There was little else to do but dig a bit deeper, build the logs a little higher, watch the gray sky, and quietly stand and wait. A sober, nostalgic spirit highlighted the early part of New Year's Eve. There was very little cheer. The inactivity deepened the dispirited mood. Thoughts were many miles away.
And then the phone buzzed. Men stirred out of their lethargy. From across the fields came the far off steady staccato of the Burp guns.
The attack was on.
'For eight hours, those twelve howitzers were never silent. Crews sweated and cursed in the cold morning air. The tubes spoke authoritatively, recoiling quickly, lashing out like angry rattlers, to loose their venom and strike again. By 0500, the crews were pouring snow and ice water down the tubes, then standing aside to watch the steam rise in the cool air. At Fire Direction Center, men held phones in one hand, running pencils over their charts with the other hand, as they plotted fires on the maps. Meanwhile, Service Battery drove over the icy, gutted roads, hauling ammunition. For days, men drove without rest, by night and by day, to Sarrebourg, to other Battalions, to distant sectors, to any locality where ammunition could be found.
At dawn, the noise lessened. The chattering of the German weapons became more distant and less frequent. By 0800, word came that the first impetus of the attack had been stopped and broken. Our doughs had held. Fiber cases, crates and shell casings lay heaped and scattered everywhere around the pits. The snow around the howitzers was gone , . .. mud, oozing and sticky, replacing it. While the sun broke over the trees, men worked to clear the debris, grabbed oil and cleaning materials to give care to the howitzers. Throughout the day, more ammunition arrived and was opened . . . charges counted . . . H.E. stacked in one pile . . . W.P. in another . , smoke and time in still another. By nightfall, the German attack was shifted and renewed. Again, the firing commenced.
Now, the tracers were plainly visible. Time fire began to whack above the emplacements. Flares lit the hills ahead. and tank rumblings were heard clearly on the flank.
Shortly after midnight, the order to displace was given. Guns were hurriedly coupled to the prime movers and equipment and ammunition were thrown aboard the trucks. An S-2 report had confirmed the presence of German armor in Achen, a town 3 kilometers to the rear. Thus, traveling the regular road was impossible.
The Batteries moved out cross-country aided by moon-light and the glare of the snow, skirting trees, sliding now and then into hedges, but at last reaching the Saar River and crossing the bridge which was ready to be blown if a general retreat became necessary.
Shortly after the new positions were reached, the howitzers commenced firing again. For the following two days, the attack continued, and the guns kept up their steady pounding. Finally on 4 January, 1945, the Jerries were checked, and fell back . . . their forces broken and shattered.
In the four day period from midnight 1 January, 1945 to midnight 4, January 1945, 6,385 rounds had been expended.
The following two months were cold and dreary. The weather was bitter and the hard winter fighting, slow and tedious. In mid-February, a successful local attack was made to straighten out the lines. By this time, the men were going into the close of five continuous months of combat, without a break.
Then, March came, and the sun shone more frequently. Larger and larger numbers of men and quantities of material moved into the sector. Word was passed to the crews that the promised rest was coming.
The Soviets referred to artillery as the "Queen of the Battlefield." The most powerful single piece on the chess-board, the queen possess superior range and strength. This analogy is applicable to the U.S. artillery of World War II. At Nordwind, the firepower from the 156th Field Artillery Battalion was instrumental in containing the German Nordwind offensive. American artillery inflicted grievous casualties on the numerically superior attacking Germans.
The left column is from the "The Battle History of the 44th I.D.
220 F.A. Bn Cannoneers "Take 5."
A "Faithful 50" anti-aircraft gunner assigned to the 220th F.A. Bn. tracks a suspicious aircraft. The Browning 50 cal is still in use today, 60 years later.