Malmedy Massacre - Peiper's Breakout and First Massacres

Peiper's Breakout and First Massacres

From the very beginning, German military operations on the northern front were troubled by unexpectedly obstinate resistance from American troops. Peiper had hoped to exploit an opening as early as the morning of December 16, the offensive's first day, but he had been delayed by massive traffic jams behind the front, with the infantry which was to breach the U.S. lines waiting for him to arrive. At daybreak on December 17, after moving his Kampfgruppe into the front line, Peiper broke out toward Honsfeld, where elements of his force would kill several dozen American POWs.

After capturing Honsfeld, Peiper left his assigned route for several kilometers to seize a small gasoline depot in Büllingen, where a massacre of American prisoners would later be reported. At this point, Peiper was in the Americans' rear. Apparently unknown to him, had he advanced north from Büllingen towards Elsenborn, he could have flanked and trapped the 2nd and the 99th Infantry Divisions with possibly a vastly different outcome. However, he followed orders to stick to his Rollbahn west towards the Meuse River and captured Ligneuville, passing by Mödersheid, Schoppen, Ondenval, and Thirimont.

The terrain and poor quality of the roads made his move difficult. Eventually, at the exit of the small village of Thirimont, the spearhead was unable to take the direct road toward Ligneuville. Peiper again deviated from his planned route. Rather than turn left, the spearhead veered right and advanced towards the crossroads of Baugnez, which is equidistant from Malmedy, Ligneuville, and Waimes.

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