In collaboration with Major Dick Winters
The capture of Noville, Belgium on January 15, 1945 was the last major action of WWII for the men of the famed “Band of Brothers” Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Air Borne Division. Noville was the principle objective of the division from December 19, 1944 until its capture on January 15, 1945. The painting by James Dietz depicts the scene on the morning of the 16th with Major General Maxwell Taylor, and members of his division staff, BG Higgins (ADC), COL Sink (506th), COL Harper (327th), and MAJ Hatch (2-502) conducting an impromptu map reconnaissance adjacent to the battered Noville Town Hall in the background. In the foreground are members of Easy Company consolidating after having conducted the final assault on the town the night before. The following passage by Major Dick Winters who served as the 2nd Battalion Commander 506th at the time offers a historical account of the attack on Noville that grammatically illustrates the human dimension of war and the heroism of those who later became known as “The Battered Bastards of Bastogne”.
Comments from Major Dick Winters:
What I recall most about the Ardennes-Alsace Campaign were the long, cold nights coupled with terrible artillery barrages, tree bursts, and infantry assaults conducted by desperate troops against frightening tank attacks. When the word came down for the attack on Noville to take place I could not believe that after what we had gone through and done, after all the casualties we had suffered, that they were putting us into the attack. The scheduled mid-day hour of the attack angered me even more. Having men move through snow almost knee deep, in the middle of a bright sunny day across one and a half miles of wide open field seemed suicidal. The Germans were sitting on the high ground with tanks hidden by the cover of the buildings. That day I earned my pay! Before we started, I recognized that our salvation just might be that there was a fairly deep shoulder in the terrain on the southwest side of Noville and if I sent the column straight for it, I could pick up more and more cover as we got closer to Noville. We were lucky. The Germans did not have any strong point on the shoulder and the plan worked. I had to put the whole battalion in single file to cut through that snow. It was a dangerous formation. The 1st Battalion was about 400 yards to our left and slightly to the rear of our column. From time to time I’d glance over to see how they were doing. They were being cut up by direct fire from the 88’s on those tanks in Noville. The fire was hitting into their lines; men were flying through the air scattering the snow covered fields. By dark I had worked the Battalion around the draw on the southeast corner of town. We had to go through machine gun fire coming from Noville that was covering the draw. We setup a couple of light machine guns of our own to counter this. The Germans would fire; we would give them a return burst and, at the same time, send a group of eight to ten men across the draw and a stream to the other side. It became a cat and mouse game. It took a lot of patience, but we did it without any casualties. From their position the Germans somehow failed to pass on to their command that we had made a flanking action on the southern end of town. As a result, the Germans left to conduct the delaying action were still oriented to the north where all our attacks had come from for the past few days. By dark, wringing wet with sweat, the battalion waited in the bitterest of cold before launching the final assault on Noville.