Belgio / Storia

The Saint-Vith pocket



Indicazioni stradali

Next to Eupen and Malmedy, St. Vith was rightly considered the smallest town in the East Cantons. On the eve of the war, it had barely 2,800 inhabitants, all of them German-speaking. In December 1944, the city was almost fully destroyed.

For the German forces, the capture of St. Vith was to be carried out quickly and without problems, on the second day of the offensive. The train station was to be used to supply fuel to the 6th Panzer Army units on their way to the Meuse. However, they underestimated the speed of the Allied reactions and the strong U.S. resistance on the heights of Elsenborn. The American 7th Armored Division of General Robert W. Hasbrouck was rushed from Dutch Limburg and managed to reach the St. Vith/Vielsalm area within 24 hours, supporting a beleaguered 106th U.S. Infantry Division and narrowly preventing the Nazi conquest of these two small towns. With these reinforcements, the G.I.s managed to hold their ground for six days, diverting towards them the 2nd SS Panzer Corps, which should have rushed towards the river. In the end, some 20,000 Americans held out until 22 December against no less than 87,000 Germans, and they managed to withdraw in good order towards the Ardennes highlands.

However, the Germans returned, causing the small town to suffer a true ordeal. As an important communications hub, it was attacked several times by the U.S. Air Force, notably on 25 and 26 December. Since the Allied units were not far away, it did not take long for artillery to come into action. They sowed death and confusion, especially towards mid-January 1945, during the final counteroffensive. On the 23rd, the men of the 7th Armored Division had the honour of reoccupying the places they had so valiantly defended a month earlier. They only liberated a field of ruins, however. St. Vith was 95% destroyed, several hundred people had died, and only a few dozen residents remained to welcome the victors. St. Vith had become ‘the deadliest town in Belgium’.