File No.:

Title: Location of "The Sad Sack Affair"
Investigation made at:
Hamlet of Sadzot, Municipality of 6997 Érezée, Luxembourg Province, Belgium.
50°17'08.8"N 5°35'36.1"E
Period Covered:
27-29DEC1944
Date: 
SEP2018
Case Classification: Location of Historic Events
Status of Case: Case Closed



 

REASON FOR INVESTIGATION
"The Sad Sack Affair" is a lesser known battle which took place in the Belgian Ardennes Forest in late December 1944. It was the last attempt of the 2nd SS Panzer Korps to break out of the Bulge in the Allied lines, established by Nazi forces during the first stage of the Ardennes offensive earlier that same month. At the loss of many American soldiers a small scale battle on a platoon and individual level, the Nazi breakout attempt was halted at the hamlet of Sadzot. This agency visited the location and a museum of the battle.

SYNOPSIS:

As the year [1944] came to a close the Sixth Panzer Army made one last effort to breach the American defenses between the SALM and the OURTHE. This battle took place in and around the hamlet of SADZOT (so tiny that it does not appear on most of the Belgian maps). SADZOT lay on a small creek 400 yards south of BRISCOL, a village on the main road between GRANDMÉNIL and EREZÉE. The engagement at SADZOT was fought by squads and platoons, and so may be appropriately called a "soldiers' battle"; with equal propriety the name coined by the GI's for this confused action is used here: "The Sad Sack Affair."
Having given up the fight for MANHAY and GRANDMÉNIL, the 2d SS Panzer began to parcel out its troops. Once again, however, the forces actually available to the II SS Panzer Corps were considerably fewer than planned. All that the 12th SS Panzer could employ on 27DEC1944, the date set by the army commander for the new attack, was the 25th Panzer Grenadier Regiment. The 2d SS Panzer contribution perforce was limited: its reconnaissance battalion, a battalion of mobile guns, and two rifle companies, a task force commanded by Major KRAG. The time for the attack was midnight.
During the 27th the lines of [American] General HICKEY's command had been redressed. In the process 1st BN of the 289th Infantry had tied in with Task Force Orr on the AISNE River while the 2nd BN, having finally straightened itself out, continued the 3d Armored line through the woods southwest of GRANDMÉNIL. Unknown at the time, a 1,000 yard gap had developed south of SADZOT and BRISCOL between these two BN’s.
At zero hour the Nazi assault force started forward through the deep woods. The grenadiers made good progress, but radio failed in the thick woods and it would appear that a part of the attackers became disoriented. At least 2 companies from the 25th Panzer Grenadier Regiment did manage to find their way through the gap between the BN’s of the 289th and followed the creek into SADZOT, where they struck about two hours after the jump-off.
The course of battle as it developed in the early morning hours of 28DEC1944 is extremely confused. The first report of the Nazi appearance in SADZOT was relayed to higher headquarters at 0200 by artillery observers belonging to the 24th Armored FA BN, whose howitzers were emplaced north of the village. The two American rifle BN’s reported no sign of the enemy. Inside SADZOT were bivouacked “C” Company of the 87th Chemical BN and a tank destroyer platoon; these troops rapidly recovered from their surprise and during the melee established a firm hold on the north side of the village. General HICKEY immediately alerted the 509th Parachute Infantry BN near EREZÉE to make an envelopment of SADZOT from west and east, but no sooner had the paratroopers deployed than they ran into Kampfgruppe KRAG.

(Click to enlarge)

The village of Erezée before the battle. American soldiers have fun in the snow
and large caliber howitzers are parked in the town square.

This meeting engagement in the darkness seems to have been a catch-as-catch-can affair. The American radios, like the Nazi, failed to function in this terrain (the 3d Armored communications throughout the battle were mostly by wire and runner); the Nazis were confused and put mortar fire on their own neighboring platoons; and the fight on both sides was carried by squads and platoons firing at whatever moved. When daylight came the paratroopers got artillery support, which far outweighed the single BN behind the enemy assault force, and moved forward. By 1100 the 509th had clicked the trap shut on the Germans inside SADZOT.
There remained the task of closing the gap between the two BN’s of the 289th. General HICKEY put in the 2nd BN of the 112th Infantry at dark on the 28th, but this outfit, hastily summoned to the fight, lost its direction and failed to seal the gap. Early on the morning of the 29th HICKEY, believing that the 112th had made the line of departure secure, sent the 509th and 6 light tanks to attack toward the southeast. But the enemy had reorganized in the meantime, put in what probably was a fresh BN, and begun a new march on SADZOT. In the collision that followed, a section of German 75-mm AT guns destroyed 3 of the light tanks and the paratroopers recoiled; but so did the enemy.
During the morning the 2nd BN, 112th Infantry, got its bearings and set out to push a bar across the corridor from the west, where contact with the 1st BN of the 289th was firm, to the east and the socket provided the 2nd BN, 289th. Across the deep ravines and rugged hills American troops were sighted, and believing these to be the 2nd BN the troops from the 112th veered toward them. What had been seen, however, proved to be the paratroopers of the 509th. After this misadventure and the jolt suffered by the paratroopers, HICKEY and the BN commanders concerned worked out a coordinated attack. First the paratroopers put in a twilight assault which forced the Hun back. Then the 2nd BN of the 112th made a night attack with marching fire, guiding this time on 60-mm illuminating mortar shells fired by the 2nd BN of the 289th. Crossing through deep ravines the infantrymen of the 112th drove the enemy from their path. At dawn on the 29DEC1944 the gap finally was closed.

- Source: US Army in World War II, The European Theater of Operations, The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge by Hugh M. Cole Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, Washington, D.C., 1965, Pages 600- 602, https://history.army.mil/books/wwii/7-8/7-8_CONT.HTM -

(Click to enlarge)

Sadzot after the battle:
Left: Using a hedgerow for concealment, men of the 3rd Armored Division keep a hard posture north of Sadzot.
Right: Medics Hamlin and Petty of the 3rd Armored Divison look at their destroyed ambulance jeep.

CONCLUSION:
This agency visited Sadzot, the monument honouring the American forces engaged in the battle and a local museum. With the help of the museum owner we were able to find the location of an iconic photo of the Battle of the Bulge just north of the hamlet.

EXHIBITS:

(click to enlarge)
1)2)3)4)5)
6)7)8)9)10)11)12)

1) Village of Sadzot. Dubbed Sad Sack by American soldiers....
2) .... after the cartoon in Yank Magazine in World War Two.
3) & 4) Monument in honor of the men of the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion, the 3rd Armored and the 75th Infantry Divisions.
5) This way to the Sadzot Museum 44...
6) ...a 20 square meter building....
7) ... open only by appointment with the owner Denis Fairon.
8)  Patches of the 75th Infantry Division, 3rd Armored Division and the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion;
the "Gingerbread Man".
9) Uniform of 1LT Anthony Gallo Covatta of the 629th Tank Destroyer BN.
10) Various battle relics of the "Sad Sack Affair".
11) & 12) Nazi helmets left behind in Sadzot after the battle.

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