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CHAPTER VI


The German Northern Shoulder Is Jammed


The 2d Division Withdraws


General Robertson's plan for moving his 2d Division south was to "skin the cat," pulling the most advanced battalions in the Wahlerscheid sector back through the others. In addition to the main supply road, a part of the division could use the secondary route running more or less parallel to the Wahlerscheid road until the two met at a fork about a mile north of Rocherath. (See Map II.) The 395th Infantry was in the woods east of the northernmost section of the 2d Division withdrawal route and would provide cover for the first stage of the tricky move parallel to and close behind the rapidly deteriorating front. Then too the enemy at the Wahlerscheid road junction seemed hardly strong or aggressive enough to make even a daylight disengagement difficult.


The danger zone would be the twin villages. Roads from the east led into Rocherath and Krinkelt. And, to the east, as information from the 99th Division rifle battalions warned, the Germans had made a deep penetration and were liable at any moment to come bursting out of the forest. Rocherath and Krinkelt had to be held if the 2d Division was to reach the Elsenborn position intact and with its heavy weapons and vehicles. The 99th Division had long since thrown its last reserve into the battle; therefore the 2d Division (with the attached 395th) alone had to provide for the defense of this endangered sector of the corridor south.


The 2d Division commander assigned responsibility to his officers as follows. [1] Col. Chester J. Hirschfelder, commanding the 9th Infantry, was charged with the actual withdrawal from Wahlerscheid. The assistant division commander, Col. John H. Stokes, Jr., took over the defense of Rocherath. Col. Philip D. Ginder, assigned to the division as a spare regimental commander, was given the task of establishing a blocking position southeast of Wirtzfeld-the village at which the 2d Division would have to turn toward Elsenborn. General Robertson himself would spend the crucial hours of the 17th working up and down the Rocherath road, gathering additional troops where he could, intervening to change the disposition of battalions and even companies as the complexion of the battle altered.


The men turning south were concerned with a fight for their lives. Some units of the division would be able to


[1] General Robertson, however, maintained personal control of the battle and was in the thick of the fight. He received the DSC.