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December 1944

Special Forces Operations in December 1944

December 1944
Unternehmen Brauner Bär
Kampfgeschwader 200, SS-Jagdverband Ost
Their mission is to establish operational links between the many small groups of German forces which had been isolated in the area to the north-west of Minsk behind the Soviet front line on the one hand and the leadership, under Stepan Andreivich Bandera, of Ukrainian anti-Soviet guerrilla forces in the area on the other hand with a view to locating and attacking the lines of communication supporting Soviet front-line formations. Kampfgeschwader 200, a specialised Luftwaffe unit, undertakes the perilous task of flying behind enemy lines, dropping the SS teams to carry out these dangerous assignments.

Regrettably, almost all of the dispatched groups, with the exception of one, are swiftly surrounded by the advancing Soviet Army and annihilated.
However, the surviving group manages to join forces with a larger pocket and devises an air bridge to transport essential supplies. Although they evade capture for several months, they eventually meet the same fate as their comrades, succumbing to the overwhelming Soviet forces arrayed against them.

December 16th, 1944 – December 28th, 1944
Unternehmen Greif
150. Panzer Brigade Einheit Stielau, SS-Fallschirmjäger-Bataillon 600, SS-Jagdverbände
Unthernehmen Greif is a German military special forces operation during Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein, led by Otto Skorzeny. There are two goals in the operation. The main goal is to capture at least two of the bridges across the river Meuse. The second goal of the operation is infiltrating German soldiers disguised as American troops behind enemy lines. The mission area is the Malmedy area, Ardennes, Belgium.

The start of Unternehmen Greif on December 16th, 1944, faces immediate challenges as Panzer-Brigade 150 becomes entangled at a blown-up bridge near Losheim. The brigade struggles to maintain its intended position and execute surprise actions due to congestion and chaotic traffic.

On December 17th, 1944, Skorzeny attends a staff conference and proposed combining his battle groups into a conventional army unit, which is accepted. Panzer-Brigade 150 is assigned to capture the strategic road junction in Malmedy, known as “Rollbahn C,” to flank American positions on the Elsenborn ridge and support the 12. SS-Panzer-Division and Kampfgruppe Peiper. Skorzeny relies on information gathered by a commando team accidentally entering Malmedy, unaware that the town’s defense has been reinforced with additional American units and prepared obstacles like bridges, viaducts, and minefields.

On December 20th, 1944, Kampfgruppe X and Kampfgruppe Y of Operation Greif assemble near Ligneuville, while Kampfgruppe Z remains in reserve. Otto Skorzeny devises a two-pronged attack plan, but their chances of surprise are ruined when one of their men was captured and revealed the planned attack. American Intelligence issues a warning about the impending attack.

On December 21st, 1944, Kampfgruppe X launches their assault from Ligneuville towards Malmedy. However, they trigger a tripwire, exposing their position, and face heavy resistance from American defenders. The assault eventually subsides with heavy casualties and retreat.

Throughout the day, American artillery barrages intensified. The fighting continues, but Panzer-Brigade 150 regroups on a hill south of the Warche valley. Skorzeny himself suffers a shrapnel injury to his face.

On December 22nd, 1944, Kampfgruppe Y attempts another attack east of Malmedy but is forced to retreat due to prepared American outposts. The 291st Engineers demolishes bridges, effectively blocking the road west of Malmedy. The situation remains tense as further demolitions are carried out by American forces. Panzer-Brigade 150 continues to hold the line until it is relieved by elements of the 18. Volksgrenadier-Division.

Meanwhile, during Unternehmen Greif, Otto Skorzeny dispatches lead, reconnaissance and demolition commando teams behind enemy lines. They operate in German uniforms and carry out various tasks. Some teams alter road signs to misdirect American troops, while others gather intelligence and spread false information. Skorzeny’s commandos successfully causes confusion and paranoia among American forces. They create doubt about the security of passwords and prompt increased caution at checkpoints. Rumours of a large German paratrooper unit heading to capture General Eisenhower causes anxiety and resulted in Eisenhower being relocated.

Unfortunately, the chaotic nature of the Battle of the Bulge leads to tragic incidents of friendly fire. Confusion, mistaken identities, and the fast-paced nature of the battle contributed to these accidents. Incidents occurred where American soldiers mistakenly engaged and harmed their fellow comrades.

These incidents continued into early 1945, further highlighting the challenges and risks posed by the presence of Skorzeny’s commando units during the battle.

December 17th, 1944 – December 23rd, 1944
Unternhemen Stößer
The airborne phase of Operation Greif, known as Unternehmen Stößer, involved the deployment of six Fallschirmjäger companies to conduct a surprise attack. Their mission was to take and hold the crossroads at Belle Croix Jalhay N-68 and N-672 until the arrival of the 12 SS-Panzer Division, Hitlerjugend.

Oberst Freiherr Friedrich August Freiherr von der Heydte, an experienced Fallschirmjäger officer, was assigned to lead the operation. However, the troops assigned to him were inexperienced and poorly equipped. They received minimal jump training, and many of them had never attended a jump school before. The parachute drop itself was poorly executed due to bad weather, inexperience, and strong enemy defenses, resulting in a chaotic situation with paratroopers scattered over a wide area.
Von der Heydte and his small group of Fallschirmjäger found themselves isolated and lacking communication with the German ground forces. They had limited resources, no support weapons, and a shortage of rifles due to the loss of weapon containers during the drop. Von der Heydte decided to maintain a low profile, regrouping with scattered stragglers and building a defensive perimeter in the woods. They conducted small patrols and captured a few prisoners, but they were unable to disrupt the American reinforcements as originally planned.

The operation had limited success in creating confusion among the Allied forces, as they misinterpreted the scattered German paratroopers as a division-sized force. This led the Americans to allocate resources to secure their rear areas rather than directly confronting the main German thrust. The operation ultimately failed to achieve its objectives and had a high casualty rate among the German paratroopers.

In summary, Operation Greif’s airborne phase, Unternehmen Stößer, aimed to disrupt and confuse the Allies by deploying German paratroopers behind enemy lines. However, due to poor planning, inadequate training, bad weather, and strong enemy defenses, the operation resulted in a chaotic and scattered drop, isolating the Fallschirmjäger and limiting their effectiveness. The operation had limited success in creating confusion but failed to achieve its objectives.
December 19th, 1944 – January 16th, 1945
Operation Regent
Special Air Service
In late 1944, the Belgian 5 Special Air Service (SAS), led by Lieutenant Charles Radino, are ordered to leave Tervuren and regroup in Givet, France. Equipped with 24 specialised European Style Special Air Service Jeeps and two support trucks, their initial mission is to secure the Meuse River bridges in Belgium from German demolition.

The Special Air Service, actively patrolling areas like Tellin, Bure, and Rochefort, play a crucial role in intercepting German units, including stopping a Skorzeny group jeep en route to Dinant. Engaging in numerous operations, they face intense combat, particularly in late December 1944 and early January 1945, with significant British casualties and the loss of 3 Belgian Special Air Service members near Bure.

Amidst harsh winter conditions, the Special Air Service endure severe cold, sometimes reaching -18°C, taking extraordinary measures for protection. Lieutenant Radino also uncovers a civilian massacre in Bande, highlighting the unit’s critical role beyond combat.

The Special Air Service’s presence in the region concludes post-January 16th, 1945, following the retreat of German forces.