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Group B as the attack developed. Armored infantry kampfgruppen from the 12th SS Panzer Division and 1st SS Panzer Division were assembled close behind the infantry divisions, in part as reinforcements for the breakthrough forces, in part because none of the Volks Grenadier units were used to close cooperation with armor.


Considerable reshuffling had been needed in the nights prior to 16 December to bring the I SS Panzer Corps toward its line of departure and to feed the infantry into the West Wall positions formerly occupied by the 277th Division. All this was completed by 0400 on the morning set for the attack (except for the reconnaissance battalion which failed to arrive in the 3d Parachute Division lines), and the bulk of the two artillery corps and two Volks Werfer brigades furnishing the artillery reinforcement was in position. None of the three army assault gun battalions, one for each attacking division, had yet appeared. The German artillery, from the 75-mm. infantry accompanying howitzers up to the 210-mm. heavy battalions, were deployed in three groupments, by weight and range, charged respectively with direct support of the attacking infantry, counterbattery, and long-distance fire for destruction.


The first thunderclap of the massed German guns and Werfers at 0530 on 16 December was heard by outposts of the 394th Infantry as "outgoing mail," fire from friendly guns, but in a matter of minutes the entire regimental area was aware that something most unusual had occurred. Intelligence reports had located only two horse-drawn artillery pieces opposite one of the American line battalions; after a bombardment of an hour and five minutes the battalion executive officer reported, "They sure worked those horses to death." But until the German infantry were actually sighted moving through the trees, the American reaction to the searchlights and exploding shells was that the enemy simply was feinting in answer to the 2d and 99th attack up north. In common with the rest of the 99th the line troops of the 394th had profited by the earlier quiet on this front to improve their positions by log roofing; so casualties during the early morning barrage were few.


The German infantry delayed in following up the artillery preparation, which ended about 0700. On this part of the forest front the enemy line of departure was inside the woods. The problem, then, was to get the attack rolling through the undergrowth, American barbed wire, and mine fields immediately to the German front. The groping nature of the attack was enhanced by the heavy mist hanging low in the forest.


The 2d Battalion, on the north flank, was more directly exposed since a road led into the woods position from Neuhof. At this point, close to the regimental boundary, the battle was carried by a fusilier company attached to the 990th Regiment of the 277th Volks Grenadier Division. The fusiliers succeeded in reaching the 2d Battalion lines about 0800 but were driven off by small arms fire and artillery.


In midafternoon the 12th SS Panzer Division, waiting for the infantry to open the road to the International Highway, apparently loaned a few tanks to carry the fusiliers into the attack. [5] Be-


[5] The action in this sector has been covered by General Priess in MS # A-877, Commitment of the I SS Panzer Corps During the Ardennes Offensive, 16 December 1944-45 January 1945 (General der Waffen-SS Hermann Priess. Cf. MS # P-109d, Ardennes Follow Up (Oberst der Schutzpolizei F. W. Bock), and MS # B-577, I SS Panzer Corps, 15 October-16 December 1944 (Oberst der Waffen-SS Rudolf Lehman). These are fragments extant of III/SSPz Gr Regt 25, KTB Nr. 2. For the story of the 277th Volks Grenadier Division, see MS # B-273, 277th Volks Grenadier Division, November 1944-January 1945 (Generalmajor Wilhelm Viebig), and MS # B-465, 3d Panzer Grenadier Division, 16-28 December 1944 (Generalmajor Walter Denkert).