Tom Shockley was an Artillery Officer with the 82 Airborne Division. On December 23 1944 he was at the Belle Hay crossroads. He has studied the action of the Third Armored Division in that area.
Reece Graham was a tank commander Sergeant in D Company, 32nd. Armored Regiment, Third Armored Division.
SHOCKLEY: On the night of the nineteenth of December 1944, Task Force Kane arrived in Manhay from the vicinity of Stolberg without any opposition at all. On the morning of the 20th., TF Kane broke his task force into three teams, their mission being to find out where the Germans were, and when they found them, find out what they were doing. Kane sent out scouting parties to the village of Malnmpre, which lies to the East of Manhay, and another group South of Manhay to Odeigne, and a third team to the Crossroads (576853) where Parkers group were. They made contact with Maj. Parker, and also made plans to send help to protect the Crossroads. On the moring of the 21st. Kane sent Task force Macdonald down hwy 15 to the Crossroads. Lt Elton MacDonald, commanding officer of D Co of the 32nd. AR. had ten M-4 Shermans and two assault tanks. At about 1300 the Germans made an attack on the Crossroads but were driven back and all was quiet late in the afternoon. The Crossroads were saved from being overrun at the time. On the morning of the 22nd, TF Mac Donald got orders to leave the Crossroads and go to the aid of T F Orr. The two assault tanks were left behind at the Crossroads. They went west to the vicinity of Odeigne, Lamormenil (503861) and Freyneux (513862)
CORBIN: Reece; Would you tell us what you remember about TF MacDonald in December 21st. to 26th..
GRAHAM: I was a tank commander Sgt. with D/32 in Lt. MacDonald's
I remember going to the Crossroads on the 21st. of December, 1944 When we arrived some element of the Seventh Armored were just ariving. About an hour later the Germans were advancing and attacked. We shot them up and drove them off. In the morning of December 22nd. We left the Crossroads with ten Sherman tanks and went to Odeign. We set up there for the night. On the morning of the 23rd. we moved into the town of Freyneux and cleared it out. It was very cold and snow was on the ground. In the afternoon we moved through town on the way to Lamormenil and ran into a large concentration of Germans. They had built fires up in the wood. We fired on them and we received return fire which became very heavy. We pulled back into the Village of Frryneux and spent the night. Thing went smoothly during the first part of the night. We had set up road blocks and sent out patrolls. About 3:00 in the morning a German patrol moved in on us but was beat off by our outposts. At daylight of the 24th. a runner came and told us to man our tanks as the Germans were moveing in on us. We were in a small house with our tank beside it. Across the road was a stone fence and beyond that down below was an open field across the valley toward Lamormenil we had our gun aimed at. Then a runner came from another tank saying their tank treads had frozen to the ground and they could not move. They had pulled behind a woodpile near a barn late in the afternoon of the day before when the ground was soft. WE were unable to pull it out, and while we were hooked to it the Germans fired a shot into it and disabled it. We had a hard time unhooking from the tank and was fortunate we did not get hit also. After unhooking the cables we returned to the position we moved from. WE fired on th German tank that had knocked out Beckman's tank. The tank fired back twice and the shells hit into the house behind our tank sending debree all over us. We fired at the tank twice but our gun barrel could not be lowed enough. We saw his gun barrel sticking up and it backed down out of sight. I saw another tank fire. I gave the gunner the range of 2000 yards. He fired an armored tracer and it was in direct line but short. I told the gunner up 2, fire and the shell went in the rear of the German tank and burned. I then saw another tank behind this one going from right to left up the road toward Odeign. I gave the gunner the range and left 2 and up 1 fire, and it hit again in the rear and that tank also burned. Things quieted down after that. Medical supplies were fired into us as we were surrounded.
SHOCKLEY: Reese; Did you have any Infanrty with you?
GRAHAM:Yes we had Airborne troops and a towed anti tank gun from the 517th. with us when we left Freyneux for Lamormenil. We had five tanks in Freyneux and loss two of them. Lt MacDonald had taken the the other five tanks to Lamormenil. We got trapped in that area and did not get out until the night of the 26th. of December. We were helped out by some of our outposts in the rear. I drove my tank out with Sgt. Beckman in the turrent throught Sadot.
SHOCKLEY: You were fortunate to get out as you were cut off several times. When you left the Crossroads with T F MacDonald and pushed West, this left a void and the Jerries filled it after overrunning the Crossroads. The only troups we had to defend with were T F Kane and some help from T F Richardson. The 517th. Paratroop and the 289 Regiment of the 75th, Infantry Division each provided a company of infantry.
CORBIN: Tom ; Could you show us on the map where Maj. Olin Brewster with his Task force set up his road block
.SHOCKLEY: It was set up in the late afternoon on December 23rd. it as about 25 hundred yards North of the Crossroads toward the Bell Hay Crossroads. His mission was to protect the Crossroads, but the Crossroads had been overrun before he could get there. He tried to retake the Crossroads but was forced back, so he set up a roadblock to prevent the Germans taking Manhay He held this roadblock until the morning of the 25th. of December, but got surrounded and had to get out through the 82nd Division lines.
CORBIN: I thank you both for coming over. I think we learned a lot of what really happened in the Crossroad's area.