Volksgrenadiere!

The 167. Volksgrenadier Division in the Ardennes.

The 167. Volksgrenadier Division was formed in October 1944 in Hungary from the partially formed 585. Volksgrenadier Division and the surviving elements of the disbanded 17. Luftwaffe-Feld-Division.

Commanding officer:

Generalleutnant Hanskurt Höcker

(1 August 1894 – 10 August 1961).

After training in Slovakia it was sent to Belgium in December 1944, taking part in the Battle of the Bulge. It was released from OKW Reserve on December 22 and did not arrive near Bastogne until December 28, 1944.

The division consisted of:
Grenadier-Regiment 331
Grenadier-Regiment 339
Grenadier-Regiment 387
Füsilier-Kompanie 167
Artillerie-Regiment 167
Pionier-Bataillon 167
Panzerjäger-Abteilung 167 (the 2. Kompanie wasn’t available in January 1945)
Nachrichten-Abteilung 167
Feldersatz-Bataillon 167
Versorgungseinheiten 167

XXXIX. Panzer Korps attacked to cut off the corridor into Bastogne with a kampfgruppe from the battered 1. SS Panzer Division and the newly arrived 167. Volksgrenadier Division, with limited support from the Fallschirmjäger Regiment 14 (5. Fallschirmjäger Division). Target: the main road south from Bastogne to Martelange (N4).

The attack would hit two regiments from the 35th Infantry Division – the 134th Infantry Regiment at Lutrebois and the 137th Infantry Regiment near Villers-la-Bonne-Eau. Both villages were hit by tanks from the 1. SS Panzer Division. The small American force in Villers-la-Bonne-Eau was almost wiped out, with only one man returning to US lines and the rest of the survivors forced to surrender.

Combat Command of the 4th Armored Division moved east to help the American infantry, and ran into the 167th Volksgrenadiers who had reached some trees south-east of Assenois (Bois Bechu). There the 3. Bataillon of Volksgrenadier Regiment 331 was literally smashed to pieces by American tank and artillery fire (one of the first combat uses of the new POZIT proximity artillery fuse).

Bois Béchu area today.

More panzers managed to get into some woods south-west of the village, but all were destroyed. By the end of the day the Germans had managed to capture Lutrebois, but had failed to reach the key road (the N4).

(Photo Panzer IV, probably taken in the Lutrebois area on December 29, 1944.)

The woods northeast of Lutrebois where elements of the 167. Volksgrenadiers assembled for the assault on Lutrebois.

Further away, in Luxembourg, Nebelwerfers supported the assault.
(Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-277-0840-33-Jacob)

Ivan Steenkiste pointing towards the former Nebelwerfer positions near Watrange, Luxembourg.

In Watrange was also the command post of the 167. Volksgrenadier Division.

Area of the northern most assault of Volksgrenadier Regiment 331 (Lutrebois).

The road leading into Lutrebois.

German assault marked out by the US 35th Infantry Division.

With thanks to Thierry Minsart.

On December 31, 1944, Lutrebois was again assaulted but the 167. Volksgrenadiers held their ground. An attempt was made to try and relieve the encircled American troops in Villers-la-Bonne-Eau, but that too failed.

(Photo: 35th ID or 51st AIB near Lutrebois, January 8, 1945.)

Villers-la-Bonne-Eau is now part of an historical tour.

Pinpointing one of the German positions in and around Villers-la-Bonne-Eau. In this case a machinegun position.

As Volksgrenadier Regiment 331 continued to hold their lines, however their objective – Bois de Vicaire – (and thus cutting the N4 road) remained out of reach, January 1, 1945 would be the start of a bitter 10-day long struggle against increasing American pressure.

The next day, the 35th Infantry Division would finally get a foothold into Lutrebois, but the fight was far from over.

Former Volksgrenadier Regiment 339 positions near Betlange (on the Belgian-Luxembourg border).

The Germans set up an aid station in the tannery there (now completely gone).

Despite heavy resistance and aided by artillery fire stationed in the woods south/southwest from Wardin, Lutrebois was eventually lost to the Americans.

Little road leading to the position of the 331 Regt’s command post.

But the woods northeast of Lutrebois remained firmly in German hands.

Approximate area where the 4. Kompanie/331 was positioned.

The fighting kept going on as the 35th Infantry Division and attached units kept trying to gain terrain against heavy German resistance. The weather wasn’t cooperative either.

Further up, this road was mined by the Germans (January 10 – 11, 1945).

On January 12, 1945, the US forces finally started gaining ground in those bitterly contested woods.

This trail leads to the former command post of the 2. Bataillon.

January 12, 1945 would see the start of the withdrawal of the 167. Volksgrenadier Division. It had been pushed back slowly, but surely.

35th Division troops checking abandoned German artillery near Lutrebois.

Heavy casualties on both sides and in horrible winter conditions.

(Photo: 35th ID, 110th Medical Bn – Medics – Lutrebois.)

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