of the 801st Tank Destroyer Battalion had been sent in by General Lauer to hold the road, and during the night a few towed guns from the 612th Tank Destroyer Battalion were added to the defenses. Honsfeld was in the V Corps antiaircraft defense belt and two battalions of 90-mm. antiaircraft guns had been sited thereabout. In addition, Troop A, 32d Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, had arrived in Honsfeld late in the evening.
The stream of American traffic moving into the village during the night probably explains the ease with which the Honsfeld garrison was routed. The leading German tanks simply joined this traffic, and, calmly led by a man signaling with a flashlight, rolled down the village streets. With German troops pouring in from all sides the Americans offered no concrete resistance. Though some made a fight of it, most engaged in a wild scramble to get out of town. Some of the tank destroyers were overrun by infantry attack through the dark. Guns and vehicles, jammed on the exit roads, were abandoned; but many of the Americans, minus their equipment, escaped.
The predawn seizure of Honsfeld opened D route to the spearhead column of the 1st SS Panzer Division. Reconnaissance, however, showed that the next section of this route, between Honsfeld and Schoppen, was in very poor condition. Since the 12th SS Panzer Division had not yet reached C route, the main Bullingen-Malmedy road, Peiper's kampfgruppe now turned north in the direction of Bullingen with the intention of continuing the westward drive on pavement. At 0100 on 17 December the 24th Engineer Battalion had been attached to the 99th Division and ordered to Bullingen, there to prepare positions covering the entrances from the south and southeast. Twice during the dark hours the engineers beat back German infantry attacks; then, a little after 0700, enemy tanks hove into sight. Falling back to the shelter of the buildings, the 254th did what it could to fend off the tanks. Here, in the town, a reconnaissance platoon of the 644th Tank Destroyer Battalion had just arrived with orders to establish contact with the enemy column, but only one section managed to evade the panzers. The rest of the platoon were killed or captured. Upon receipt of orders from the division, the engineers, who had clung stubbornly to houses in the west edge, withdrew and dug in on higher ground 1,000 yards to the northwest so as to block the road to Butgenbach. There the two companies of the 254th still intact were joined by men hastily assembled from the 99th Division headquarters, the antiaircraft artillery units in the vicinity, and four guns from the 612th Tank Destroyer Battalion.
To the surprise of the Americans gathered along this last thin line the Germans did not pursue the attack. By 1030 a long line of tanks and vehicles were seen streaming through Bullingen, but they were moving toward the southwest! Later, the 99th Division commander would comment that "the enemy had the key to success within his hands, but did not know it." And so it must have seemed to the Americans on 17 December when a sharp northward thrust from Bullingen would have met little opposition and probably would have entrapped both the 99th and 2d Divi-