Soy & Hotton

On December 22nd at 4:00 PM, Lt. Col. William Boyle's 1st Battalion disembarks amidst cannon fire from tanks and long-range artillery near a small wood located one kilometer north of Soy. Seven trucks carrying two-thirds of Company C and part of Company B are missing, but there's no time to waste searching for them. The situation demands an immediate attack. The mission is to clear the area between Soy and Hotton of the enemy and establish a stable resistance line between the two towns.

After descending into Soy and heading west, the starting line is crossed at 5:15 PM, with Captain Joseph Broudy's A Company in the lead, followed by Company B in echelon to the left, and the remaining platoon of Company C following in reserve of the battalion. The light machine guns of the Headquarters Company are attached to the rifle companies, and the 81mm heavy mortar platoon is positioned to support the attack.

The attack encounters difficulties almost immediately. A few hundred meters west of Soy, the lead elements of A Company come under fire from German machine guns and cannons from positions between the railway and the Four-Bras (Haid-Hits on American maps). Further machine gun fire comes from a road junction to the south, threatening the battalion's left flank.

Company B is sent to cross the road to Hotton to the south and dislodge the enemy group. By nightfall, Company B closes in on the enemy in thick undergrowth. Two machine guns are silenced, but the Germans launch a counterattack with several Panzers. Two tanks are disabled by bazooka fire, and the others retreat. Company B holds firm at the intersection.

The Germans still hold the heights at the Four-Bras. Control in the darkness is difficult, and the enemy contests every meter of ground. By midnight, the attack turns into an indecisive exchange of fire. It's clear that a new approach is needed. It's decided to hold in place with most of the battalion while sending an encircling force to Hotton from the north. At daybreak, both forces will resume the attack to converge on Haid-Hits from the east and west.

On December 23, at 1:00 AM, Force Boyle (2 platoons of A Company with four tanks and six half-tracks) head north through Wy. At at 6:30 AM, Force Boyle enters Hotton, but as it passes through the village to return to Soy, it encounters strong resistance at the eastern edge of the town.

When the 1st Battalion launched its attack on the evening of December 22nd, the enemy force between Soy and Hotton was Kampfgruppe Bayer of the 116th Panzer Division. Bayer had attacked from the southeast on December 21st in an attempt to cross the Ourthe River. On the evening of December 21st, the 560th Volksgrenadier Division was ordered to relieve the 116th Panzer between Soy and Hotton on the night of December 22nd to 23rd.

At dawn on December 23rd, the Executif Officer, Major Donald Fraser, and his five platoons (three from Company B, one from Company A, and one from Company C) resume the attack towards Haid-Hits. Once again, they are halted by machine gun and mortar fire. The attack plan is revised. Major Fraser takes charge of the forces north of the railway, while Captain John Dugan, Battalion S-3, assumes command of those below the railway. Nine tanks arrive from Soy; three medium tanks and two light tanks join Fraser, and two medium and light tanks join Dugan.

With this reorganized and reinforced force, the attack resumes at 12:15 PM. Enemy anti-tank fire opens up when the Americans are five hundred meters east of Haid-Hits. In five minutes, Dugan's four tanks are knocked out. Dugan's force crosses the railway to join Fraser, and the remaining tanks return to Soy.

The fighting continues throughout the night. In the dense undergrowth, visibility is 10 to 30 meters in broad daylight. After nightfall, it shrinks to just a few meters. Temperatures drop near zero, and the troops are close to exhaustion. Nonetheless, they advance laboriously, gaining a few meters at a time.

The lone platoon of Company C, positioned to the left of Fraser's force, seizes the crossroads at a heavy cost.

At dawn on December 24th, the 1st Battalion has eliminated all resistance at Haid-Hits. Soldiers dig in, expecting a counterattack, but none comes. At 8:15 AM, two additional medium tanks arrive from Soy, and the attack resumes once more. The resistance is notably weaker. Fraser's force faces 10 to 15 riflemen and two self-propelled guns. The American tanks knock out the self-propelled guns, and the riflemen are easily eliminated. By 11:30 AM, Fraser joins Lt. Col. Boyle at Hotton.

The first objective of the battalion, to eliminate all enemy forces between Soy and Hotton, has been achieved. The second part, establishing a stable resistance line, proceeds much more smoothly. The return from Hotton to Soy is unopposed. About twenty Germans come out of hiding to surrender. Most of Company B takes positions at Sur-les-Hys, and a section establishes a roadblock one and a half kilometers west of Soy. The rest of the battalion goes into reserve of the CCR at Soy at 4:30 PM, almost exactly forty-eight hours after the start of the attack.

Hill La Roumière

The 1/517th PIR forced elements of the 560th Volksgrenadier Division to retreat southward between Soy and Hotton from December 22nd to 24th. The Germans occupied extensive positions stretching from the hill of La Roumière Ol Fagne to the northeast to Wy, one and a half kilometers south of Soy. This proximity was concerning, as only Company B protected the trains of the 3rd Armored Division at Hotton and the Combat Command R (CCR) headquarters at Soy.

On December 24th, two regiments of the 75th Infantry Division, fresh from the United States, were attached to the 3rd Armored Division. The 290th IR was tasked with capturing La Roumière, and the 2nd Battalion was designated for the assault.

Around midnight, the assault companies crossed the Soy-Hotton road, waded through the Lisbelle River, and emerged from the woods at the edge of an open, snowy field, one and a half kilometers from their objective. The situation was chaotic, with officers killed or wounded and soldiers pinned down under enemy fire.

On December 25th at 2:30 PM, Colonel Howze ordered Colonel Boyle to gather all available forces of his battalion and capture La Roumière. The battalion, with reduced strength, moved south of Soy and westward through the wooded hill of Melines-la-Foret. After fierce fighting, the battalion managed to clear the eastern slope of La Roumière, forcing the German grenadiers to retreat southward.

Lt. Col. Boyle was tasked with restoring order on La Roumière and establishing a solid defense. Despite the absence of several battalion commanders and staff members of the 290th IR, Boyle managed to organize his units and those of the 290th along a defensive line. Task Force Hogan, previously encircled and low on fuel in Marcouray, managed to reach the American lines.

At dawn on December 26th, a few isolated Germans surrendered to the Americans. At 8:00 AM, Lt. Colonel Boyle was informed that his battalion was to be relieved. After completing the organization of the positions, he withdrew from La Roumière at 3:00 PM, exhausted but safe, regrouping at Soy before retreating under the control of the 517th RCT.