The 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler was the spearhead of the assault by Sepp Dietrich’s Sixth Panzer Armee on the northern flank of the German Ardennes offensive. Divided into Kampfgruppen, the lead was Kampfgruppe Peiper whose armored force included SS Heavy Tank Battalion 501 equipped with King Tigers. The attack was launched on a snowy, freezing December 16, but from the outset, the division lost time against schedule. It captured a fuel dump at Büllingen, but brave defense forced Peiper onto the southern Rollbahn D whose tight, winding roads proved difficult to negotiate and soon the Kampfgruppe was strung out over 25 kilometers with its heavy armor—the King Tigers—slowly losing ground as vehicle after vehicle succumbed to automotive failures. Pushing through Stavelot and Trois Pont, the advanced units of the Kampfgruppe reached Stoumont before lack of fuel—the Americans had retaken Stavelot and closed off the route for German resupply—and US Army action forced it to halt at La Gleize. Six days later, on Christmas Eve, with no hope and no fuel, Peiper and his men abandoned their vehicles and made their way back to their lines: only 770 got there.They left behind 135 armored vehicles including the King Tiger that today stands in front of the museum at La Gleize. They also left scattered on their route the murdered bodies of US servicemen—at Malmedy, Ligneuville, and Wereth—and civilians, massacres that would lead to postwar trials and continued recriminations.The Past & Present Series reconstructs historical battles by using photography, juxtaposing modern views with those of the past together with concise explanatory text. It shows how much infrastructure has remained and how much such as outfits, uniforms, and ephemera has changed, providing a coherent link between now and then.
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