(Picture Courtesy of the Emberlin Family)

Medals and badges Pvt. Emberlin probably earned

George H. Emberlin was born December 15, 1913, in Huntington County, Indiana to D. R. (Delphos Ray) Emberlin and Lulu McClure or Alberta Louella McClure. George was the first son born to Delphos R. Emberlin and his first wife Alberta and was named after his grandfather on his father's side (George W. Emberlin). George had 2 older sisters, Grace Dorthea (born December 26, 1909) and Vivian May (born November 18, 1911). By 1920, George's father had a new wife (Georgia) and moved to Huron County, Ohio, where he was listed as a boiler maker, working for a railroad. Initially, after the divorce Grace, Vivian and George lived with their father, as their mother Alberta was not well and was unable to care for the children. In the 1920 census after Delphos and Georgia (his second wife) were married, the 3 children were still living with them. The 1930 census shows that the girls, Grace and Vivian, have moved to live with their mother but George is living with his father. Delphos and Georgia had 8 more children together. George H. Emberlin had 6 half-brothers and 2 half-sisters in addition to his two older sisters. He was close to his younger brothers as he lived with his father off and on after the divorce. After the divorce George's mother moved to San Diego, California, where she married Fred Wilkinson and lived from 1939 on at 4066 Franklin Avenue. George's religion was Protestant and he spent 3 years in high school. In 1943 George was listed living at his mother's house and working for the SDERy (San Diego Electric Railway) as an Operator. He entered the service from San Diego County, California and enlisted on January 28, 1944, in Los Angeles, California, at age 30. As his emergency addressee he listed his mother Alberta L. Wilkinson (4066 Franklin Avenue, San Diego, California) and as his beneficiary his mother Alberta and sister Grace D. Gibson (1011 8th Avenue, Sacramento 14, California).

George H. Emberlin in 1937, at age 24
(Picture Courtesy of the Emberlin Family)

Private George Emberlin probably first had his infantry training and then volunteered for the airborne. He became part of the Regimental Headquarters Company of the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. Private George H. Emberlin's Report of Death lists George as a Combat Infantryman on Parachute Pay. The 502nd PIR originated in July 1941, as the 502nd Parachute Battalion, an experimental unit formed to test the doctrine and tactics of parachute assault. On 2 March 1942, the unit was redesignated as the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment. The 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment was activated on 1 July 1941, at Fort Benning, Georgia, and joined the 101st Airborne Division in August 1942.

The training was separated in 4 stages. The first three weeks the men had to march as a group, ran nine miles every morning before breakfast, learned how to fold and pack their parachutes at the packing sheds, had callisthenics in the field, starting with side-straddle hops and going the full course to push-ups and other exercises. The next stage took one week - as the two following. In this second stage the men learned how to jump out of an airplane and how to land with a parachute. In the 3rd stage they used towers for the men to practice, so their jumps would be more realistic. The final stage was formed by 5 jumps out of a C-47. After jumping five times the paratroopers received the desired silver parachute wings.

502nd PIR Patch

Private George Emberlin joined the 502nd PIR probably at the end of November 1944. As he was part of the Regimental Headquarters Company of the 502nd PIR it is uncertain what duty he fulfilled within his unit as it consisted of cooks, typists, radiomen, demolition experts, etc. Regimental headquarters and headquarters company was primarily a command and communications unit of about 162 men, including a demolitions platoon of 43 men and equipped with 3 bazookas. The biggest part of the unit was primarily armed with small arms. Pvt. Emberlin probably joined the 502nd PIR while the 101st Airborne Division was in France in a former French artillery garrison near Reims called Camp Mourmelon (near Reims, France, and roughly 100 miles from Bastogne) to recover from their losses during the Holland campaign (half September until the beginning of November 1944). While in this camp the men were given a chance to rest, and training was limited to close order drill and calisthenics. The task of overhauling all equipment and weapons was undertaken. A few Red Cross clubs were even opened for the entertainment of the troops. While at Camp Mourmelon, Pvt. Emberlin ‘celebrated' his 31st birthday – December 15, 1944.

Less than two weeks after fighting in Holland, the 101st Airborne was alerted for another mission. On December 16, 1944, the Germans launched their greatest offensive of the war in the west. Achieving a considerable success in their first attacks, they broke through, penetrated 65 miles into Allied territory, halted the Allied offensive then going on, and threatened the entire front in the west. The failure of this German drive was due in part to the American resistance at St. Vith and Bastogne.

George H. Emberlin in 1944
(Picture Courtesy of the Emberlin Family)

At 24.00 Hours on December 17, 1944, unit commanders were told that the Germans had broken through Allied lines and were rolling westward across Luxembourg and Belgium. The situation was tense. Many American units had been overrun, others were staggering under the unexpected power of the German blow. The 101st Airborne was ordered to move within 12 hours. Clerks, draftsmen and typists hurriedly were awakened. In the dim early morning hours, division, regiment and battalion headquarters personnel raced to ready maps and vital information needed by the first groups before departure. General Taylor was in Washington on urgent War Department business, so General McAuliffe was in command. The 101st Airborne rolled to Bastogne in huge carrier trucks. The 501st PIR (Lt. Col. Julian J. Ewell) headed the 101st Airborne Division columns rolling into Belgium, followed by the 506th PIR (Col. Robert F. Sink), the 502nd PIR (Lt. Col. Steve A. Chappuis), and the 327th GIR (Col. Joseph H. Harper). Re-routing sometimes was necessary, but by 21.00 Hours a considerable number of men already had arrived at temporary Division Headquarters near the town of Bastogne. German objectives were Liege, Namur, and across the Meuse to Antwerp. The plan which sent speeding Panzer columns westward along Belgium's highways called for capture of Bastogne with a vital hub of a communication network of seven highways and three railroads. Seizure of Bastogne was imperative to insure development of the German attack. Without the city the Germans could hardly hope to succeed.

The adoptant of Pvt. George Emberlin's grave, Rick Demas, in Bastogne (north part) - coming to Bastogne from Foy
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Original name shield of Bastogne, taken back to the US as a souvenir by a paratrooper after the battle in January, 1945 - picture taken in Bastogne Historical Center
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Shortly after 09.00 Hours on December 18, contact was made near a small town east of Bastogne, and leading German elements met their first organized resistance and took a bad mauling. During these first confused hours the Medical Company and attached surgical teams were captured west of Bastogne by German armor. Loss of these units was a severe blow to the division.

On the left flank of the 506th PIR, the 502nd PIR had passed a quiet night (18th to the 19th December). By noon of December 19, 36 hours after the alert, the 101st Airborne Division established its headquarters in Bastogne and units set up a circular defense of the town. In midafternoon of December 19, the 502nd PIR had moved to Longchamps and established a perimeter defense there. Its 3rd Battalion deployed on a high hill to south of the village. Its 1st Battalion was in the Bois de Niblamont which was southward of the hill. Initially, the 1st Battalion had held half of the front, but at 24.00 Hours of the 19th December General McAuliffe told Lieutenant Colonel Steve Chappuis, commander of the 502nd PIR, that inasmuch as his regiment was the Division reserve he could leave one battalion on the northward-facing line. The 2nd Battalion drew the assignment. It made no difference in any case, for though the battalion was stretched seven thousand yards, there was no action anywhere along its front that night. That night all platoons of Company C of the 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion were attached to the 506th PIR and General McAuliffe got ready to employ as much of the strength of 502nd PIR along his northern flank - as the morrow would prove necessary. The 502nd PIR now held the northern sector of the American line in the Longchamps and Sonne-Fontaine area. In the ensuing days the encircled 101st Airborne engaged in vicious fighting. The 502nd PIR held positions on the north and northwest portion of the envelopment. Although foggy weather and poor visibility helped them, the German forces still were unable to crack the vital road junction town of Bastogne.

The adoptant of Pvt. George Emberlin's grave, Rick Demas, in Longchamps (southwest part) - coming to Longchamps from Champs (Nr. 1 in the google earth map beneath)
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Google earth map of the Champs area with the places marked where pictures were taken which are shown above and beneath. Special reference will be made when it concerns such a picture
(click on picture to enlarge)

Bastogne - 19 till 23 December 1944 (click on picture to enlarge)

Early on Wednesday December 20, German panzer, infantry and parachute divisions swelled around Bastogne. The Germans knowing that continuance of their offensive depended on seizure of Bastogne, attacked the complete circle to find a breakthrough point in the American lines around Bastogne. Field artillery units fought head-on tank advances with point blank artillery and small arms fire. Fog continued to aid German infiltrating attempts. Here and there outer lines sagged. German tanks were allowed to infiltrate the lines. It was about mid-morning when 101st Airborne Division Headquarters called the 502nd PIR and directed that its 3rd Battalion (under Lieutenant Colonel John P. Stopka - later killed in action) attack through Recogne and gain contact with the American force at Noville, thus reestablishing the left flank. The battalion crossed the line of departure at 11.30 Hours and then pushed right on, meeting little opposition. But when the 3rd Battalion, 502nd PIR, reached Recogne a change in the order came. At somewhere around noon General McAuliffe had decided that Noville wasn't important enough to warrant a last-ditch stand on the inferior ground around the village. Colonel Stopka was accordingly instructed to make a limited attack forward to cover the extrication of Major Harwick's men of the 3rd Battalion, 506th PIR. That battalion was to fight the same kind of action on the other flank. It was figured that the Noville force could sideslip into the area of the 502nd PIR once Stopka's battalion got up to it. However, his Battalion had fought its way only a short distance past Recogne when the plan was again changed. Colonel Sink, commanding the 506th PIR, had looked the situation over and decided that the best way out was for Major Harwick's force to retire down the Bastogne road. Colonel Stopka's battalion remained in position on a line running through Recogne with its left flank extended westward to join the 2nd Battalion of the 502nd PIR. Its advance had been made wholly without artillery support because of the dense fog. Four tank destroyers accompanied the battalion to Recogne and stayed there, backing up the line. They got no action the first day though two men and a jeep from the 705th's Reconnaissance Company set up as an evacuation team and shuttled the wounded out of the 502nd PIR's area after a heavy shelling by the German tank artillery. Night after night, bombers searched out Airborne troopers. Low-flying dive bombers and heavy artillery were unpleasant and damaging, but the 101st Airborne stayed on. Hospitals and troop quarters were hit. Evacuation of wounded became a pressing problem. But they had to wait, there was no way out of the doughnut. Reports circulated daily that General Patton's 4th Armored Division was on its way to open a road. Airborne troopers hoped that armor would crack open a path for movement of supplies and evacuation of wounded.

The adoptant of Pvt. George Emberlin's grave, Rick Demas, in Recogne (southeast part) - road from Foy to Recogne (Nr. 2 in the google earth map above)
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

The adoptant of Pvt. George Emberlin's grave, Rick Demas, in Foy (northwest part) - coming to Foy from Recogne. This picture was taken at the other side of the street you can see in the picture above. (Nr. 2 in the google earth map above)
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

At 07.30 Hours on December 21, the 1st Battalion, 502nd PIR, moved to the area just east of Grosse-Hez (two miles east of Champs) on Division order, and with this shifting of the line, Company A was ordered back to its own battalion (it had been attached to the 2nd Battalion to fill out the 2nd's long front). One hour later, the 1st Battalion started up the road toward Recogne. Company G of the 506th PIR had been hit at Foy and had pulled back its left flank to high ground. This maneuver exposed Colonel Stopka's (3rd Battalion) right flank which was anchored in the first few buildings at the north end of Recogne. Stopka had already swung his reserve, Company G, around to his right and faced it south so as to cover the open flank. He had been helped a little by one of the tank destroyers. The morning was intensely foggy and German armor could be beard roaming around just beyond the murk. Sergeant Lazar Hovland got a clear sight of one German tank and set it afire in four rounds. A second German tank fired on Hovland and missed; Hovland crippled it with a quick shot but it pulled back into the fog.

By the new order from 101st Airborne Division, the 1st Battalion was to clean out Recogne finally and then fill the gap between the 502nd and 506th PIRs. The order was changed a few minutes later when Colonel Sink (506th PIR commander) reported to General McAuliffe that despite Company G's difficulty the 506th PIR's position was pretty sound. General McAuliffe decided that it made little difference whether he held Recogne. The 1st Battalion, 502nd PIR, which had been sweeping forward with two companies abreast, was told to keep on moving but in column of companies. General McAuliffe asked Colonel Stopka if he could disengage, pull back of Recogne and stand on a line running southeastward to where he could join Colonel Sink's flank. Inasmuch as Company G, 506th PIR, was already standing on this line which curved crescent-fashion around a reverse slope, Stopka said he would be glad to make the move. At noontime the 1st Battalion was moved back to Grosse-Hez and Company A was moved to the south of Longchamps to stop anything that might come that way. The 377th Field Artillery Battalion had given support to the 502nd PIR during the latter stage of this operation and had fired 60 rounds on the highway from Salle to Bertogne. The fire knocked out six vehicles of a German column which was turned back by these losses.

On December 22, the German build-up along the Salle-Bertogne road continued at such a pace that at noontime Colonel Chappuis, the 502nd PIR's commander, moved Company A to Champs and the rest of the 1st Battalion to Hemroulle (two miles west of Bastogne), which faced them to the westward. A platoon from Company B was set up as a roadblock, where Company A had been, along the Longchamps-Bastogne road. The 3rd Battalion of the 502nd PIR received German probing attacks all day long, but on a limited scale. Two of the tank destroyers which had been with Colonel Stopka's 3rd Battalion were switched over to support Company A in Champs. A patrol was sent to Rouette, a mile north of Champs, to check on German activities. It encountered a small detachment of Germans in the village, engaged 14 of them in a 20-minute fight, drove them off with machine-gun and rifle fire and withdrew under cover of fire from the 377th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion.

The adoptant of Pvt. George Emberlin's grave, Rick Demas, in Champs (northeast part) - road from Champs to Longchamps (Nr. 3 in the google earth map above)
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Road intersection in the center of Champs (Nr. 4 in the google earth map above)
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

The adoptant of Pvt. George Emberlin's grave, Rick Demas, in Hemroulle (north part) - road from Champs to Hemroulle (Nr. 5 in the google earth map above)
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

View from Hemroulle towards Champs (Nr. 5 in the google earth map above)
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

On December 23, the positions were unchanged. Another patrol went into Rouette under the leadership of First Lieutenant David E. White. They got close enough to see that the Germans were occupying a line of outposts on high ground which overlooked the roads to Champs and Givry (two miles northwest of Champs). The Germans were feverishly at work setting up roadblocks of farm carts bound together. There was a great deal of digging going on next to the positions.

At 10.00 Hours on December 23, Captain Parker (9th Air Force - air controller for the defense of Bastogne) at his radio heard that supporting planes were on their way. Within a few minutes he was telling them where to strike. The strongest German buildups at this time were west and northwest of the town of Bastogne, threatening the sectors held by the 502nd PIR and the 327th GIR. The infantry front lines had been hearing and seeing the arrival of these concentrations during the past two days. But because of the shortage of artillery ammunition, there had been no real check against them. As for the extent of the German build-up in the northwest, Colonel Chappuis says in the 502nd PIR interview that the most trying thing in those days on his troops was that they had to look out every day and see German trucks and men swarming up and down the roads all around them. He said, "we could have murdered those Germans. The road intersections in front of us looked like 42nd and Broadway after a football game. Most of the traffic seemed to be moving to the west. They were in easy reach and were quite contemptuous about it. But we could do nothing about it because we did not have the artillery ammunition." However, the American planes dropped low and came in fast against the German columns, gaining complete surprise. The German vehicles were on the road facing toward Bastogne when the first bombs fell among them. Also, the first group of C-47s, fuselages jam-packed with supplies, dipped low and roared in. Supply bundles floating to the ground were the prettiest sight the paratroopers had seen in many days. In the freezing cold and with hardly no supplies left the paratroopers were already anxiously waiting for new supplies. That day was a relatively quiet day. The men cleaned their weapons and waited for Christmas Eve.

Southern shoulder of the Battle of the Bulge - 22 till 26 December 1944 (click on picture to enlarge)

December 24, 1944 - In the 502nd PIR the officers heard Christmas Eve Mass in the tenth-century chapel of the beautiful Rolle Château which they were using for a command post (Pvt. Emberlin´s Regimental Headquarters Company of the 502nd PIR was stationed at the Rolle Château). It was a happy occasion, well attended by the neighboring Belgians who had rounded out the regimental messes with contributions of flour and sides of beef from their own stores. The regimental officers turned in about 01.30 Hours on Christmas morning.

Road leading towards the Rolle Château (Nr. 6 in the google earth map above)
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Above: Chateau Rolle Staff and Help watching first air resupply of Bastogne in December 1944
Beneath: Chateau Rolle in September 2010 (Nr. 7 in the google earth map above) (Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

On December 25, at 02.45 Hours there was an intense shelling of the forward area by the German artillery. Lt. Colonel Patrick J. Cassidy, the 502nd PIR's executive officer, called Captain Wallace A. Swanson of Company A who reported that his front had suddenly become active. But he added that the situation was obscure; he could not figure out yet what the Germans intended. Clad in white snow suits the first German assault party, some fifty grenadiers from the 77th Panzergrenadier Regiment, crept forward under the waning moon toward Champs. Here Company A of the 502nd PIR was deployed on the northwest edge of the village, its right flank joining the 2nd Battalion in a large wood lot midway between Champs and Longchamps. The first German assault party dashed into Champs and the German attack began.

Above: wood lot midway between Champs and Longchamps seen from the Longchamps - Champs Road (Nr. 1 in the google earth map above)
Beneath: wood left of the Longchamps - Champs Road (Nr. 1 in the google earth map above)
(Pictures Courtesy of Rick Demas)

At 03.30 Hours Colonel Cassidy called Captain Swanson in Champs again. Swanson said that the Germans were on top of him. While they were talking, the line went out. Colonel Cassidy awakened Colonel Chappuis, the regimental commander. Then all lines went out. Chappuis called his 1st Battalion by radio and told them to get ready to move, adding that the commander, Major John D. Hanlon, was to come to Rolle as quickly as possible. By radio Chappuis heard from Swanson that Germans in large numbers were in Champs and that his men were locked in a hand-to-hand and house-to-house fight with them. Major Hanlon reported at the command post and was told by Colonel Chappuis to move Company B to the Champs road just west of Rolle and then get forward into Champs and help Captain Swanson's Company A. While Swanson was becoming engaged, other German forces had filtered through the woods to the east of Champs on the 2nd Battalion's left flank (and within the hour a full German battalion had joined the fight near Champs). After reporting this to the regiment, Lt. Colonel Thomas H. Sutliffe, the 2nd Battalion commander, shifted part of his force leftward against this threat. Colonel Chappuis supported his move by instructing Major Hanlon to send one platoon of Company B to the right to join hands with Company E. Hanlon called in at 05.45 Hours and said the Germans were still fighting in Champs. He did not want to put the rest of his battalion into the village until it became light because the darkness and confusion were so bad that it was almost impossible to distinguish friend from enemy. Colonel Chappuis told him to hold steady.

As Chappuis and Cassidy estimated the situation at the 502nd PIR Headquarters, Company B was already backing up Company A and would still be effective if Champs were lost, whereas it might lose its reserve value if it pushed on into the village and the Germans came around it. So they waited. They knew that somewhere a real blow was coming, but they could not figure where. So far the German pressure had jarred them ‘only' at the right and center of the 502nd PIR and was coming at them from the north. They looked anxiously to the westward where their sector joined that of the 327th GIR. Their command post was under heavy artillery fire and was no longer in either telephone or radio communication with the Headquarters of the 101st Airborne Division.

Bastogne - 25 and 26 December 1944 (click on picture to enlarge)

Just as the first light of Christmas morning broke, the S-2 of the 1st Battalion, First Lieutenant Samuel B. Nickels, Jr., came at a dead run into the château where the Headquarters of the 502nd PIR, was. "There are seven enemy tanks and lots of infantry coming over the hill on your left," he said. He had first sighted them moving along parallel to the ridge southwest of Hemroulle. They were striking toward the ground where the 502nd PIR and the 327th GIR joined hands.

The Rolle Château was emptied almost before Lieutenant Nickels had finished speaking. Cooks, clerks, radiomen and the chaplains collected under Captain James C. Stone, the 502nd PIR headquarters commandant (also Pvt. George Emberlin's commanding officer), and rushed west to the next hill. From the château gate at Rolle, the road dips down through a deep swale then rises onto the ridge where it joins the main road into Hemroulle, about two miles northwest of Bastogne. The road line is on high ground all the way until just before it reaches Hemroulle where it drops down again to the village. Captain Stone's scratch headquarters force ran across the swale and took up firing positions close to the road and facing westward. About 75 members of the Regimental CP, built up a defensive line about 300 yards across an open field from the Germans. Within a few minutes they were joined by the men of the regiment's wounded who were able to walk. Major Douglas T. Davidson, the regimental surgeon of the 502nd PIR, had run to the Chateau stable that was serving as a temporary hospital, rallied his patients, handed them rifles and then led them out against the tanks. They could see the tanks coming on toward them now. From the archway of Rolle Château it was about 600 yards to the first line of German armor. Colonels Chappuis and Cassidy and the radio operator looked westward from the archway and could see just the outline of the German movement in the dim light. They were now the only men at the headquarters. Colonel Cassidy called Major Hanlon and told him to leave Company B where it was but to get the company ready to protect its own rear and then try to get Company C faced to the west to meet the German tanks as they came on.

Rick Demas at the entrance gate of Chateau Rolle (Nr. 7 in the google earth map above)
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

View from the gate of Chateau Rolle towards the road which joins the Hemroulle - Champs road (Nr. 7 in the google earth map above)
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Road intersection Chateau Rolle road and Hemroulle-Champs road, view westwards seen from the road leading to Chateau Rolle (Nr. 8 in the google earth map above)
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Picture taken close to the road intersection Chateau Rolle road and Hemroulle-Champs road, looking at the road towards Hemroulle (Nr. 6 in the google earth map above)
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Chateau Rolle stable that was serving as a temporary hospital in December 1944, picture taken facing right when passed the archway (Nr. 7 in the google earth map above)
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Having crashed through Colonel Harper's 327th GIR front, the German armor split as it came on toward the ridge and half of it swung north toward Rolle where Lieutenant Nickels saw it and warned Colonel Chappuis, commander of the 502nd PIR, in time for him to make his last-minute preparation. Companies B and C of the 502nd PIR, were even then in column of twos moving up the road toward Champs.

Thus far Colonel Templeton's 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion had played only a minor part in the defense of the sector, but their best moments were approaching. Two of the tank destroyers had been of some assistance to Captain Swanson (Company A, 502nd PIR) in his fight for Champs. They were already in position there when the German attack got under way, one destroyer in the center of Champs and another slightly to the west of it so placed that it could cover the road to the southwest and the ridge to the north and northwest. Upon setting up, the tank destroyer crews manned four machine guns on the ground around their centrally located guns. This position held when the German infantry closed on Champs and the tank destroyer force even spared a few of its men to go forward and help the paratroopers root the Germans out of the houses. Too, the heavy guns were used for close-up interdiction fire to keep the Germans from moving any deeper into the village. In this work, the 37mm guns, firing canister, were especially effective. Captain Swanson got one of the tank destroyers, under Sergeant Lawrence Valletta, to go forward and blast a house where about thirty Germans had taken cover. Sergeant Valletta moved right in next to the building, trained his big gun on the doors and windows and blew the place apart. He then shelled two more houses and returned to his original position. Just about dawn, he made a second sortie of the same kind.

M18 Hellcat Tank Destroyer
(Pictures Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Tank turret memorial in the center of Champs (Nr. 4 in the google earth map above)
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

To the southward of Champs where the crisis of the Christmas action was swiftly maturing, the tank destroyers got away to a bad start but then staged a swift recovery. Two of them from Company B, 705th Battalion, had been in the 327th GIR area and were out along the road which runs from Rolle toward Grandes-Fanges, a mile to the southwest (this put them to the southward of Company C, 502nd PIR), when the German attack came over the hill. The crews had at first put their tank destroyers into concealment behind a haystack and from there had engaged the German armor at a distance, knocking out two or three tanks. Yet as the power of the German armor became more obvious, they decided to withdraw. That was how it happened that they were moving back toward Rolle and were directly in line with the German tank fire when Company C of the 502nd PIR faced toward the Germans. Both tank destroyers were knocked out almost instantly. The men of Company C saw them reel and stop from the German fire and realized that the loss of the tank destroyers had helped spare them the worst part of the blow.

The encounter had had one other powerful effect; two tank destroyers from Company C, 705th TD Battalion, were waiting in the woods behind Colonel Chappuis' 502nd PIR infantrymen. The German armor, confident that it was now in full command of the field, came on boldly against the infantry line. Colonel Cassidy (executive officer of the 502nd PIR) had sent a runner sprinting toward the woods to alert the two concealed tank destroyers. The runner had been told to run from the guns on to Captain George R. Cody's Company C, 502nd PIR, position and tell him that the tank destroyers would be backing him up. But he didn't get there in time. The guns of the seven Mark IVs were already firing into Company C. About 15 to 20 German infantrymen were riding on the outside of each tank, some firing their rifles. But the ground fog was bad and their fire was erratic. Captain Cody turned his men about and told them to fall back to the edge of the forest. Without any part of its line breaking into a general dash for the rear, Company C fell back to the edge of a large wood lot midway between Champs and Hemroulle and there took up positions and opened fire on the tanks with machine guns, bazookas, and rifles. Despite the surprise of the German assault, this movement was carried out with little loss and no disorder.

Then swiftly, there was a complete turning of the situation as Company C's first volleys from its new position took toll of the German infantry clinging to the tanks. Dead and wounded pitched from the vehicles into the snow. As if with the purpose of saving their infantry, the tanks veered left toward Champs and the position held by Company B, 502nd PIR. Until this moment the two tank destroyers in the woods behind Company C had not fired a round. But as the tank line pivoted and began to move northward along the top of the ridge, the flank of the German armor became completely exposed and the two tank destroyers went into action. So did Company B, which was now firing at the German front. Three of the Mark IVs were hit and knocked out by the tank destroyer fire before they completed their turning movement. One was stopped by a bazooka round from Company C. A fifth tank was hit and stopped by a rocket from Captain Stone's scratch group from Headquarters, 502nd PIR – Pvt. Emberlin's unit. The infantry riding on the tanks were cut to pieces by bullet fire. As Company C's part of the battle ended there were 67 German dead and 35 prisoners, many of them wounded, in the area around the ruined tanks. One tank did break through Company B and charge on into Champs. Company A, 502nd PIR, fired bazookas at it and it was also shelled by a 57mm gun which had taken position in the village. The tank was hit by both types of fire but which weapon made the kill is uncertain. Captain James J. Hatch, S-3 of the 502nd PIR, had gone forward to reconnoiter Company A's situation and was in the Company A command post at the time. He heard the fight going on outside, grabbed his pistol and opened the door. He was looking straight into the mouth of the tank's 75mm gun at a range of 15 yards. Hatch closed the door and said to the others, "This is no place for my pistol." The seventh tank in the German group (it was later determined that this was the same tank that had knocked out the two tank destroyers) was captured intact at Hemroulle. At Champs, where the battle had begun, most of the Germans left the village in the middle of the morning to let their gunners blast the paratroopers out of the houses and surrounding woods.

GI in snow camouflage clothing like it was worn during the Battle of the Bulge - picture taken in the Baugnez 44 museum in Malmedy, Belgium
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Left: US Officer with British made winter camouflage clothing
Right: GI dressed with his trenchcoat and improvised snow camouflage
Both pictures were taken in the Baugnez 44 museum in Malmedy, Belgium
(Pictures Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Left: US Paratrooper dressed in his M-43 uniform and armed with a bazooka
Right: US Paratrooper dressed in his trenchcoat carrying bazooka rounds
Both pictures were taken in the Baugnez 44 museum in Malmedy, Belgium
(Pictures Courtesy of Rick Demas)

In the 502nd PIR area, the wire maintenance men had kept on working right through the fire fight and by 09.00 Hours, December 25, the lines were again in solid. None of the German infantry had managed an escape. The few survivors, upon recoiling, were rounded up by the members of Colonel Allen's overrun 3rd Battalion, 327th GIR. The German tankers died inside their tanks. By 09.00 Hours, the action was cleared up around Rolle. Pvt. Emberlin's Headquarters of the 502nd PIR had called the 101st Airborne Division Headquarters and asked about the situation of 327th GIR over on its left. Colonel Kinnard (101st Airborne Division G-3) reported that the 327th GIR's lines were generally intact and the situation there well in hand. Although Company C, 502nd PIR, had been compelled to engage without artillery support because of the closeness of the action, its losses were ‘negligible'. It was put in position along the high ground west of the scene of the skirmish. At about the same time the Company C fight ended, Company A, 502nd PIR, was getting Champs under control and was doing the last of its rat hunting through the village houses. Company B was put over to the eastward of Company A to fill out the line as far as the 3rd Battalion, 502nd PIR. In getting to this position, Company B, 502nd PIR, took heavy losses from German artillery while moving across the high ground north of Champs, but by 15.00 Hours the position was complete. Company A counted 98 Germans killed and 79 enlisted men and 2 officers captured in the Champs action. A German field order captured during the morning fight showed that the German tank and infantry mission that came to grief along the ridge south and west of Rolle had been attempted by the 115th Panzergrenadier Regiment of the 15th Panzergrenadier Division. Two battalions of the 77th Panzergrenadier Regiment, supported by the division artillery of the 26th Volksgrenadier Division, had implemented the assault against Champs and to the southward which preceded the Panzer advance. The commander of the 77th Panzergrenadier Regiment, apprehensive of a continued house-to-house battle, asked for and received permission to circle around Champs, but the new attack up the slopes toward Hemroulle was shot to pieces. In the early afternoon General Kokott called the German attack to a halt, planning to resume the battle under cover of the night in the sector of the 327th GIR.

Christmas day closed with Colonel Chappuis and Colonel Cassidy of the 502nd PIR sitting down to a table spread with a can of sardines and a box of crackers. General McAuliffe, disappointed that no relief force had come, called General Middleton and said, "We have been let down."

On the morning of December 26, the German forces renewed their pressure against the western side of the Bastogne perimeter. But they did not press their attack in real strength and the American lines held solid. The 502nd PIR continued to maintain an all-around defense of the position and took six prisoners near Champs. Around the other parts of the defending circle, the day was relatively quiet though both sides intensified their air activity. The intervention of the air directly hastened the hour when the German encirclement of Bastogne was broken through by the arrival of the armored column from the south. Since 06.00 Hours on December 22, the three Combat Commands of the 4th Armored Division had been fighting their way steadily toward Bastogne by three separate routes from their assembly areas north of Arlon. They had met intense resistance all the way along the line and had taken heavy losses in men and tanks. By 15.00 Hours on December 26, Combat Command Reserve of the 4th Armored Division had arrived at the high ground overlooking Clochimont and was preparing to attack toward the village of Sibret. This put the command about four miles to the southwestward of Bastogne with their local objective about one mile to their own northwestward. They figured that it might cost less to ignore Sibret and attack straight toward Bastogne. In the late afternoon first units of the 4th Armored Division reached the troopers of the 101st Airborne Division defending Bastogne. With them came Major General Maxwell D. Taylor, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, who had flown back from the United States to join his Division. General Taylor had arrived in time to lead his men through their bitterest days of fighting on the Bastogne ground, the days yet to come. Minutes later, the wounded were evacuated in a long convoy of trucks and ambulances. The 101st Airborne maintained contact with the Germans and held firm the same territory it had taken on arriving in the area, but the price was high. The relief of Bastogne signaled the defeat of the German Army in the Ardennes offensive. But it had cost the 4th Armored Division a price comparable to that exacted from the defenders of Bastogne themselves. In the seven days during which its forces were moving to the relief of Bastogne the Division lost about 1,000 men. Its total medium tank strength at the end of the period was equal to the full tank strength of a single battalion.

On December 27, the 1st Battalion of the 502nd PIR was again attacked and was driven off their hill briefly. However, the 502nd PIR's sector remained solid.

Widening the Bastogne Corridor - 27 december 1944 till 2 january 1945
(click on picture to enlarge)

On December 31, German action was not solely directed against the 11th Armored. There was some fighting at Sibret, although by noontime Field Marshal von Rundstedt's headquarters had agreed that any further attempt to break through the Bastogne corridor via Sibret would have to await success by the eastern counterattack force. Surprisingly the Germans broke the quiet on the 502nd PIR front with a foray directed against Champs. Actually the attackers were trying to get a foothold in three houses just outside the village. The paratroopers reported two hours of bitter fighting before quiet was restored, for the Germans had been ably supported by artillery fire. Thirty prisoners were taken from what the 502nd PIR reported as an ‘assault wave' of three officers and fifty men. The ‘assault wave' was the total strength of what was left of two rifle companies from the 77th Grenadier Regiment of the 26th Volksgrenadier Division after one week of fighting. The successful defense of Bastogne had slowed the German advance and absorbed German resources urgently needed elsewhere during the Battle of the Bulge. With the outcome of the German offensive no longer in doubt, elements of the 101st Airborne Division remained in the Bastogne area during the next few weeks, helping to clear the area of the remaining German forces and reduce the bulge in the Allied lines.

On January 2, 1945, a runner from the 9th SS Division was captured in the evening near Longchamps with a case full of attack plans for the following day. The Germans would make their last and greatest effort to break the defenses in an all-out attack against the sectors of the 502nd PIR, among them Pvt. George H. Emberlin, and the 327th GIR. These regiments were formed into a task force under Brigade General G.J. Higgins to withstand the attack. Even with this information and US artillery aimed at the staging area for the attack, the battle hardened 19th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment of the 9th SS Division launched about noon on January 3 a powerful combined tank and infantry assault against the 2nd Battalion, 502nd PIR, around Longchamps. This German attack resulted in the capture of 40 paratroopers - mostly F Company. On January 4, the bitter and fierce fighting went on in the 327th GIR and 502nd PIR sectors. Brigade General G.J. Higgins' task force, consisting of the 327th GIR and 502nd PIR beat off the assault, inflicting heavy losses. On January 5, 1945, Pvt. George H. Emberlin was killed in action at Champs, by a shot wound in his face, at age 31.

By January 6, 1945, all regiments of the 101st Airborne Division had suffered a pretty equal amount of casualties. The 502nd PIR had 8 officers and 66 enlisted men killed and 22 officers and 246 enlisted men wounded. By that time the Germans had an estimated 7.000 soldiers killed and 981 soldiers taken prisoner. The 101st Airborne Division passed to the offensive on January 9 and took Noville and Bourcy as its contribution to the advance on Houffalize and final liquidation of the German salient. On January 18, 1945, the 101st Airborne moved to the Alsace region as part of the Seventh Army line, holding defensive positions through late February. On February 23, the Screaming Eagles were relieved and returned to Mourmelon, France. Here General Eisenhower spoke to the 101st Airborne Division when the unit was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation for its stand at Bastogne. This was the first time in the history of the United States Army that an entire Division had been so honored.

George H. Emberlin's grave (Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Adoptant Rick Demas next to Private George H. Emberlin's grave
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Pvt. George Emberlin was in a missing in action status which was terminated on March 2, 1945, when sufficient evidence was received to establish the fact of death. Pvt. Emberlin was first buried at the Military Cemetery in Foy - four miles north of Bastogne in plot E, row 1, grave 18. He was buried there in his ground force uniform on February 11, 1945, at 09.10 Hours. On July 15, 1945, Pvt. George Emberlin's mother was informed about her son's burial location.

Foy Military Cemetery Memorial Stele, located near the Recogne - Foy road (Nr. 9 in the google earth map above)
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

The adoptant of Pvt. George Emberlin's grave, Rick Demas, next to the Foy Military Cemetery Memorial Stele
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Inscribed at the Foy Military Cemetery Memorial Stele: "Here lies the site of the Foy American Temporary Cemetery - From 1945 to 1948 It served as a temporary resting field for 2.701 Americans killed in action during The Battle of the Bulge 12-16-1944 - 1-28-1945"
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

A letter about a War Memorial in San Diego, sent to George Emberlin's mother in March 1945
(Picture Courtesy of the Emberlin Family)

George's father, Delphos, died on February 11, 1948 in Fort Wayne, IN. On September 17, 1948, Pvt. Emberlin was disinterred and a few days later transferred to the Military Cemetery in Henri-Chapelle (Belgium) to be permanently buried there at the request of his mother Alberta Wilkinson. Private Emberlin's flag was sent to his mother on November 10, 1948.

On January 10, 1949, a letter was sent from the War Department to Pvt. Emberlin's mother saying: “This is to inform you that the remains of your loved one have been permanently interred, as recorded above [The Henri-Chapelle Military Cemetery, plot F, row 15, grave 36], side by side with comrades who also gave their lives for their country. Customary military funeral services were conducted over the grave at the time of the burial.” ….. “You may rest assured that this final interment was conducted with fitting dignity and solemnity and that the grave-site will be carefully and conscientiously maintained in perpetuity by the United States Government.”

George H. Emberlin's Purple Heart
(Picture Courtesy of the Emberlin Family)

George H. Emberlin's Purple Heart
(Picture Courtesy of the Emberlin Family)

George's mother, Alberta, and George's oldest sister, Grace D. Emberlin Gibson died on January 3, 1955, in Sacramento, CA. George's second oldest sister, Vivian M. Emberlin Doan died on June 16, 1995, in Wawaka, IN. There is still one of his half-sisters and one of his half-brother still alive. All the others have passed away. Several of his younger brothers also served during WWII but none were killed in battle.

Adoptant Rick Demas next to George H. Emberlin's grave
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Private George H. Emberlin's final resting place is, together with 7,989 brothers in arms, the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Belgium, Plot F Row 15 Grave 36.

If anyone has information that may be of assistance to me about Pvt. George H. Emberlin please contact me at rickmommers@msn.com

101st Airborne Division Memorial in Bastoge, near the Bastogne Historical Center
(Pictures Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Mrs. Danette Emberlin Fuhrer
Mrs. Kathleen Clifton
Mrs. Dorothy Gibson Jones
Mrs. Peggy Leon
Mrs. Nancy Ball
Chateau Rolle
Mr. Mark Bando - http://www.101airborneww2.com/
H. Cole, The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge, Washington DC, 1965
S. Marshall, Bastogne: The first eight days, Washington DC, 1988
Google earth
Bastogne Historical Center
Baugnez Historical Center