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sions. In fact, Peiper's column had simply made a detour north through Bullingen and, having avoided a bad stretch of road, now circled back to its prescribed route.


American ground observers, on the 17th, attributed the change in direction to intervention by friendly fighter-bombers, whose attack, so it appeared, "diverted" the German column to the southwest. Two squadrons of the 366th Fighter Group, called into the area to aid the 99th Division, made two attacks during the morning. The 389th Squadron struck one section of the German column, which promptly scattered into nearby woods, and claimed a kill of thirty tanks and motor vehicles. It is doubtful that the Germans were crippled to any such extent-certainly the move west was little delayed-but the American troops must have been greatly heartened. The 390th Squadron, directed onto the column now estimated to be two hundred vehicles or more, was intercepted by a squadron of ME-109's which dropped out of the clouds over Bullingen. The Americans accounted for seven German aircraft, but had to jettison most of their bombs.


Losheimergraben Is Lost


The lack of highway bridges over the railroad south of Losheimergraben had turned the first day's battle for the Losheimergraben crossroads into an infantry fight in the surrounding woods. Both sides had sustained heavy losses. The 48th Grenadier Regiment had pushed the 1st Battalion of the 394th back, but had failed to break through to the tiny collection of customs buildings and houses at the crossroads. By daylight on 17 December the Americans held a fairly continuous but thinly manned front with the 1st Battalion around Losheimergraben, part of the 3d Battalion west of the village, and the 1st Battalion of the 23d Infantry holding the exposed right-flank position in Hunningen.


The 12th Volks Grenadier Division, under pressure from higher headquarters to take Losheimergraben, continued the attack with both its forward regiments, now considerably weakened. While the 27th Fuesilier Regiment moved to flank Losheimergraben on the west, the 48th Grenadier Regiment continued its costly frontal attack. The flanking attack was successful: at least a battalion of the 27th drove through a gap between the 1st and 3d Battalions. By 1100 the German infantry were able to bring the Losheim-Bullingen road under small arms fire and the noose was tightening on the Losheimergraben defenders. The frontal attack, at the latter point, was resumed before dawn by enemy patrols trying to find a way around the American firing line in the woods.


In a foxhole line 200 yards southeast of Losheimergraben, 1st Lt. Dewey Plankers had organized about fifty men. This small force-men from Companies B and C, jeep drivers, and the crew of a defunct antiaircraft gun-beat back all of the German patrols. But the game was nearly up. The enemy Pioneers finally threw a bridge over the railroad at the demolished overpass on the Losheim road, and about 1100 three panzers, supported by a rifle company, appeared in the woods in front of Plankers' position. Lacking ammunition and weapons (twenty of the tiny force were armed Page 93 only with pistols), Plankers ordered his men back to the customs buildings at the crossroads and radioed for help. Carbines, rifles, and ammunition, loaded on the only available jeep (the chaplain's), were delivered under fire to the American "blockhouses." The German tankers, unwilling to chance bazooka fire at close range, held aloof from the hamlet and waited for the German gunners and some ME-109's to finish the job. The garrison held on in the basements until the tanks finally moved in at dusk. Lieutenant Plankers had been informed in the course of the afternoon that neighboring troops were under orders to withdraw. He took the men he had left, now only about twenty, and broke through the Germans, rejoining what was left of the 394th Infantry at Murringen late in the evening.