The 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion

On February 23, 2001 the 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion got a long awaited honor and more importantly, recognition of their heroism and courage. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki presented the Presidential Unit Citation to the remaining GOYA's of the 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion.

Text of the Presidential Unit Citation:

By virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the United States and as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States, I have today awarded THE PRESIDENTIAL UNIT CITATION (ARMY) FOR EXTRAORDINARY HEROISM TO THE 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion.

The 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion is cited for exceptional heroism in performance of duty in combat against the enemy at the beginning of the American counteroffensive in the Ardennes, Belgium, culminating in its heroic attack and seizure of the critical, heavilly fortified, regimental German position of Rochelinval on the Salm River. A separate battalion attached to the 82nd Airborne Division, the 551st began its grueling days as the Division's spearhead by successfully executing a raid on advanced German positions at Noirfontaine on 27 and 28 December 1944, delivering to XVIII Airborne Corps vital intelligence for the Allied counteroffensive soon to come.

On 3 January 1945, the 551st from the division's line of departure at Basse Bodeux attacked against great odds and secured the imposing ridge of Herispehe. Punished by artillery, mortar and machine gun fire as it moved across open, up slope terain, the battalion lost its forward artillery observers, causing an acute lack of artillery support for its week-long push against two German regiments. On 4 January, the battalion conducted a rare fixed bayonet attack of machine gun nests that killed 64 Germans. On 5 and 6 January, the 551st captured the towns of Dairomont and Quartiers, parrying German counterattacks while often fighting in hand-to-hand combat. At less than half strength, on 7 January the battalion confronted its final critical objective: Rochelinval on the Salm River. Initially repelled into a hailstorm of artillery and machine gun fire toward a high ridge of entrenched enemy, the 551st finally overwhelmed the defenders and captured Rochelinval, shutting off the last bridge of egress to the Germans in a 10 mile sector of the Salm River. The next day, January 8, Hitler ordered the German Army's first pullback from the Battle of the Bulge. In fighting a numerically superior foe with dominant high ground advantage, the 551st lost over four-fifths of its men, including the death of its inspirational commander, Lieutenant Colonel Wood Joerg, as he led the last attack.

Disbanded a month later, the battalion accounted for 400 German dead, and took over 300 prisonners. The 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion fought with a tenacity and fervor that was extraordinary. In what United States Army historian Charles MacDonald called "the greatest battle ever fought by the Uneted States Army," the 551st demonstrated the very best of the Army tradition of performance of duty in spite of great sacrifice and against all odds.

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