Page 101


German assault. Colonel Allen moved his spent battalion to a hastily organized position 500 yards to the northwest and prepared to make another stand. The main force of the German attack, however, had angled away while rolling over the flank of the forward battalion. About this time the 3d Battalion, 393d, met a patrol from the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry, which had been rushed to the Rocherath area to cover the 2d Division withdrawal south from Wahlerscheid, and the two battalions joined forces.


The retreat of the 3d Battalion, 23d Infantry, left its right-flank neighbor, the 1st Battalion, 393d Infantry, completely isolated. [14] Telephone lines long since had been destroyed, and radio communication had failed. In late afternoon Major Legler decided to withdraw but hearing that the 2d Battalion of the 394th was to tie in on his right reversed his decision. About dark, however, the Germans struck in force and the rifle companies pulled back closer together. Because the battalion supply road was already in German hands, Legler and his men struck out across country on the morning of the 18th, taking a few vehicles and those of the wounded who could be moved. The main body reached Wirzfeld but the rear guard became separated, finally joining other Americans in the fight raging around Krinkelt. The 1st Battalion by this time numbered around two hundred men.


The 395th Infantry Conforms to the Withdrawal


The 395th Infantry, which had supported the 2d Infantry Division attack in the Wahlerscheid sector, was little affected on the 16th and the morning of the 17th by the German power drive against the rest of the 99th Division. Information reaching the 395th command post was sparse and contradictory; both the 2d Division and the 395th still assumed that the battle raging to the south was an answer to the American threat at Wahlerscheid, where the 2d Division had made a sizable dent in the West Wall by evening of 16 December. [15]


All this time a chain reaction was moving slowly from the menaced southern flank of the 99th northward. It reached the 395th before noon on 17 December with word that the 324th Engineer Battalion, stationed between that regiment and the 393d, was moving back to the west. Actually the engineers had not yet withdrawn but had moved to make contact with and cover the exposed flank of the 395th, this apparently on General Lauer's orders while the 395th was taking orders from Robertson. The withdrawal of the 2d Infantry Division to the Rocherath area resulted in the attachment of the 395th (reinforced by the 2d Battalion of the 393d) to General Robertson's division. Now the battalions were ordered to blow up all of the pillboxes taken in the advance. Finally, at 1600, Col. Alexander J. Mackenzie received a retirement order given by General Lauer or General Robertson, which one is uncertain. The plan was this. The two battalions of the 395th and the attached battalion from the 393d would fall back toward the regimental command post at Rocherath. From this


[14] Lt. Col. Paul V. Tuttle, Jr., for his able handling Of the withdrawal by the 3d Battalion, was awarded the DSC.


[15] For details of the Wahlerscheid attacks, see MacDonald, The Siegfried Line Campaign, pp. 606-10.