There have been several names for it: The Von Rundestedt Offensive, Wacht Am Rhein, and the Allied forces called it the Battle of the Bulge.
The objective was a strike down upon allied forces and take back land as far as Antwerp. Antwerp was chosen as a strategic point for the German forces if they were to re-conquer the Atlantic Wall. With no possibility of air support due to bad weather, the troops were pinned down in scores of pinprick positions all over the Belgium countryside.
On Saturday afternoon, 16 December 1944, about 1500 hours, the Germans launched a vigorous counter-attack on the First United States Army front on the Belgium-Luxembourg border, about fifty miles south of Aachen, Germany. The Germans, under the command of General Von Rundstedt, threw a panzer-army against the 106th and 28th Infantry Divisions. Allied lines were penetrated and the Germans poured forth into the Ardennes.
Trapped, and with communications lines down all over the Eastern Front, the Allies were left in a desperate situation. Their only recourse was to stay as low as possible, and stand their ground.
The 40th were in Aachen on the day of the offensive, and stayed there for an additional four days. Communication lines were down, meaning that the 40th had a huge responsibility to restore links between the Allied forces all along the Belgian and Dutch border.
The problem of communications was playing a major role in the stemming of the German thrust. To assist in the rapid installation of a wire network, the 40th Signal Construction Battalion was loaned to First United States Army. The first assignment given the Battalion was a fifty mile spiral four cable job from Dinant, to Neufchateau, Belgium, to the VIII Corps.
The next job was to VII Corps, this requiring thirty miles of spiral four cable. For the succeeding days, the Battalion worked day and night linking various echelons of First Army and their corps until the situation became stabilized.
The Germans were halted, and the allied began exerting pressure from both flanks and from the west. The communications were in. The job that looked so difficult had been accomplished.
When the back of the Bulge was broken, the Battalion went back to the Twelfth Army group. The Germans had destroyed more than half of the Aubange-Jemelle line. One enemy had been pushed back but the ice and snow remained.
In addition to the mines, another truck was lost for due to another weapon: rockets. V-2 rockets were being launched since June 1944, in addition to the V-1 rockets launched in the Ardennes regions. Two men of the 40th were injured by one which struck a building that Company A had just vacated.
The job from Spa to St. Vith was another trying time.
The snow and ice was leaving now, but in its place was mud, broken up roads, and shell torn country. And the Germans had sown mines liberally in roads and fields. The 40th not only pushed its job through but worked day and night helping with their mired vehicles and feeding stranded G.I.s.
The mud in the middle of February became worse until work slowed and then stopped. From the seventeenth to the twenty-eighth of February, there was a rare break-a rest. For the first everyone could clean up and rest up, work over the equipment and vehicles, get poised for the next move.
Omar Bradley himself commended the support of the Signal Corps during the offensive. The Battalion received a letter of appreciation from the First United States Army.
“You’ve provided the necessary speed without sacrificing quality. In short, you have done an outstanding job”.
This may have been source of inspiration for the battlaion’s motto: the latin phrase “Bene Factum” (well done).
The next assignment was a fifteen mile open wire lead from First Army to Red Line Test near Liege, Belgium to provide an alternate routes in case of cable failure at Liege. This build was started on the 29th of December and by the end of the month the job was well under way.
Between 18 January and 25 January 1946, in the vicinity of Marche, Belgium and Jemelle, Belgium, the battalion was responsible for sweeping of critical spots along the many miles of roads this Battalion was using to rehabilitate open wire lines damaged by the German breakthrough in the Ardennes. Approximately 35 mines were destroyed as a result of this work which otherwise would have produced casualties.
Aachen(Aix la Chapelle) – Germany 11 Dec 44 to 19 Dec 44
Namur, Belgium – 19 Dec 44 to 21 Dec 44
Tillier, Belgium – 21 Dec 44 to 22 Dec 44
Bommershoven, Belgium – 22 Dec 44 to 12 Jan 45
Verviers, Belgium – 12 Jan 45 to 16 Jan 45
Welkenraedt, Belgium – 16 Jan 45 to 31 Jan 45
On, Belgium (B Co – 18 Jan 45 to 6 Feb 45
Vielsam, Belgium – 31 Jan 45 to 10 Mar 45