Ambleve Valley

The XVIII Airborne Corps, led by General Matthew Ridgway, is to lead the next offensive of the 1st Army to retake the crucial road junction of St Vith.

The first operation begins on January 13, 1945. The 160th Infantry Division attacks from the angle formed by the junction of the Salm and Ambleve rivers, while the 30th Infantry DIVISION moves south from Malmedy. Two days later, on January 15, the 75th ID attacks eastward from Grand Halleux. With luck, rapid progress by the 75th and 30th ID would form the jaws of a massive pincer, trapping the two estimated German divisions in the area. When conditions seem right, the second encirclement begins. The 7th Armored Division attacks through the terrain to be seized by the V Corps northeast, heading southwest to link up with the 30th ID at St Vith.

On January 11, Colonel Rupert Graves receives his orders. The RCT (except the 2nd Bn. attached to the 7th Armored Division) is attached to the 106th Infantry Division. In the night of January 11-12, the 517th RCT relieves the 112th Infantry Regiment at Stavelot and along the north bank of the Ambleve. The 460th sets up firing positions north of Stavelot, and the RCT's HQ is established in the town.

On January 12, the 3rd Bn. under Lt. Col. Forrest Paxton, relieved by elements of the 75th Division at Grand Halleux, regroups in an assembly area north of Stavelot. The 106th ID is to attack with the 424th and the 517th at 08:00 on January 13 to seize a line from Spineux, north of Grand Halleux, to Poteaux, 12 km south of Malmedy. Colonel Graves decides to disregard the 08:00 H-hour. This time, he will have the troops cross the river during darkness and onto the heights before dawn.

Soon after nightfall, a patrol from A Company crosses the Ambleve in a rubber boat. Finding no enemy on the other side, they radio the battalion; engineers from the 596th throw a footbridge over the river, and a platoon from B Co. goes to join the patrol. The rest of the company follows, crossing the southern part of Stavelot, setting up outposts at the edge, and capturing an enemy patrol that happened to stumble into the town. Long before daybreak, the 3rd Bn. crosses the footbridge and passes through the outpost screen of B Co. At 07:30, Company G secures Butay, 4 km south of Stavelot. Company H crosses the G Co. area and heads towards Lusnie, the next objective. At the scheduled H-hour of 08:00, the entire 3rd Bn. has crossed the Ambleve and is well south of Stavelot. At 09:00, engineers lay a vehicular bridge over the river. To the right of the 517th, the 424th attacks with two battalions side by side, the 1/424th on the right and the 3/424th on the left. Since the 30th ID had cleared the corner at the confluence of the Salm and Ambleve, the 424th did not have to face a river crossing. Lacking the bitter experience of the 517th, the 424th crosses its start line at 08:00. The 1st Bn. is to advance towards Coulee and the 3rd Bn. towards Henumont. As the 1/424th approached Coulee, it is pushed back by a counterattack on its right flank, and the 3/424th is halted 1 km west of Henumont. In the 517th's area, Company H arrives at Lusnie at 10:00 but is subjected to heavy machine gun, mortar, and artillery fire. The battalion withdraws and calls for artillery support. After several well-placed concentrations, they resume the advance and capture Lusnie without further difficulty. Company I then advances and takes the final objective of the day, a wooded hill 575 meters high marked "Croix Collin" on the map. Before nightfall, the 3rd Bn. is on all assigned objectives, well ahead of the 424th and in contact with the 30th Division on the left.

During the night of January 13 to 14, General Perrin, commanding the 106th ID, moves the boundary between the 424th and the 517th westward, assigning Henumont, Coulee, and Logbierme to the 517th. With this additional responsibility, Col. Graves had no choice but to deploy the 1st Battalion, leaving him no reserves. Perrin promises that a battalion from the 424th would be made available if needed.

Early on January 14, Major Robert McMahon's men approach Henumont from the east. The enemy that had halted the 424th apparently withdrew. After artillery preparation, the 1st Bn. occupies the town without resistance, taking three prisoners. Leaving Company A at Henumont, the battalion continued south, crossing a km of dense woods to emerge in gently sloping open fields. Company B occupies Coulee without resistance, and Company C continues to Logbierme. Fierce fighting takes place in the town, but it is cleared of any enemy presence before dawn on January 15, and Company C, very weakened, must therefore be put to rest. The 460th moves to Logbierme, and the 596th begins clearing the roads of mines and snow.

By the end of the day on January 15, the Combat Team continues south against occasional resistance. The 1st Bn. sets up a roadblock east of Petit Thier on the east-west road from Vielsalm to St. Vith, capturing a group of enemies who ventured there. Further east, the 3rd Bn. establishes a similar blockade at Poteaux. The 460th moves to Logbierme, and the 596th tackles the problem of demining and clearing snow from the roads. The regiment had now reached the limits of the prescribed advance.

On January 16 at 10:00, the 3/424th IR is attached to the 517th. At 13:30, the 1/517th attacks the heights northwest of Petit-Thiers and secures them in the afternoon. The 3/517th reaches Houvegnes on the 16th and continues south towards Poteau. Company B, in reserve at Coulee since January 14, returns to the attack and passes through the positions of Company C at Logbierme and sets up a roadblock a kilometer from Petit-Thier on the east-west road between Vielsalm and St. Vith by the end of the day on the 16th.

By the end of the day on January 17, the 517th is detached from the 106th ID and attached to the 30th Infantry Division.

On January 18, after being in reserve for two days at Houvegnez, Company G is sent to Potteaux to take the village.

On January 21, the RCT was relieved by the 30th ID and went to Stavelot for a much-needed rest and rehabilitation period.