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Rocherath; the 89th Regiment, 12th Volks Grenadier Division, which had come up from reserve and initiated an attack from Murringen against Krinkelt the day before, was to maintain pressure in this sector. Meanwhile, the 12th SS Panzer Division was to complete its withdrawal from the twin villages and move as quickly as the poor roads would allow to join a kampfgruppe of the 12th Volks Grenadier Division in a thrust against the American flank position at Butgenbach. The direction of the German main effort, as a result, would shift, substituting an armored thrust against the flank for the battering-ram frontal attack against the now well-developed defenses in the area of Krinkelt-Rocherath. Fresh German infantry were en route to the twin villages, and some reinforcements would be employed there on the 19th, but the attack would lack the armored weight whose momentum had carried earlier assault waves into the heart of the American positions.


At dawn, on 19 December, and blanketed in thick fog, the German grenadiers advanced on Krinkelt and Rocherath. The batteries back on Elsenborn ridge once again laid down a defensive barrage, ending the attack before it could make any headway. Another advance, rolling forward under an incoming fog about 1000, placed enemy snipers and machine gunners close to the American positions. Shortly after noon a few German tanks churned toward the villages and unloaded machine gunners to work the weapons on derelict tanks which had been abandoned close to the American foxhole line. Apparently the enemy infantry were edging in as close as they could in preparation for a final night assault. Headlong assault tactics were no longer in evidence, however. In the meantime the defenders picked up the sounds of extensive vehicular movement (representing the departing elements of the 12th SS Panzer Division), and a platoon of tanks appeared northeast of Rocherath but quickly retired when artillery concentrations and direct fire were brought to bear.


Inside the twin villages' perimeter the defenders were aware that a phase of the battle was ending. Colonel Stokes, the assistant division commander, was preparing plans for withdrawal to the Elsenborn lines. Colonel Boos had the 38th Infantry and its attached troops at work quietly destroying the weapons and equipment, German and American, which could not be evacuated. Finally, at 1345, the withdrawal order was issued, to be put in effect beginning at 1730. The 395th Infantry was to retire from its lines north of the villages and move cross-country (by a single boggy trail) west to Elsenborn. The 38th Infantry and its attached units, more closely engaged and in actual physical contact with the enemy, would break away from the villages, fall back west through Wirtzfeld, then move along the temporary road which the 2d Division engineers had constructed between Wirtzfeld and Berg. Once the 38th had cleared through the Wirtzfeld position, now held by elements of the 9th Infantry and a battalion of the 23d, it would occupy a new defensive line west and northwest of Wirtzfeld, while the 9th Infantry in turn evacuated that village.


Company officers commanding troops facing the enemy had been carefully briefed to avoid the word "withdrawal" in final instructions to their men. This