During the Ardennes Offensive (Battle of the Bulge) the Combat Group of the 1ST SS Panzer Division, Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, led by SS Sturmbannführer Joachim Peiper, was approaching the crossroads at Baugnes near the town of Malmédy. There they encountered a company of US troops, the Battery B of the 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion from the US 7th Armoured Division, “Lucky Seventh” . Realizing that the odds were hopeless, the company’s commander, Lieutenant Virgil Lary , decided to surrender. After being searched by the SS, the prisoners were marched into a field adjacent to the Cafe Bodarwé. The SS troops moved on except for two Mark IV tanks Nos. 731 and 732, left behind to guard the GIs. A couple of GIs tried to flee to the nearest woods and an order was given to fire. SS Private Georg Fleps of tank 731 drew his pistol and fired at Lary’s driver who fell dead in the snow. The machine guns of both tanks then opened fire on the prisoners. Many of the GIs took to their heels and headed for the woods. Incredibly, 43 GIs survived, but 84 of their comrades lay dead in the field, being slowly covered with a blanket of snow. About 81 American POWs were killed, according to John M. Bauserman (“The Malmédy Massacre”, a number of 40 of them had been shot in the head, 3 of them were killed by shrapnel, 4 of them died from bleeding, 3 of them from blow to the head, 3 of them of high explosive shells, 1 by concussion, 19 of machine gun or small arms fire, 3 were crushed, 4 died of unkown causes and 1 was officially declared dead. No attempt was made to recover the bodies until the area was retaken by the 30th Infantry Division on January 14, 1945, when men from the 291ST Engineers used metal detectors to locate the bodies buried in the snow. The US troops in the area were issued with an order that for the next week no SS prisoners were to be taken. The end of the war, Peiper, and 73 other suspects (arrested for other atrocities committed during the offensive) were brought to trial. When the trial ended on July 16, 1946, forty three of the defendants were sentenced to death, twenty two to life imprisonment, two to twenty years, one for fifteen years and five to ten years.
Jochen Peiper and Georg Fleps were among those sentenced to death, but after a series of reviews the sentences were reduced to terms in prison. On December 22, 1956, SS Sturmbannführer Peiper was released. He settled in the small village of Traves (population 63) in northern France in 1972 and earned a living by translating military books from English into German. Four years later, on the eve of Bastille Day, July 14, 1976, he was murdered and his wooden house burned down by a French communist group known as the ‘Avengers’. His charred body was recovered from the ruins and transferred to the family grave in Schondorf, near Landsberg in Bavaria. Most of the remains of the murdered GIs were eventually shipped back to the US for private burial but twenty-one still lie buried in the American Military Cemetery at Henri-Chappelle, about forty kilometres north of Malmédy.