Belgium / Story

Battle of the Baraque de Fraiture Crossroads




The Ardennes are a region of high plateaus, generally (but not always) forested and criss-crossed by deep valleys. Few roads cross this sparsely populated area, and for an invader to successfully control them is a definite advantage. This was the case in December 1944.

The crossroads at Baraque de Fraiture (650 metres high point) and the village of Manhay, on the Liège-Bastogne main road, were the objective of a first phase of fighting in escalating attacks between 21 and 25 December 1944. The conditions were incredibly harsh, as fog and snow covered the area, while a few scattered American units (including Major Parker's 589th U.S. Artillery Battalion, then elements of the 82nd Airborne Division) and the 560th Volksgrenadier Division clashed. The battle intensified with the arrival of the 3rd and then the 7th U.S. Armored Division withdrawing from St. Vith, and the 2nd SS-Panzer-Division Das Reich bursting in. In fact, the Germans, who had taken St. Vith very late, were desperately trying to control other routes into the Meuse valley while, at the same time, the Allies were trying to lock down the northern flank of the offensive. Baraque de Fraiture and then Manhay fell into German hands in sometimes chaotic conditions during the night between 24 and 25 December. Ernst Barkmann’s tank raid penetrating into the heart of the American defensive positions would long be remembered. While disturbing, the enemy advance was not decisive, however. The Allied front did not collapse. On the contrary, it was consolidated, and by 28 December Manhay was cleared of enemy presence.

After 27-28 December, the German offensive ran out of steam. Although the Nazis conquered a number of nearby villages (Lierneux, Bra-sur-Lienne, Malempré), the road to the Meuse remained blocked. Furthermore, on 3 January 1945, no less than five American divisions, including the famous 82nd Airborne Division, launched a massive counterattack from Hotton to Trois-Ponts. The Germans resisted this push for several weeks, abandoning the terrain and leaving villages devastated.


Baraque Fraiture 6690 Vielsalm