On December 19, 1944, Lt. Col. Andrew Barr, the G-2 for Maj. Gen. Maurice Rose’s 3d Armored Division, and his staff joined the divisional headquarters in a night road march. From Stolberg, Germany, the column headed southeast to Hotton, Belgium, with orders to help stem the German attack into the Ardennes. As he drove into the night, Barr had to shift his focus seventy-two miles to the southwest.
Colonel Barr, a 43-year-old accountant, had been the G-2 for the division for almost two and a half years. Before he was called to active duty in February 1941, he had served with the newly formed Securities and Exchange Commission since 1938. He also was a reserve cavalry officer since 1923, rising to major in 1938. Joining the 3d Armored Division in April 1941, he trained with the division as it prepared for overseas deployment. Both well-liked and well-respected, one of his staff noted Barr was “both a warm human being and a flesh-and-blood computer.” He would need the latter skill as he looked to support General Rose in the Battle of the Bulge.
On December 15, the day before the German attack, Barr had expressed concern of the possibility of an attack by the German Sixth SS Panzer Army. He, however, considered its employment against his division’s advance over the Roer River, well to the north of the Ardennes. Two days later, he accurately noted the German attack had penetrated close to St. Vith, Belgium. He saw the “enemy activity [had] developed into a major attack with elements of the Sixth SS Panzer Army participating.” He also called attention to several German columns moving in the Ardennes region, picked up by aerial reconnaissance. Again, he viewed the information in a way to support his commander and noted that, with the panzer army’s use in this major attack, the likelihood Germans would use it against the 3d Armored Division was greatly reduced. On December 18, Barr assessed the scope, general size, and main effort of the German attack. He noted the enemy had not gotten beyond Eselborn, Belgium, about thirty miles east of where he and the division staff was heading on the night of December 19.
While his staff moved to Hotton, General Rose received orders to hold a part of the northern shoulder of the German penetration. This would be difficult because Rose had lost most of his combat power to reinforce other parts of the line. With only the undersized Combat Command “R” remaining, Rose took the bold measure of sending three small task forces southwest along parallel routes. Delaying the Germans, it also proved a boon to Barr and his G-2 staff.
With the shift to a new area of operations, Barr had been relying largely on army and corps intelligence reports to develop his picture of the battlespace. His report of December 19 noted only the general placement of the enemy. When the task forces moved forward, Lt. Col. Prentice Yeomans, the divisional reconnaissance battalion commander, maintained contact with them and shared their reports with the G-2. Consequently, on December 21, Barr was able to issue a detailed intelligence report that revealed in detail the enemy disposition and composition in his area of interest. He identified the four divisions in contact with Rose’s tankers as well as their potential reserves. The next day, he was able to expand his report to include three more divisions and their sectors and identify armored reserves. This detailed situational awareness would be quickly used recalling one of Rose’s detached combat commands to the division on the same day to prevent them being overwhelmed
From December 19-22, Barr and his G-2 staff had to shift their focus from the crossing of the Roer near Duren to the defense of the rugged Ardennes. Remarkably, Barr published daily intelligence reports, although the one for 19 December was much abbreviated. In developing his situational awareness, he always looked to what would be of use to General Rose and the divisional leadership. Even with meager information, Barr looked at how to shape it to support the commander’s decision to the point of noting enemy roadblocks and where German tanks were sited and destroyed.
This piece is written by Michael E. Bigelow, INSCOM Command Historian from the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence. Want to feature your story? Reach out to us at [email protected]
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