188th Engineer Combat Battalion

Image: 188th engineers setting up a Baily bridge over Sure River on N4 in Martelange
188th Engineer Combat Battalion setting up a Baily bridge over the Sure River on N4 in Martelange

Battle of the Bulge

[...] All afternoon and evening of the 22nd the 3rd platoon of A Company which was to start the job waited for the go-ahead, midway between Arlon and Martelange. As the Combat Command moved forward, the platoon and the bridge trucks moved up. It looked like it was to be a night job. However, the enemy was not cleared from the far bank until the following morning, the 23rd, and, at 0700, construction began.

Construction was complicated by frozen ground, frozen rollers, and the fact that the bridge was launched downhill. A number of rounds of mortar fire were received at the bridge site, with no casualties being inflicted, and shortly after noon the bridge was completed, and CCA [4th Armd. Div.] moved across.

That night B Company was assigned the mission of outposting the town of Martelange, and C Company constructed another Bailey bridge across the river so that two-way traffic could be had from Arlon north.

It was plain from the start that being attached in direct support of the Fourth Armored Division meant immediate action and varied tasks, with emphasis on speed and resourcefulness. The constant chatter of small arms, and the proximity of artillery of all calibers put everyone on the alert, and kept him there.

Additional bridge-construction and mine-sweeping kept the Battalion busy. C Company constructed a Bailey bridge at Menufontaine, replacing it with a fixed bridge several weeks later. B Company constructed a Treadway at Bodange, and a fixed bridge at Strainchamps. Another Treadway was constructed at Bodange by C Company, followed by a Bailey bridge and fixed bridge constructed by A Company. After a short assignment of direct support to the 35th Division, the Battalion reverted to general Corps functions. We were assigned to work with a new group, the 1123rd, commanded by Col. D. W. Elliget. With the enemy being pushed steadily back, resisting bitterly, the Battalion C. P. was moved to Harlange, while A and B Companies moved to Surre. B Company constructed a bridge on the Sixth Armored Division MSR over the Wiltz River, while A Company constructed a fixed bridge underneath an existing Bailey bridge in the vicinity of Clerveaux. For the most part, however, since the Spring thaw had begun, the watchword was "Get the water off and the rock on". Ditching, mud removal, and pot hole repair were certainly not exciting or glamorous jobs, but it falls to the engineer's lot to work with this miserable material. The weather started to get a bit warmer, bringing an early Spring thaw that ruined the roads being used as main supply routes. In the Houffalize-St.Vith area, traffic bogged down completely, and our next assignment was to open route N26, extending from a point just north of Houffalize through to Gouvy. The Battalion Headquarters were established at Rettigny. The Companies billeted in nearby towns, and additional trucks were secured from the 770th Truck Company.

Source: Excerpt from 188th Engineer Combat Battalion History. By courtesy of Mr. Bruce Burdett, 188th ECB veteran