As you are aware now, “A” Company of the 83rd Reconnaissance Battalion was the leading element of Task Force Hogan, and was under the command of 1st Lieutenant C.J Fite (AAR Spelling)
On December 20th,1944, while Task Force Hogan was on the move to its objective, 3rd Platoon of the company was sent down the Hotton – La Roche-en-Ardennes highway while the remainder were leading the advance of the Task Force.
Note: At this time 1st Lieutenant Fite, had left only one armored car with the Task Force so he could keep radio contact.
At coordinates 406880, on the road running from the village of Mélines to the village of Trinal, “A” Company met about two-hundreds American vehicles moving north, this friendly column was ordered to move to one side of the road so Task Force Hogan could proceed south.
By 1500 hours, “A” Company’s men had reached La Roche-en-Ardennes where they met their comrades of the 3rd Platoon. Both parts made it into La Roche-en-Ardennes without meeting any enemy opposition. Then, “A” Company continued to advance eastward along the secondary road toward the ultimate objective of Dinez.
About 1530 hours, upon reaching a curve in the road, boys passed through one of the friendly roadblocks manned by the 7th Armored Division. This first roadblock was a friendly roadblock but the next one, which was at coordinates 486763 was manned by soldiers wearing another uniform than the Americans. This enemy roadblock was made of felled trees with a steep cliff on the north side and a deep ravine on the south side of the road.
Task Force Hogan halted and 1st Lieutenant Fite reported to Lieutenant-Colonel Hogan the presence of this enemy obstacle. 1st Lieutenant Fite was ordered to send a strong combat patrol to determine the strength of the enemy guarding and protecting the roadblock and also to reconnoiter the village of Mâboge at coordinates 495765, located east of the roadblock.
At 1800 hours the patrol was constituted, 1st Platoon under the command of Lieutenant Hughes and Lieutenant Trask (AAR Spelling) went toward their objective and by 2400 hours, they reported that Mâboge was strongly defended and held by tanks, infantrymen and other armored vehicles, then Germans were digging in on the high ground northeast overlooking the roadblock.
A couple of minutes after Hogan had been informed, Task Force less “G” Company of the 33rd Armored Regiment and the Reconnaissance Company moved back into La Roche-en-Ardennes for the night.
In the meantime, at 0100 hours on December 21st, 1st Lieutenant Fite was assigned the mission to have the roadblock cleared by daybreak and to be ready to move into Mâboge. To clear off the roadblock, 3rd Platoon of “A” Company commanded by Lieutenant Randall was used. To do so they had two options, to destroy the roadblock by demolition or by hand. Once the roadblock would have been destroyed, Lieutenant Randall and his men were to establish fire positions to prevent the enemy from replacing the roadblock.
While 3rd Platoon was moving up to clear its objective, Germans came up too. To their greatest surprise, no fire fight occurred but, however, 3rd Platoon lost one man made as prisoner. Men of the 3rd Platoon remained at the roadblock until 0900 hours, when they received the order to withdraw to join the rest of the company and to set up defensive positions at coordinates 480772 with the other elements of the Reconnaissance Battalion.
Note: 1st Platoon had to man the roadblock at the same coordinates and the 2nd Platoon cover the trails leading from the north, 3rd Platoon was to cover the valley and road leading from Mâboge with the tanks of “G” Company.
At 1100 hours, new orders were received, Task Force had to return to Amonines which at the time was believed to be in friendly hands. Men planned to move northwest to the road junctions at coordinates 421851 and then to swing northeast to Amonines.
1st Platoon was sent ten minutes in advance of the company to act as scouts, the rest of the Task Force followed but upon reaching Le Concy was welcomed by enemy small arms fire.
Nevertheless, Task Force Hogan continued to the road junction at Beffe but came under terrific enemy fire coming from the south of the village, loosing one tank, knocked out by antitank gun or bazooka fire. Because of this enormous enemy fire, Task Force Hogan withdrew to road junction at coordinates 433842 where men tried to move northeast to reach Amonines.
A new attempt was made to move forward but it failed as Germans were firing from every position giving no choice to the Task Force to withdraw once again to the road junction at coordinates 435825.
At 0800 hours on December 22nd, 1944, “A” Company tried once again to move forward but, this move was unsuccessful. About 1100 hours, Lieutenant Dougherty, Executive Officer went to the village of Marcouray where he met Lieutenant-Colonel Hogan. Roadblocks were set up on each road leading from and out of the village. Each roadblock had a radio so men could communicate.
Note: Roadblocks were made of tanks, 105mm guns, concrete blocks and armored cars.
During the entire afternoon, roadblocks succeeded in repulsing the enemy assaults and the company held its positions for the night.
On the next day (December 23rd) at 0800 hours, two German armored cars, coming from Marcourt tried to destroy the roadblocks. Both of them were fired upon by the 1st Platoon which was manning one of the roadblocks. During the entire day, “A” Company remained dug in, strengthening its positions and maintaining general security for the day.
On Christmas eve, about mid afternoon, Lieutenant Randall took command of a patrol and went to the northeast trying to find a route to make it to Amonines. When the patrol reached the road at coordinates 460835, they found the road well defended like a fortress that no man could cross.
Lieutenant Randall and his men didn’t have the choice but to get back and reported that it was impossible to go out by this road.
“A” Company spent the night of the 24th to the 25th of December in firing on the Germans coming from the east and west at ranges of 1500 and 2000 yards with artillery and tank fire.
December 25th,1944, Christmas ! Time to go out of Marcouray.
At 1330 hours, Lieutenant Ricketts took a small patrol to see if the enemy was in Marcourt. No enemy was encountered. As you know now, all vehicles were destroyed and by 1800 hours, Task Force was on the move. The destination? No village or crossroad precisely but the American lines.
If you wish to discover more details about Task Force Hogan and the battle of Marcouray , we invite you to read our blog "Task Force Hogan – Escape through the Bulge".
Written by Pierre Fallet, Normandy American Heroes.