plaque Ceremony GR916 during ceremony

 

 
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