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THE TRAGEDY OF THE WITHDRAWAL OF NOVILLE

At the beginning of the battle for Bastogne, the village of NOVILLE, which you can see the Bell Tower at the end of the straight line in the direction of Houffalize, was defended by the Major DESOBRY armoured battle group (1/3 of the 'B' of the 10e Division Blindée US combat training) reinforced on 19 December by the 1st Battalion 506e PIR under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel James LA PRADE. 506e PIR had left his garrison of rest (Mourmelon near Queen, France) in such haste that some of his men had no helmets while others were devoid of individual weapons and ammunition. A Jeep and a truck GMC the 10e DB loaded US brim missing equipment surged to the paratroopers of the 506e amount online. They slowly nominal head elements, their distributing necessary. Then the rest of the material lacking was arranged into five piles on the side of the road. By the way the men of the column could find easily what they need.

But later, the McAULIFFE-General staff decided to abandon the village of Noville Germans that question because after the fact as untenable because of too much distance in open field separating supporters from those occupying the village of Foy.

Meanwhile, Colonel LA PRADE was killed and Major Desai seriously wounded following a direct hit from the German artillery on the building serving them as command post...

Thus deprived of any valid support at the start of the heights of Foy, Noville represented more an acceptable military position. It was longer than any village in open country and a place of predilection for the mists to the ground. It was therefore decided to leave. But in the meantime, the Germans of the 2e Panzer Division, enjoying fully of the advantages of open area drowned in fog stationing there, had virtually surrounded the town and already a few of their "Tiger" tanks were loaded in the centre, abruptly ending their race, affected to death by projectiles of bazookas. December 20-1: 15 p.m., the first vehicles of the column retreating left Noville. Departure took place without a hitch but arrived about 500 meters from the first close of Foy, located away along the grand' road, one of the head halftracks found himself blinded by accidental closure of the armoured shutter valve. The pilot of the craft immediately handed the arm forward with the intention to reopen. Major James DUNCAN, sitting at his side, méprit on the meaning of the gesture. He believed that the driver had been hit at the front and that he tried to protect his eyes instinctively. Suddenly, Duncan serra the handbrake. This net stopped the bulk of the column. The first halftrack was telescoped by the following that had no brakes, the third came hit it. At this moment a rain of bullets and grenades from the side of the road came upon the still column. The Germans were deployed in ditches and fired also in the machine gun from one of the windows of the farm they had to invest. In addition several of their tanks hidden in the fog were firing at point-blank range in the US vehicles caught in the trap on the straight road.

The turret of a Sherman tank was hit and went up in the air before falling back on the road, blocking the passage. Add to this that American tanks were served by replacing crews whose members were not too familiar with their operation and all versatile steps as prescribed however regulations in force at the tankmen. What had to happen happened, there were tanks that could more advance, their drivers killed or injured.

Paratroopers of the 506e ran from one tank to another under fire, shouting the men and treating "assholes". They threatened even to pass tobacco one of them whom they suspected to be driver... But they were totally mistaken. Most of these poor guys were only blue without any experience. In fact, some were cooks or mechanics and other rifles. They were tankmen in the only measure where they belonged to an armoured unit. The stalemate in Foy came exclusively from well-known deficiency of the bodies responsible for the smooth running of the replacements within the units requiring advanced specialization. Two paratroopers climbed aboard a "Tank Destroyer" American who was more occupied by the driver, they took initiative the canon support and even soon after succeeded in destroying enemy tanks. At another point in the column, paratroopers took place aboard a Sherman stopped after shouting servants legitimate: we arrive well in advance this "son of a bitch!".

The column finally escaped from this hell but she left decimated and unable even to intervene as a defensive group. The "DES0BRY" Group had arrived in Noville with 15 tanks, there came with everything just 4! The 1st Battalion of the 506e PIR was at full strength when it deployed in reinforcement of the group "Desai". He lost 13 officers and 199 men in Noville.

Through their combined efforts, they had however destroyed or neutralized definitively between 20 and 30 recognized enemy tanks. They in damaged and destroyed in probably much more. The staff of the 506e Para estimated that the repeated attacks of the Germans had cost the enemy 1' equivalent of a demi-regiment.

But beyond all these purely material considerations, the most important was the fact that guys of Noville had held their positions for 48 hours which proved decisive in the establishment and consolidation of the defense of Bastogne.