The World War II Battle of Lanzerath Ridge was fought on December 16, 1944, the first day of the Battle of the Bulge, near the town of Lanzerath, Belgium. It was fought between 18 men belonging to an American reconnaissance platoon, four U.S. Forward Artillery Observers, and a battalion of about 500 German paratroopers. During a day-long confrontation, the American reconnaissance men inflicted dozens of casualties on the Germans and bottled up the advance along a key route for the 1st SS Panzer Division, which had been selected to spearhead the advance of the entire German 6th Panzer Army.
The Germans finally flanked the American forces at dusk, capturing them. Only one American, a forward artillery observer, was killed, while 14 were wounded: German casualties totaled 92. The Germans paused, believing the woods were filled with more Americans and tanks. Only when SS-Standartenführer Joachim Peiper and his Panzer tanks arrived at midnight, twelve hours behind schedule, did the Germans learn the woods were empty.
Due to lost communications with Battalion and then Regimental headquarters, and the unit's subsequent capture, its disposition and success at delaying the advance of the 6th Panzer Army that day was unknown to the U.S. commanders. Lt. Lyle Bouck considered the wounding of most of his men and the capture of his entire unit a failure. When the war ended five months later, the platoon's men, who were split between two prisoner-of-war camps, just wanted to get home. It was only after the war that Bouck learned that, because his platoon prevented the lead German infantry elements from advancing, the schedule for the armored units' advance was also pushed back by about 20 hours. On October 26, 1981, after considerable lobbying, a Congressional hearing, and letter-writing by Bouck, every member of the unit were finally recognized for their valor that day, making the platoon the most decorated American unit of World War II.
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