move to Elsenborn, and defending Krinkelt and Rocherath until such time as both the 2d and 99th Divisions could be withdrawn to the Elsenborn ridge. The 9th Infantry, leading the move, was to concentrate the bulk of its troops around Wirtzfeld; the 38th, to build up a defensive line at Krinkelt-Rocherath as its battalions arrived. Before dark the 2d Battalion of the 9th Infantry had traversed the seven and a half miles of congested and shell-torn road, deploying south of Wirtzfeld in line with the 2d Battalion of the 23d Infantry. The 3d Battalion, next in the 9th Infantry column, arrived after dark and dug in between the two battalions already south of Wirtzfeld. En route the 2d Division commander had detached Company K and sent it posthaste to the line forming northeast of Rocherath and to the rear of the fragmented 3d Battalion, 393d. Through the afternoon the prospect of a large-scale German armored attack from Bullingen had loomed large in the calculations of both General Robertson and General Lauer. Fortunately the attack failed to come.
In the late afternoon two rifle battalions were on their way to Krinkelt and Rocherath: the 1st Battalion of the 9th Infantry (Lt. Col. William D. McKinley) cleared the Wahlerscheid area at 1415; the 1st Battalion of the 38th Infantry (Lt. Col. Frank T. Mildren) started on its way at 153O. The road south was now under German shellfire, going was slow, and only a short span of daylight remained The danger involved in the movement across the front multiplied with each hour, for the 99th Division center, east of the twin villages, was collapsing. On the road General Robertson met Colonel McKinley and told him that he had just come from the command post of the 395th Infantry where he had learned that the Germans had broken through the 393d. Robertson had split the preceding battalion of the 9th Infantry to send a rifle company and part of the headquarters company to bar the main road from the forest into Rocherath. Now he ordered McKinley to rush his battalion to Rocherath and hold the woods road "until ordered to withdraw." At dusk the 1st Battalion was in position, deployed on a slight rise overlooking a shallow depression from which a gradual ascent led into the forest.
A thick fog lay close to the snow-covered ground. Around was a scene of wild confusion, stragglers with and without arms hurrying along the road and across the fields, the sound and flash of gunfire coming from the woods to the east. Company K, now attached to the 1st Battalion, already was north of the road, backed up by three guns from the 644th Tank Destroyer Battalion. Company C closed beside K; Company B dug in at the road; Company A lay to the south. The battalion had not picked up its mines during the disengagement, but was able to get a few from the tank destroyers for use at the road. There were fifteen extra bazookas on the ammunition vehicles, and these were handed to riflemen earlier trained by McKinley as bazooka men. Forward observers from the 15th Field Artillery Battalion hurriedly set up their communications. In the woods, less than a thousand yards away, firing continued as darkness closed over the American position.
Friendly infantry and tanks were known to be coming west. About 193O