'Like Fish in a Pond'

It is difficult to easily summarize the agonizing demise of 106th Infantry Division's remaining regiments isolated on the Schnee Eifel (Snow Plateau). Provided little guidance when communication was possible, the regiments had suffered a continuous drain of casualties and were desperately short of essential supplies. The last orders given by 106th headquarters were for 422nd and 423rd to attempt a "breakout to the west toward the town of Schoenberg." It was a futile mission. By the afternoon of Dec. 18, it was clear that options were few. The promise of an airdrop of supplies and a link-up with armor proved to be merely a fantasy. This realization was a bitter blow for regimental commanders COL George Desheneaux Jr. of 422nd and COL Charles Cavender of 423rd. Without any additional support, they independently concluded that surrender was a better option than annihilation.

At the moment Desheneaux gathered his weary command group together, a litter party passed by with a company commander. It was a ghastly scene; an artillery fragment had sheared off one of the commander’s legs. Blood poured from the wound, and there was no chance of evacuating him to the rear. The scene shocked Desheneaux, and he blurted out that they were being killed “like fish in a pond!” In the last 72 hours, one the youngest and most promising regimental commanders had displayed extraordinary courage, but now he made an important decision: “As far as I’m concerned, I’m going to save the lives of as many as I can, and I don’t give a damn if I’m court-martialed.” In a bitter blow, he directed the surrender of his beloved regiment.

Two kilometers away, without any collaboration with Desheneaux, Cavender announced to his dejected officers that they would also surrender. It was near 4 p.m., and an earlier counterattack had failed, punctuated by the death of LTC William Craig only feet from Cavender. As dusk approached, nearly 7,000 American Soldiers, under the exultant watch of German guards, began a humiliating march to captivity.