World War II - The Big Picture

Luxembourg in World War II

Luxembourg, a little country between Germany, Belgium and France, was occupied by German troops on 10th of May 1940 and the country was annexed by the Reich. A German government was set up, Gauleiter Gustav Simon as the major authority. All opposition against the Germans was immediately persecuted.

French names and surnames had to be changed into German names, military service in the Wehrmacht was ordered for all Luxembourg young men. All members of resistance movements of any kind were taken to martial courts, judgment leading to sentence of death. Many others were taken to concentration camps. Members of their families were resettled to the east.

The German government and the NAZI Party established a total control. Luxembourg was officially not existing any longer.

From England, the Grand Duchess and the Luxembourg government supported the resistance against the aggressors and prepared the liberation.

On 10th of September 1944, American troops liberated Luxembourg. The 28th Infantry Division entered the Bigonville sector from Martelange, Belgium.

Luxembourg was in the center of one of the greatest battles of World War Two, the Battle of the Bulge. On December 16, 1944, the Germany launched its last great counter-offensive through the Ardennes Mountains. On December 21th, the Germans surrounded the U.S. 101st Airborne Division in the town of Bastogne. The Americans refused to surrender, and were finally rescued on December 26th by the Third Army of General George Patton.

General Patton and 5,100 U.S. soldiers are buried at the U.S. Military Cemetery at Hamm, five kilometers from Luxembourg City, in the direction of Sandweiler. The Luxembourg American Cemetery is administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission. Near Sandweiler is the location of the German Military Cemetery. It is administered by the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e.V..

Local Battle of the Bulge

Chaumont, on the 23d, and Warnach, on the 24th, are tabbed in the journals of the 4th Armored as "hot spots" on the march to Bastogne. Quite unexpectedly, however, a third developed at Bigonville, a village some two and a half miles east of the Bastogne highway close to the boundary between the 4th Armored and the 26th Infantry Division. The gap between these divisions, only partially screened by light forces, suddenly became a matter of more than normal concern on the night of 22 December with reports that a large body of German armor was moving in (actually the advance guard of the Fuehrer Grenadier Brigade which had appeared in front of the left wing of the 26th Division). To protect CCA's open right flank, Gaffey ordered Col. Wendell Blanchard to form the Reserve Combat Command as a balanced task force (using the 53d Armored Infantry Battalion and 37th Tank Battalion) and advance toward Bigonville. Early on 23 December CCR left Quatre- Vents, followed the main road nearly to Martelange, then turned right onto a secondary road which angled northeast. This road was "sheer ice" and much time was consumed moving the column forward.

About noon the advance guard came under fire from a small plot of woods near a crossroads at which point CCR would have to turn due north. The accompanying artillery battalion went into action, pouring high explosive into the woods for nearly an hour. One rifle company then dismounted and went in to clean out the survivors. The company found no serious resistance, returned to the road, and was just mounting its half-tracks when a fusillade of bullets burst from the little wood. Apparently the enemy had withdrawn during the shelling, only to return at the heels of the departing Americans. Tanks were now sent toward the crossroad but were stopped by mines. All this had been time-consuming. Bigonville was still a mile away, and Blanchard ordered a halt. The enemy in the woods continued to inflict casualties on the troops halted beside the road. Even the tankers were not immune - nearly all of the tank commanders of one company were picked off by rifle fire.

In the course of the night the Germans left the wood and fell back to the shelter of the stone houses in Bigonville. The assault on the morning of the 24th followed what had become standard tactics with the 4th Armored. First came a short concentration fired by the artillery. There followed an advance into the village by two teams, each composed of one tank and one infantry company working closely together. As at Chaumont and Warnach there was little trouble from the enemy artillery, for by this time the 5th Parachute Division was rationed to only seven rounds per howitzer a day. Mostly the German infantry held their fire until the Americans were in the streets, then cut loose with their bazookas, light mortars, and small arms. While the two assault companies of the 53d advanced from house to house the tanks of the 37th blasted the buildings ahead, machine-gunned the Germans when they broke into the open, and set barns and out- buildings afire with tracer bullets. One team burst through to the northern exit road and the garnison was trapped. By 1100 the village was clear. Most of the 328 prisoners taken here were from the 13th Parachute Regiment, which had just been released from its flank guard positions farther to the east on Heilmann's insistence that the 5th Parachute Division could not possibly block the American drive north with only two of its regiments in hand.

At Gaffey's request the III Corps commander shifted the boundary between the 4th Armored and the 26th Division, making the infantry division responsible for the Bigonville sector and releasing CCR, on the night of the 24th, for employment on the open west flank of the corps with entry into Bastogne as its primary mission.

Source: CHAPTER XXI, The III Corps' Counterattack Toward Bastogne, Center of Military History, USA