THE SIGNIFICANCE OF NOIREFONTAINE
All taken directly from Col. Dillard’s rebuttal to the CMH:
The Center for Military History says of the Noirefontaine raid, “Executed with bravery and skill, it yielded no great advantage to the 82nd Airborne in either intelligence or in causing anything but minor disruption to the German defenders.” But this is not what the opposing regimental German commander thought. Two of his companies mangled by the middle-of-the-night raid, forced to flee his own command post, Obsterlieutenant Arthur Juttner, commander of the 164th Volksgrenadier Regiment wrote that “Everything (at Noirefontaine) was blown up and a lot of our men killed or wounded, a big loss. The soldiers were cold and wet, so they had stayed in the houses there. Listening to the explosions outside, the alarm came too late and we were hurt badly.” Juttner also noted the strategic importance of Noirefontaine, not only for his unit, but two panzer outfits: “Noirefontaine and LaFosse were important for the 1st and 9th SS [Panzers].” In fact, the 551st was surprised to encounter elite forces of the 9th SS Panzers in the farmhouses at Noirefontaine. That they were there was of great interest to Division and Corps.
That day of Dec. 27, 1944, XVIII Airborne Corps G-3 report notes that the 551st “is not to be committed without consent of the Corps Commander.” Apparently, the Noirefontaine raid that night was of importance not only to Gavin, but his Corps commander, Gen. Ridgeway. Ridgway’s own diary entry of December 26 strongly suggests that he and Gavin jointly planned this punching raid specifically for the 551st ever since Christmas (when it had to be called off)—but that Ridgway himself originated the order. A Corps commander does not reach down to a battalion level for “minor affairs.” According to a 551st Headquarters Company sergeant: “This was the first attack against the Germans in the XVIII Airborne Corps sector following the German offensive in the Bulge, and it uncovered valuable intelligence desired by Corps Hq.” Over 25 Germans were captured for questioning. Gavin personally visited the 551st CP to order the raid that night, and personally congratulated the men on return six hours later before dawn.
The CMH is wrong about the Noirefontaine raid. In addition to being a remarkable success—German records indicate 60 killed with more than 100 wounded, versus U.S. casualties of 4 dead, 15 wounded—it weakened the 164th VGR and thereby lightened the effort for two U.S. regiments which would face the 164th: the 508th and 325th. As it turned out, the 164th VGR was the worst hit unit of the 62nd VGD.