Belgio / Campo di battaglia
Parker’s Crossroads, officially named Baraque de Fraiture crossroads, stands at one of the highest points of the Ardennes region. Here, in December 1944 during the German Ardennes Offensive, US troops commanded by Major Arthur Parker fought against German forces, resulting in major US losses.
In 1944, this small crossroads stood in the hamlet of Baraque de Fraiture, on the main roads leading from St Vith and Houffalize (Belgium). As part of the German Ardennes Offensive, German troops, in particular the 2nd SS ‘Das Reich’ Panzer Division and 560th Volksgrenadier Division, needed to pass through the American lines located here so they could advance west into Belgium towards Manhay and Hotton.
On 19 December, Major Arthur Parker and his soldiers of the 589th Field Artillery, US 106th Infantry Division, were deployed to the crossroads to halt the German advance. Tactically, Parker held the high ground, but his numbers were depleted. He had around 100 men and only three Howitzer artillery weapons. He later received reinforcements, including several soldiers from the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment of the US 82nd Airborne Division. Overall, around 300 US soldiers faced the overwhelming German units.
The early days of the battle favoured the American troops, as low-lying fog and cloud masked their defensive positions. This meant German observations couldn’t identify the exact positions of Parker and his men or see how many were there.
However, over the coming days the German forces made probing attacks along the roads and through surrounding woodlands, and the weather began to improve. Parker’s orders were to “hold at all costs”. He lost men, armoured vehicles, and his artillery weapons. By 23 December his position became untenable, and he was given orders to withdraw. Surrounded, those that were able tried to withdraw, whilst the wounded remained, mainly in the old inn (now the Auberge du Carrefour).
Some accounts from those present during the battle said they had previously tried to surrender to the German forces by waving white shirts on poles but were greeted with bursts of small arms and machine gun fire.
The losses to the US forces were major. One Company of soldiers who made the stand at the crossroad, consisting of 119 men, saw only 44 of them return. American reports showed eleven Sherman tanks, four anti-tank guns and three Howitzer artillery weapons lost. The brave actions of Parker and his soldiers at the crossroads delayed the German advance. However, of the 300 men, only 50 managed to escape the crossroads.
Today, a memorial remembers all those who fought and died here.