Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, March 8, 2020

The Mouse that Roared

I've been trying to write this story for some time. I have a folder which has a long list of bookmarks, into which I stick anything I come across that looks like a good story for later research. This battle has been near the top for some years. The problem for this one has been the lack of sources for the actual battle. I've been able to piece together snippets in the events leading up to it, but precious little about the actual battle. I guess it will be one of those stories that suffer from the curse of the historian: "This looks interesting, but we'll never know the answers." If anyone has seen any info on this, feel free to let me know, please!
Luxembourg soldiers being drilled in the UK in the middle of the war
The Grand duchy of Fenwick Luxembourg is not one of the countries that one often contemplates for fighting forces in the Second World War. At the outbreak of the war the military forces available to Luxembourg were just under 700 men, split roughly between about 250 police, and 400 soldiers, with the rest made up of officers. These would lack any serious firepower. Some roadblocks were erected on the German side of the country. When Germany invaded in 1940 the armed forces were, rather sensibly, restricted to barracks and the country overrun. Later in the war Luxembourg nationals would form a battery manning 25-pounders in the Belgium Brigade.
A Luxembourg Policeman saluting Himmler during his visit to the country in 1941.
Resistance in Luxembourg was generally low key and based around non-violent protests such as a general strike, and generally irritating the Germans by refusing to recognise their ancestry and nationality as anything other than Luxembourgish. In addition, safe houses and underground networks were set up. Much like France, there were several different resistance groups, each following a different political association.

In September 1944 the Germans withdrew from Luxembourg under slight pressure from the Americans. The US forces also didn't really occupy the area either, this left Luxembourg as a sort of no-man’s land. The country also lacked any form of civilian control or authorities. Thus, the various resistance groups came together to form one organisation, the Unio'n vun de Fräiheetsorganisatiounen shortened to Unio'n. This provided the day to day administration and formed a militia. One of the notables of the Unio'n was Victor Abens, who had been arrested in September 1942. In March 1944 he was able to escape and return to his home-town of Vianden. Vianden has a large castle from which the Unio'n militia were able to observe into Germany and would report back to the US forces any movements they saw. Both the Unio'n and the Germans aggressively patrolled the area land with at least one serious firefight.
Unio'n Militia, armed with an eccentric mix of weapons. Mainly German, but with the odd US M3 SMG thrown in. The Gentleman, 2nd from right, is holding a French MAS-38 Submachine gun. We'll be returning to him next week, as he has a rather interesting story.
On the 19th of November 1944 the Germans decided to seize the position to prevent the observations from being used against them. In most accounts the enemy is listed as Waffen SS, although no details of what unit are given. There is also a total lack of Waffen SS units in the area. So, it is highly likely that they were Wehrmacht troops, not SS. Often German troops are reported as SS just because it’s the big bad bogie man of the war, and it sounds a lot cooler to be fighting them, than regulars.
 There is one forum post that identifies the attacking unit of the 2nd Battalion of the 941st Volksgrenadier Regiment that sent a company to assault the position. Again, most sources state that around 250 men were in the attack. However, this is questionable as the 941 VG had had a severe beating for most of the last four months, narrowly escaping at Falaise after being chased across France by US forces from Operation Cobra. So, either it was a lot more than a single company, as claimed in the earlier forum post, or it was not 250 men.

The Unio'n apparently realised an attack was incoming and evacuated the town. Some thirty Unio'n men and possibly (again a single source) five Americans, and a Belgium interpreter remained behind to defend the position. The Germans appear to have had mortar support in their attack. During the fighting that followed the Germans managed to grind forwards, and assaulted the castle, with six Germans actually gaining entry to the castle. Inside there were four defenders, who fought off the Germans, although one of their number was killed. This casualty was the only defender killed in the fight. The other three men in the castle were all badly wounded.
Vianden Castle before its restoration, it is not entirely clear if this is battle damage, or just neglect, as there is no date on when the photo was taken other than 1944. 
The restoration of Vianden castle, sometime in the 70's or 80's I believe.
By the end of the day the Germans had been repulsed, suffering eighteen killed and the Germans retreated. But they would return in December during the Battle of the Bulge, during which the Unio'n displaced out of the way of the German assault. The battle of Vianden was Luxembourg's only battle during the Second World War, which is all the more remarkable for the one-sided victory they achieved.

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