Much of the route that Peiper and his Kampfgruppe took can still be followed today. The following photos show a look of today's area that Kampfgruppe Peiper fought through.
Peiper ran into problems soon after he started on 16 December. During the night of 16 December and early morning of 17 December Peipert rushed through several small Belgian villages, meeting slight resistance from scattered American forces. Some of Peiper's assigned route consisted of trails that were not more than dirty tracks.
The text to most of the following photos has been written by my friend Greg Waldes's site from the "Trail of Kampfgruppe Peiper" section of his website on s. SS-Pz.Abt. 501 in the Ardennes.
This trail is part of Peiper's assigned route, Rollbahn D, near to the small village of Ondenval. The road was not in better condition in 1944, and some of the tanks tried to go cross-country in the fields on bothe side, only to become bogged down. The leading Koenigstiger tank stopped and turned around as he could not go any further. Only the SPW and samller and attached support cars have been able to go this way. (text Greg Walden, photo by myself)
The Baugnez Crossroad and the Malmedy Massacre
It is unlikely that we shall ever know the precise sequence of events at the Baugnez crossroads, near Malmedy, on December 17, 1944, or the reasons for them. The secret lies with the guilty and the dead, but the event will forever be called the Malmedy Massacre. At dawn on the 17th December, armored vehicles of the 1st SS Panzer Regiment commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Peiper enter this region. This same day, the 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion, part of which is under the command of Captain Mills, arrives in Malmedy. Although warned about the presence of German armored vehicles in Bullingen, Mills decides to follow his assigned route; the column therefore takes the N23 in the direction of Baugnez in order to link up with the 7th Armored Division’s Combat Command B which was in St. Vith. (text Greg Walden, photo by myself)
Photos above left to right:
Aerial photo Malmedy / Malmedy Massacre looking SE down the road to Ligneuville / Massacre Field Photo taken in January 1945
Photos below left to right: Massacre Field today as well as the Memorial site at the Baugnez Crossroad. The photo on top right, shows the field in which most of the US P.O.W were laying.
The Baugnez 44 Historical Center
This helmet belonged to Major Elmer Schmierer. He was the operation officer of the 393rd Infantry Regiment, 99th Infantry Division. His command post was in Krinkelt were heavy fighting took place
On the way to Engelsdorf
The main body of the Kampfgruppe continued down the N23 road to Ligneuville (which the Germans called Engelsdorf). Peiper thought there was a major American headquarters there, and wanted to capture it. Peiper's advance did surprise an American brigadier-general, who escaped with his lunch still on the table at the Hotel du Moulin. Other Americans were captured, and some of the prisoners again ran afoul of Peiper's soldiers; eight of them were killed later that evening. (text Greg Walden photo by myself)
photo shows the monument erected by the Belgians to honor the memory of the 8 GIs who were exectued by the Waffen-SS behind the Hotel du Moulin at Ligneuville.
Just frozen corpses in the snow but the memorial lists their names:
Pfc Michael B. Penny, T/4 Caspar S. Johnston, Sgt Abraham Lincoln, Pvt. Clifford H. Pitts, Pvt. Nick C. Sulivan, T/5 John M. Borcina, Pvt. Gerald R. Carter, Sgt. Joseph F. Collins.
As afternoon darkened into evening on 17 December, Peiper continued his
advance past Ligneuville toward Stavelot, the first city in his path. Progress was reduced to a crawl along the steep and winding road, and it was dark by the time his lead elements approached
Stavelot. The road winds along a steep hill down into Stavelot, and at a narrow point the first tank encountered mines laid in the road by a squad of the 291st Engineer Combat Battalion. Peiper
decided to halt for the night. (text Greg Walden)
A view of the road from Ligneuville to Stavelot. This may have been one of the stretches of way that Peiper said was fit only for small vehicles and bicycles
Early on the morning of 18 December Peiper advanced on Stavelot. He was probably surprised to find the bridge over the Ambleve still ok, and after a slight pause his Panzers raced across it. Several US units defended Stavelot, but the Germans were able to gain the main road west. The bridge over the Ambleve River at Stavelot. The original bridge was badly damaged during the fighting. (text Greg Walden)
Photos above Then and Now:
Top right: Tiger "222" of SS-Oberscharführer Kurt Sowa made it to Stavelot but there it was lost to schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 501 just at the southern end of the Amblève bridge while supporting Kampfgruppe Sandig on December 19 1944. The photo has been taken 20.12.44 in Stavelot.
Top left: Since late afternoon of that day, infantry of the 117th Regiment, assisted by a platoon of tank destroyers from the 843rd TF Battalion, had battled for the center of the town, and around 8 P.M German vehicles in the market place were hit by tank destroyers not fifty meters away from the main road to Trois-Pont. That night, Monday 18 Decembre, Stavelot was back in American hands. German tenure had been tenuous and brief..... only the dead remainded.
Bottom photo: Stavelot church then and now
On the way to Trois Ponts
Once out of
Stavelot the Peiper drove along the relatively good N23 highway to Trois Ponts. There Peiper intended to recross the Ambleve river, then cross the Salm river, then continue on good roads toward
his objective. But as the name says, there were three bridges in the city, and he would have to find two of them intact.
The Ferme Antoine (Antoine farm) on the N23 between Stavelot and Trois Ponts. KG Peiper passed this way on the morning of 18 December, and later the farmhouse would serve as the headquarters of the LSSAH armored reconnaissance battalion.(text Greg Walden)
Even 64 years after the battle, bullet holes are still visible.
Approaching Stoumont the leading Panther from 2. Kompanie received a direct hit outside the clapboarded house "La Maison Robinson" on the left. Its only survivor SS-Rottenführer Heinz Hofmann. Alert to danger, head outside the turret cupola for better all round view in spite of the risk, the commander of the following Panther presses on. The Robinson house today can be seen in the then and now photos above (top left photo on the left)
Top right photo:
The battle of the Robinson house. A group pf Fallschirmjaeger set up a machine gun alongside the hedge. Suddenly SS-Sturmbannführer Werner Pötschke, Ritterkreuz dangling from his neck, spots an unfired Panzerfaust and turns to retrieve it. Today, a Police station is built on the former fighting ground in front of the house
Peiper was once again forced to try to find another route to the west. He was successful in getting some of his SPWs across smaller bridges, but his tanks could not cross the winter swollen Lienne creek. Peiper was not ready to quit: if he turned back north toward the village of Stoumont, there was another bridge beyond that town that crossed the Ambleve. Peiper consolidated his forces at La Gleize during the night of 18 December, and on the 19th he set out for Stoumont. There were US forces defending the town and Peiper lost a Panther tank.
The lead Panthers continued through Stoumont and took the road toward the train station, beyond where they hoped to find another bridge over the Ambleve intact. However, as they passed the station they ran into a strong American force of 16 tanks and tank destroyers. The outnumbered Panthers didn't have much of a chance; three were quickly knocked out and the rest withdrew. For all practical purposes, this was the farthest advance of Kampfgruppe Peiper.(Greg Walden)
Peipers Last Stand in La Gleize
Despite being shelled by American tanks and artillery, Peiper held on. His tanks of Tiger and Panthers made a defense on the southern edge of La Gleize, until accurate US artillery hit several of the Panzer. On December 19th, the 504th and 505th P.I.R of the 82nd Airborne are on route for Cheneux and Basse-Bodeux. On December 20th, after extremely bloody close combat with grenades and knifes between paratroopers of the 504th P.I.R, 82nd Airborne and the Waffen-SS, the latter have to withdraw towards La Gleize. On December 21, 1944, Peiper and his men are surrounded in what the Germans will call 'La Gleize's caldron". On December 22nd, the situation of Peipers troops surrounded in La Gleize was extremely bad although the Luftwaffe dropped some supplies earlier that day.
launched no strong attacks on 23 December, but continued their intense artillery fire. German tank fuel and ammunition were exhausted. Peiper, unable to advance further and knowing that he would
get no relief, had begun the day before requesting permission from 1. SS-Panzerdivision to withdraw. Radio contact was sporadic, and the answers Peiper received convinced him that the division
did not realize the severity of his situation.
As the situation of Peipers men was getting worse on December 23rd, and after having been under artillery fire for more than 15 hours, (estimations states that the 30th Infantry Division’s artillery poured over 57,000 shells into the area), Peiper finally received permission to break out of La Gleize and move to link up with his division. The remaining 800 soldiers of the Kampfgruppe moved out on foot at 2:00 am on 24 December and slipped successfully through the American lines.
With them were the officers and men of s. SS-Pz.Abt. 501 who had fought in La Gleize. The wounded who could not walk were left behind in the village under the care of SS-Obersturmführer Dr.
Dittmann and his SS medics. Also left behind was a small defensive covering force, which had the mission of wrecking the remaining operational tanks and heavy weapons after the Kampfgruppe
departed. For the next day and a half Peiper led his men along a circuitous route through the woods which he hoped would avoid enemy patrols and bring him to the German positions east of the Salm
River. After several brushes with the enemy Peipers survivors crossed the Salm and reached the lines of the 1st SS-Panzerdivision. The battle was lost!
Peiper leaves 135 armoured vehicles in La Gleize including SS-Obersturmführer Dollinger’s Tiger 213 , still visible in the center of the village
Dollinger's Kingtiger 213
Peiper left 135 armored vehicles behind in La Gleize including SS-Oberstumrführer Wilhelm
Dollinger's Kingtiger (Königstiger) N° 213. Around noon on December 21, 1944, Dollinger in his 213 and
SS-Untersturm-führer Georg Hantusch in his 221 Kingtiger opened up on around 15 US tanks coming from Roanne but scored no hit. Now,
the American tanks fired back and, after accurate US tank fire blew off the front third of Dollingers tank’s gun. Also Hantusch’s Kingtiger got severely hit and both tank crews had to bail out.
Dollinger was got a head wound and took cover in the Ferme Werimont cellar. This "Königstiger" is now still visible in the center of the village.
of the Royal Tiger story is worth telling: abandoned by Peiper near La Gleize's place, on the night of December 24th 1944, it was used as a target by the American soldiers who tried, in vain, to
go through its 185mm front armoured plate with a bazooka. Pulled by the US cleaning crew to be sent to recycling, it almost served as raw material for the Meuse valley steelworks, if one La
Gleize resident didn't exchange it to the GIs for... a bottle of Cognac!
In the 70s, with the help of Gérard Grégoire, a slow but meticulous restauration gave the 213 its original look. The 88mm canon (left useless by the Germans before they left), cut right before the front plate, was replaced by a 75mm Panther canon that was used as a neighborhood farm roof pillar ! The lateral 10mm armoured plates were renovated, as well as the exhaust system. The camouflage painting was made according to pictures of that era. The interior, partially destroyed by the explosive charges placed by the SS engineers, was protected against rust with a durable coating and the exits were sealed to prevent pillage. (December 1944 Museum, La Gleize).
I have been told that once again the Königstiger will get another restauration soon.
a symposium organized in La Gleize in 1994, and devoted to the Battle of the Bulge, and led by professor Francis Balace, Belgian, German and French historians have analysed the reasons for the
German defeat and concluded that it was to the north that the battle was lost by the German's senior staff.
In fact, it was the northern axe that was the keystone's offensive element: by failing in La Gleize, it was the whole northern attack line that was cut... And to quote a famous historian line: "if the Americans won the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne, the Germans lost it in La Gleize." Two black and white photos below courtesy La Gleize Museum