27-29 January 1945
When the 23rd signalmen reported into the 4th Infantry Division mess for Operation STEINSEL (27-29 January), the cook threw up his hands in dismay crying, "Here come those sons-of-bitches who helped us into the Hurtgen Forest." STEINSEL was a cover job similar to ELSENBORN but only radio was used. If it was successful, it was one of the most economical ever attempted. A total of 72 men, four officers and 22 vehicles were used. No mess was carried. There were plenty of warm messes in this area and people ate wherever they happened to be. The weather continued icy cold and snow lay round about: deep, crisp and even.[:imgembed-2410:]
STEINSEL was a simple matter of infiltrating spoof radios into the 4th Division network beginning two days before the operation began. It was made easier due to the fact that 23rd operators had already worked with the 4th Division and were familiar with its procedure.
In the big picture, the 4th Infantry was going to be pulled out of the line Diekirch-Echternach to swing north for a surprise punch into Houffalize. By radio, the 23rd was to show a notional 4th in XII Corps reserve near Luxembourg until the real 4th jumped off. Operation STEINSEL was probably aided by the simultaneous cross-movements of many divisions in that general area. In addition to the secret 4th, the 76th Infantry under a security blackout had just replaced the 87th on the right flank; the 80th had come down to relive the 4th; a little further west the 26th had withdrawn to make a secret move to XX Corps and the 95th was making a similar move northwards. In all, four divisions were tearing around with their bumper markings and shoulder patches removed.
Unfortunately, the anti-visual discipline of the 4th was not as good as it had been in ELSENBORN. The Advance Party reconnoitered the Houffalize area in full 4-X display and there were a few untouched bumpers and shoulders in the daylight convoys. Naturally, it does not take many oversights like these to compromise the secret movement of a division.