CAPTURE OF THE "GREIF" PLAN
By Colonel Robert P. Stout Division G-2
Source: The CUB, Vol 3, No. 5 December 1946
[Hitler devised this plan, using German soldiers dressed in Allied uniforms and using Allied vehicles, to spread misinformation and capture the bridges on the river Meuse.]
The German counter offensive in the Ardennes struck the 106th Infantry Division at daylight on the 16th of December 1944. That morning the 424th Infantry on the south of the Division sector was attacked by a German unit which proved to be the 62nd Infantry Division; this attack reached the outskirts of the town Winterspelt, where the initial assault was thrown back and our positions reestablished. In repulsing this attack a German Battalion Commander and some of his staff, who were leading the foremost battalion, were captured. In the dispatch case of the Battalion Commander were found a copy of the orders of which the following is a translation and also an operation map showing the complete disposition and plan of the 62nd Division for the attack and capture of St. Vith. (I do not know the exact details of the unit of the 424th or the persons who captured this document. Major William B. Perlman, S-2 of the 424th probably knows these details; in any event credit should be given to the individuals capturing this officer for their action in finding these documents before he could destroy them, in immediately recognizing their importance and promptly reporting them.) This document which follows is an exact copy of the translation as it appeared in the G-2 report of the Division for the night of the 16th of December, except that misspellings of the geographical names in the third document have been corrected.
I recall receiving a personal telephone call from either Major Perlman or his assistant around noon or shortly thereafter telling me of this document and particularly the routes of the "Greif" force, which I personally wrote down including the mistakes and misspellings and immediately thereafter checked from and plotted on the map. I told them to forward the original as quickly as possible by special messenger.
The G-2 Journal indicates that we received a message concerning this document with identification of the 62nd Division and the Regiments taking part in the attack at 1320 (1:20 P.M.). At 1359 a Staff Sergeant of Engineers told G-2.3 Operations Desk that they had received a report of the action at Winterspelt including the capture of about 32 prisoners including 2 officers and the information that the Germans intended to use captured vehicles for deception purposes and that their identification would be absence of helmets and the use of colored flash lights at night. At 1420 G-2 called VIII Corps, telling them of this captured document and requesting that they send someone to our headquarters to receive it as soon as it arrived.
The information was also given that afternoon to an Assistant G-2 of VIII Corps who was then at our headquarters (Col. William Slayden) and I believe he personally called Corps about it. I am not certain whether Corps sent someone to receive it or whether Col. Slayden or the Sgt. from his section, a German speaking translator, took the original to Corps. In any case it was in the hands of Corps that night and the translation. hastily made by the interrogators, was published in the G.2 report of midnight that night; the latter report was in the hands of Corps, 1st Army and the adjacent Divisions by morning of 17 December. The captured German Battalion Commander was forwarded to Division and further interrogated in the evening of the 16th of December and gave valuable information concerning his Division and its attack plans but insisted he knew nothing more about the "Greif" plan than was contained in the documents.
Evaluation of the importance of this report was possible because of previous information contained in SHAEF reports of the formation by the Germans of a special task force with captured allied vehicles, weapons and equipment, which they were believed to be organizing in September or October. It was believed to be about the strength and organization of two battalions of mechanized reconnaissance units and including a considerable number of English speaking German soldiers. This proved to be the 150th Panzer Brigade with the English speaking teams of "Einheit (unit) Stielau" which were organized and trained by Otto Skorzeny, Hitler's Chief of Sabotage in the SS Security Service. With this background and information the G-2 section had no difficulty in appreciating the importance of this document and the information as to the routes which this force would take. I recall that we had a hard time convincing the staff of one of the Armored units with us that this was authentic information, but its genuineness was quickly confirmed by subsequent events.
The dissemination of this information was apparently prompt and thorough throughout the 1st Army. On the afternoon of the 17th, the 9th Air Force Fighter-Bombers, getting a break in the weather for a couple of hours found enemy Armored columns massed on the route toward Malmedy through the gap between the 106th and 99th Divisions. Our Air Liaison Section, listening to the 9th Tac by radio, heard the flyers remark "Those look like our vehicles. They have white marks on them" then "I'm going down and look—those aren't ours, let them have it." They were also reported to have noticed white shoulder patches on the men's uniforms. These columns consisting of parts of the 1st SS Panzer Division and the 150th Panzer Brigade, including the task force of the notorious Col. Joachim Peiper who, with members of his command, were recently tried at Dachau and convicted for the massacre of American prisoners and Belgian civilians near Malmedy. That unit following the first of the two routes given in the captured plan got as far as La Gleize (near Trois Pouts on the plan) where they were surrounded and pounded to pieces, a couple of hundred men escaping on foot. (A team of three Germans in American uniforms in a jeep were captured by 1st Arm), MP's at Aywaille bridge on 18 December.)
Further confirmation of the authenticity of this plan came on the night of the 17/18 December as part of the 7th Armored Division was moving up to our support along the second of the two routes mentioned in the captured plan. Some of the Division staff also were moving back that night on the same route and found the road junction at Poteaux under direct fire of enemy forces coming down from the north-east from Recht. This enemy force was driven back by elements of the 7th Armored and the Mechanized Cavalry attached to our Division.
On the morning of the 18th of December a liaison detachment from a unit of Corps or Army Artillery which had come into St. Vith from the north-west reported having been fired at by enemy in American vehicles. I spoke to an officer of this detachment personally, and he also gave us the first warning of the presence of tanks in the woods just north of St. Vith, by which an attack was launched shortly thereafter. This attack was met and driven off by tanks of CCB of the 9th Armored Division about 10 A.M.
On the same first day of the offensive, 16th of December, the 422 Infantry captured and sent in an attack order giving the composition, routes and objectives of a task force of 18 VG Division with their position on the Schnee Eifel. The next day another similar task force attacked and overran the town of Bleialf, on the south flank of the Schnee Eifel salient; the orders and plans of that force were likewise captured and forwarded.
These orders gave us the information that the two latter attacks had the objective of cutting off the Schnee Eifel while the 62nd Division were designated to take St. Vith from the south-west. Accordingly, when a defensive position was formed along the Our River by the 424 Infantry and CCB of the 9th Armored the main attack on St. Vith was stalled. The 18th VG Division which had cut behind the units in the Schnee Eifel could not bring their full strength against St. Vith from the east until that position was reduced. Until after the 19th, therefore, St. Vith was attacked from east, north-east and north by various units; but, with the heroic defense, on the night of 17/18 December by 81st Engineer Battalion and other troops 2,000 yards east of the town and with the arrival on the 17th of two Armored Combat Commands from the 7th and 9th Armored Divisions and a day later the remainder of the 7th Armored Division the road net of St. Vith continued to be denied to the enemy. The position on the Our River was held until the enemy further to the south had passed far beyond our flanks as far as Houffalize, 10 miles to the rear, when the defenders of St. Vith, which by then included our Division and attached units, the whole of the 7th Armored Division, CCB of the 9th Armored and 112th Infantry Combat Team of the 28th Division, took up a perimeter defense with the enemy on three and one half sides in an oval between St. Vith and Vielsalm, until ordered to draw back through the 82nd Airborne Division.
The prompt recognition and forwarding of these important orders and enemy plans together with information from prisoners enabled us to definitely identify the units against as which by the 18th consisted of at least three and parts of a fourth enemy Division (two Infantry and two Armored), together with information of two other adjacent Infantry Divisions and at least three other Armored Divisions in reserve, with elements of all of which we were engaged during the defensive of the perimeter.
The failure of the "Greif" plan to which the early capture and prompt dissemination of this document undoubtedly contributed, was attested by prisoners taken later who formerly were members of 140 Panzer Brigade and Einheit Stielau. They said that the remnants of these units were disbanded shortly after they were withdrawn from the Ardennes and that their scheme had been a total failure because "for some reason" the Americans seemed to be ready for them.
TRANSLATION OF CAPTURED DOCUMENTS
Soldiers of the West Front!! Your great hour has arrived. Large attacking armies have started against the Anglo-Americans. I do not have to tell you anything more on that. You feel it yourself :
WE GAMBLE EVERYTHING!
You carry with you the holy obligation to give everything to achieve things beyond human possibilities for Our Fatherland and our Fuhrer!
C in C West
Feldjager Kdo z.B.V., G3
66 Corps G-3, Chief of Section
Addition to the order of the day of C in C West. We will not disappoint the Fuhrer and the Homeland who created the sword of revenge. Advance in the spirit of Leuthen. Our password will, remain now more than ever: No soldier of the world can be better than we soldiers of the Eifel and Aachen area.
Forward double time! Remember the heritage of our dead comrades as well as the tradition of our proud Wehrmacht.
General d. Panzertruppen
Feldjager Kmdo z.B.V., G-3
66 Corps G-3, Chief of Section
Subject: Undertaking "Greif'
(1) Higher Hq planned to include in the operation the undertaking "Greif".
( 2) Undertaking "Greif" could also include own forces with American equipment, American weapons, American vehicles, American insignias especially the 5 pointed yellow or white star.
( 3) To avoid confusion with enemy troops, the forces employed in undertaking "Greif" will identify themselves to our own troops: a. During the day by taking off their steel
helmets. b. At night by red or blue light signals with flashlights.
(4) Forces of the undertaking "Greif" will also indicate the employment by painting white data on houses, trees, and roads used by them.
(5) Employment of forces of undertaking "Greif" is planned along the following roads:
a. Trois Ponts (5 km SW Stavelot). Besse Bodeaux, Villettes, Bra, la Fourche, Harre, Deux Rys, Roche a Frene.
b. Recht (8.5 km NW St. Vith), Petit Thier, Ville du Bois, Vielsalm, Salmchateau, Roadcrossing at point 444 (0.5 km N Joubieval) Hebronval, Regne, Road-crossing at point 538 (2 km SW Malempre), Manhay, Road fork at point 430 ( East of Grandmenil), Roadcrossing at point 200 (1 km N Mormont), Roche a Frene.
c. Roche a Frene, Aisne, b.*, Bomal, Road fork 2 km SW Bomal, Tohogne, Oneux, Amas, Ocquier, Veroox.
Reference: G3 66 Corps
Subject: Undertaking "Greif"
The following further identification for our own troops has been decided upon:
Swastika flag, white flares, partial head bandage. for the General Staff SIEBERT, C o S
CP 15 Dec 1944
62 Volksgrenadier Division G-3
The above mentioned identifications are to be followed precisely.
for the Div. Staff
TROITZSCH, Chief of Staff
CP 15 Dec 1944
183 Infantry Regt., G-3
Above order acknowledged and to be followed precisely.
Major and Rgtl. CO