After several days of grueling defensive fighting throughout the northern shoulder of the Bulge, in late December 1944, the XVII Airborne Corps wanted to determine if the time was right for an Allied counter-attack. To achieve this objective, the 551 PIB was chosen to make a night raid on the German garrison at Noirefontaine. The primary goals of the raid were putting the enemy off balance and capturing enough prisoners to identify enemy units and gather intelligence. The raid signaled the start of the Allied counter-attack in the northern shoulder of the Bulge. The following account on the raid is based on my interview with Charles Fairlamb, a member of the 551.
|With faces blackened for the raid, the 551 passed through the lines of the 508 PIR at 2300 on 27 December 1944. As Fairlamb recalls, "We started across no-mans-land, the Germans started pouring in the artillery. By this time they must have known that someone was coming but didn't know from what point, so they kept traversing with their guns." Fairlamb had a field radio strapped on his back to call in mortar fire; he was alone as he moved forward. Fairlamb recalled "there wasn't a sound except for the shells bursting. The moon was quite bright; we stayed close to the edge of the woods. Next, we went down a wide slope and across a small stream." Fairlamb then crossed an open field that was loaded with mines, but the ground was so frozen that the mines failed to detonate. Crossing a paved road Fairlamb then jumped into a large ditch which contained a stream and was bordered by trees and shrubs. As he moved down the ditch, Fairlamb heard the sound of a tank rumbling up ahead of his position. He also heard several the voices of 551 bazooka men close to his position discussing how they were going to knock out the enemy tank. They were unable to carry out their plan since the tank never appeared. According to Fairlamb, the weather was so cold that the men had to carry bazooka shells under their jackets so the shells wouldn't freeze.|
|As Fairlamb emerged from the ditch "All hell broke
loose," machine guns and rifles blazed away at a stone farm house a few hundred feet
away. Fairlamb recalls "the night was turned into day as our incendiary mortars hit
the stone farm building, causing the entire complex to catch on fire. I could see the
outlines of Germans in the frames of windows as they tried to escape the burning
buildings." The SS who made the stone farmhouse their CP were mowed down by the 551's
withering fire as they attempted to flee the buildings. The 551 had reached their
objective, a series of stone barns and outbuilding was called "Black Spring" or
As he crossed the field toward the burning buildings, Fairlamb approached two figures standing under a tree; it was the battalion commander Lt. Col. Joerg and his large-shouldered bodyguard Duke Spletzer. As Fairlamb approached the two men, a bullet whizzed by Joerg. According to Fairlamb, Joerg coolly pointed to Spletzer and said "go get that apple." Within a few minutes, the firing stopped and Spletzer returned with a German rifle.
|Meanwhile, most of the Germans in the area were firing their weapons and retreating. During the German withdrawal, a captured American half-track parked outside the farm caught fire and burned furiously for 30 minutes. Amidst the fire fight and conflagration, the men of the 551 or GOYA's (GOYA is a term coined by Joerg which stands for GET OFF YOUR ASS) were able to capture several German prisoners. With there mission accomplished the 551 made their way back to their lines.|
|On the morning of 28 December, exhausted from the raid, the GOYA's with faces still blackened, held a long overdo Christmas church service in the woods. As Fairlamb wrote: "It was cold and snowing, and nearly half the men had lost their voices because of the bad weather. The trees, mostly pine, were beautifully covered with snow and decorated with tinsel which the Germans had been dropping to make our radar ineffective. It was the most impressive Christmas service I've ever attended. I don't believe that anyone could be any closer to the real Christmas than we were that day. But it made you feel kind of funny standing there worshipping God while you had a helmet on your head, a hymn book in one hand, and a rifle in the other.|