Belgio / Storia
On the morning of 17 December 1944, soldiers from Kampfgruppe Peiper, of the German 1st SS ‘Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler’ Panzer Division, rolled into Honsfeld village. This was part of the German Offensive in the Ardennes in the winter of 1944 to 45, and their arrival in Honsfeld came as a surprise to the American soldiers there.
Following their lengthy delay at Lanzareth Ridge, at 04:30 the German soldiers finally reached the village of Honsfeld. The village was on the Division’s main advance route.
According to the accounts of the German soldiers who entered the village, they were surprised to find many American vehicles and equipment lining the road, but no people. The American soldiers, part of the US 99th Infantry Division, were all sleeping in the local village houses.
Very quickly, they were alerted to the presence of the German troops that were now in the village. They had little, if any chance to engage with them. The German forces quickly took around 300 American prisoners of war. Seventeen Anti-Tank guns and 50 vehicles were also captured.
However, a small number of the US soldiers made a very limited counterattack. Using anti-tank guns, they were able to knock out two Wirblewind armoured anti-aircraft vehicles. A third one close by then quickly caught fire and was destroyed. The German Panther tanks began to pass through the village, and several of these were also knocked out. However, this was the extent of the defensive actions by the American soldiers, who were not prepared. From here, the German troops continued their advance towards the town of Bullingen and Honsfeld remained under the control of German troops. Later that afternoon, several of the American soldiers who had been taken prisoner by the German troops were taken out into the streets of the village. Nineteen of them were murdered. It is said that this was in retribution for the limited counterattack that had been made by them earlier in the day. The bodies of the American soldiers were left out in the street on display. Some were later driven over by tracked vehicles.
Two local civilians were also murdered by the German soldiers because they believed that they were complicit in helping the American troops and were passing on information about the German forces.
Today, a memorial at this site commemorates the battle.