Photo by Bill Warnock, Lausdell, January 1986
First Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment
Heroic Stand at Lausdell
WWII HISTORY, July 2007
Download Full Article (PDF), 4.3 MB
Howitzer shells crashed down from the night sky. With lightning suddenness, the pastureland burst into fire and death. Steel fragments slashed at the attacking Germans who dove to the ground, faces twisted in terror, hands furiously clawing for cover. The defending GIs curled up in their foxholes, ears ringing and hands clamped over their helmets. Minutes dragged on forever. Nobody who survived that night would ever forget the incredible firepower that bucked the German onslaught at Lausdell on the second day of the Battle of the Bulge.
First Lieutenant John C. Granville is the artilleryman often credited with orchestrating the Lausdell bombardment. I tracked him down in 1986 and found a retired lumber company owner who had lost contact with his wartime comrades and had never spoken about the Bulge to anyone, including his family.
In a series of letters to me, Jack Granville detailed his Bulge experiences as an artillery liaison officer. He dismissed the suggestion that he alone orchestrated the bombardment, instead attributing it to a team effort. That amounted to more than modesty; it was the truth. After my contact with Jack, he reconnected with buddies from his artillery battalion and in 1987 traveled with his wife to a 2nd Infantry Division reunion in Texas, stopping en route to see me in Oklahoma.
Seven months after locating the former artilleryman, I found Odis Bone, another Lausdell survivor who had never spoken about his experiences. The former staff sergeant led the Mortar Section of Company B, 9th Infantry. His ordeal began when an enemy tank approached the American position, the initial clash before the artillery bombardment. This is the story:
The lead Panzer churned along a farm road, tracks clanking as it plowed through the night. Odis listened as the heart-stopping noise grew louder and louder, then—Ka-Boom! The steel behemoth struck an antitank mine set by the Lausdell defenders. An orange flame lashed out from under its left track. Gears whining, the tank lurched to a stop alongside the road. Its machine guns chattered, pouring fire at shifting forms in the darkness. The tank’s turret slowly rotated, the huge cannon searching for targets. More tanks approached as did enemy foot troops. Cannon shells pounded a fieldstone farmhouse, and a wooden barn burst into flames. American machine-gun crews opened fire until cannon shells slammed into them. Someone had to finish off the menacing tank, and quick.
Odis grabbed a gasoline can from an abandoned vehicle. He and two other sergeants conspired to burn the tank. The three men crept forward in a half crouch to the machine’s rear end which looked battleship big. Odis unscrewed the gas-can lid and helped hoist the open container overhead and onto the engine deck. The crew inside tossed out a grenade, wounding one man but failing to drive away the trio. One of them lobbed a phosphorous grenade onto the deck. The disabled Panzer met its end in a bright blaze that illuminated Lausdell and burned its way into history books.
My first contact with Odis occurred when I telephoned him in 1987. We soon began exchanging letters, and, less than a year later, he invited me for a visit. I drove 400 miles to his house near Marble Falls, Texas, the day after my discharge from the U.S. Air Force. At that time, my goal was to produce an oil painting illustrating the fiery fracas. To help me gain a clearer picture, Odis reenacted the episode in his driveway. He used my Ford Thunderbird as the enemy tank, demonstrating how he and the two other sergeants approached and destroyed the tank.
Several days after meeting Odis, I drove through Saint Louis, Missouri, and spent several days with Jack Granville and his wife. He died from leukemia in 1995, but not before he and several wartime colleagues returned to Europe where they walked the fields at Lausdell. Odis Bone lived much longer, finally succumbing to pancreatic cancer in 2011.
Odis and Jack were just two of many Lausdell survivors who I had the privilege to know and interview. The recollections they shared with me never resulted in a painting, but instead led to a 2007 article in WWII History magazine.
Photos posted on Pinterest. Downloadable PDFs currently in the Archive:
V Corps situation map, 19 Dec 44
2nd Inf Div, position overlay (map), 17 Dec 44
2nd Inf Div, position overlay (map), 18 Dec 44
2nd Inf Div G-2 Report 176, 18 Dec 44, 5 pp
9th Inf Rgt, situation overlay, 18 Dec 44
15th FA Bn, S-3 Report, Maj. Maples, 18 Dec 44
“Enemy Tanks Destroyed,” Maj. Utley, S-3, 38th Inf
“The Ninth Infantry Regiment As I Knew It” by William F. Hancock, 38 pp
“Heartbreak Crossroads” by Ralph Steele, 14 pages
“U.S. Battalion’s Stand” by Harold Denny, 5 pages
Statement of Roy Allen (combat interview), 3 pages
Wesley Knutsen combat interview, 4 pp
1st Bn, 9th Inf Rgt combat interview, 16-19 Dec 44, 9 pp
More documents to come ...
Download high-resolution (16 x 24 inches) version of Robert Utley's map from the Archive.