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to watch the 1st SS Panzer Regiment as it filed southwest.


The 394th Infantry Abandons the Murringen Position


East of German-held Bullingen the American troops in Murringen faced encirclement, occupying as they did a precarious and jutting angle between the defense forming on the evening of 17 December around the twin villages and the southern shoulder bracing at Butgenbach. The sole road remaining for withdrawal to the Elsenborn assembly area ran back through Krinkelt, the southernmost of the twin villages, whose tenure by friendly troops was none too certain on the night of the 17th. The chances for a successful withdrawal from Murringen were dwindling by the hour.


The 37 1st Field Artillery Battalion which had been firing in support of the 394th from battery positions close by, was out of ammunition. Colonel Riley, the regimental commander, reported this to General Lauer at 0115 on the 18th, adding that he recommended "withdrawal." The division commander at once sent a radio message back: "Withdraw arty. Your order. Your time." Apparently Lauer expected that the 394th Infantry and Hightower's battalion from the 23d Infantry would send off the guns and then consolidate with the Krinkelt defenders. About this time Hightower arrived at Riley's command post and told him of his conversation with Colonel Hirschfelder. Hightower had just talked with one of his ambulance drivers who had come back from Wirtzfeld via the road through Krinkelt and said he could guide the vehicles out. Colonel Riley now decided to evade the closing jaws of the German trap by moving out through Krinkelt and retiring if possible, to Elsenborn. The ambulance driver would join the head of the column and Hightower's trucks would fall in behind the vehicles of the 394th.


Shortly after midnight the remnants of the 394th Infantry at Murringen formed in two columns, one composed of foot troops, the other made up of the remaining vehicles. Colonel Riley started the motor column, which included Hightower's vehicles, along the road toward Krinkelt at 0215, a road beaten by hostile shellfire. Near Krinkelt, whence came the sound of heavy firing, the column halted while scouts moved toward the houses at the edge of the village. Here German tanks were seen, and so orders were passed along to abandon the vehicles and move west on foot to Elsenborn. The infantry column started a quarter of an hour after the vehicles, marching quietly toward Krinkelt along a tree-covered draw, carrying only helmets, overcoats, rifles, and ammunition. Debouching onto the road south of Krinkelt, the infantry found it lined with deserted trucks and jeeps. After some indecision the infantry manned a few of the empty vehicles-by this time it had been ascertained that the 2d Infantry Division had at least partial control of Krinkelt-and edged their way through the village and out the Wirtzfeld road. Most of the men from Murringen reached Elsenborn during the 18th. The 371st Field Artillery Battalion, which had displaced closer to Krinkelt during the night, failed to get its heavy equipment out of the snow when a second move was ordered at daylight, and all but five howitzers were abandoned.