705th Tank Destroyer Battalion during the Battle of the Bulge

The 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion was a tank destroyer battalion of the United States Army active during the Second World War. The battalion operated in northern France with Third Army in 1944, where it fought in Brittany at the capture of Brest, and then along the Moselle River, reaching Germany at the end of the year. During the Battle of the Bulge, it was engaged at the Siege of Bastogne along with the 101st Airborne Division, where it received the Presidential Unit Citation, and in the spring of 1945 it advanced through southern Germany with the 11th Armored Division, reaching Austria by the end of the war.

Early Service

The battalion was formed in December 1941, around a cadre taken from the 58th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, part of the 5th Armored Division. It trained in California and Texas, equipped with M3 GMCs, before moving to Oregon in early 1943 and receiving the new M10 tank destroyer. Whilst at the Tank Destroyer Center in Texas, they were described by General A. D. Bruce as "the finest" tank destroyer battalion yet trained. The battalion transferred to New York, and then boarded the liner Queen Elizabeth on 18 April for the voyage to the United Kingdom. It arrived in Scotland on the 27th, and set up camp in southern England on 1 June.

Battle of the Bulge

On 16 December, the Germans launched a major offensive throughout the Ardennes region of the Western Front, which would later become known as the Battle of the Bulge. The 705th, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Clifford D. Templeton, was ordered by Ninth Army to move south in the evening of 18 December, and join VIII Corps at Bastogne, a town on a critical road junction in the southern Ardennes. After delays to secure the town of La Roche, and a short engagement in which the command group was attacked, the command and combat elements of the battalion had fully arrived in Bastogne late on the night of 19 December. Templeton detached two platoons to hold a bridge at Ortheuville and a platoon to La Roche, and the supply and support elements were sent west, escorted by a single M18 and instructed to "hook up with some big friends".

A platoon was sent north from Bastogne on the early morning of the 20th to help relieve Task Force Desobry, defending the northeast approaches to the town. The platoon, accompanying a battalion of paratroopers, blunted the attack of the 2nd Panzer Division, destroying a number of German tanks. The battalion was formally attached to the 101st Airborne Division, the formation holding Bastogne, on 20 December, and was engaged throughout the siege, fighting a number of small actions. It provided a major part of the 101st's combat capabilities. On the 21st, the total armored reserve available other than the 705th amounted to about forty operable medium tanks.

On the 24th, the resources of the Division was split  between the 101st's regiments: a platoon to the 501st Parachute Infantry, two to the 506th Parachute Infantry, two to the 502nd Parachute Infantry and four to the 327th Glider Infantry, with one platoon deployed as a reserve in the town itself. On the 25th, Christmas Day, it was engaged in the thick of the fighting; an attack by eighteen Panzer IVs of 15th Panzergrenadier Division was broken up by M18s of the battalion. One half of the attack was caught in a close-range action by units of the 502nd PIR and a platoon of B Company. Two M18s were knocked out at the start of the engagement, but the other pair quickly accounted for three Panzer IVs. The other half, meanwhile, was caught in a crossfire between four M18s, a group of M4 Shermans, a group of 105mm howitzers and infantry bazookas and destroyed.

Throughout the siege, the battalion destroyed around 40 German tanks, and lost only six M18s. The battalion remained stationed in Bastogne for the remainder of the Battle of the Bulge, being released by the 101st on 18 January, and withdrawn to rest and refit. The battalion would later be awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for its role in the defence of Bastogne.

This re-enacted set of pictures gives a view in the actions of the soldiers of the 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion during their time on the frontline in Bastogne, December 1944.

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