Page 139


of mechanized cavalry, the 14th Cavalry Group was committed to a positional defense. Since the cavalry squadron does not have the staying power for defense in depth, and since the width of this front made an interlocking linear defense impossible, the 14th-if hit hard-was at best capable only of delaying action. Lacking the freedom of maneuver usually accorded cavalry, the 14th Cavalry Group would have little hope of winning time by counterattack. The 32d Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, refitting near Vielsalm, Belgium, was available on short notice to reinforce the rest of the cavalry group; its officers had reconnoitered forward positions and telephone wire had been laid in at a few points. There seems to have been no specific plan for the employment of the 32d Squadron. Colonel Devine and his staff, during the few days available, had worked out a general defensive plan giving specific routes of withdrawal and successive defense lines. Apparently this plan was finished on the night of 15 December but was never circulated.


The staff of the cavalry group was evidently familiar with the defensive plan worked out earlier by the 2d Division which, in the Losheim area, called for an initial withdrawal to the Manderfeld ridge and an American counterattack by forces taken from the Schnee Eifel. During the brief attachment of the 14th Cavalry Group to the 106th Division no comparable plan to support the forces on the low ground in the gap by withdrawing troops from the more readily defended line on the Schnee Eifel was ever issued, although Colonel Devine had made several trips to the 106th on this matter. The 2d Division also had an artillery plan which provided for approximately 200 prearranged concentrations to be fired on call in the gap. There is no evidence that this plan was taken over by the 106th Division artillery (which would have had to shift its battalions), but the cavalry did have one battalion of 105-mm. howitzers, the 275th Armored (Lt. Col. Roy Udell Clay), in support about two and a half miles west of Manderfeld.


Much of the subsequent story of events in the Losheim Gap and the Schnee Eifel turns on the relations between the 106th Division and the 14th Cavalry Group. The brief span of their acquaintance is therefore pertinent. On 20 October the 106th Division shipped from the United States. On 11 December it assumed its first combat role, taking over the quiet sector on the left of the VIII Corps where the veteran 2d Infantry Division had been resting. The relief was completed a day later. The 18th Cavalry Squadron had been in the gap positions since 19 October, less B Troop which was deployed on the south flank of the 2d Division and which remained in that area when the 106th arrived. General Robertson, the 2d Division commander, had long regarded the single cavalry squadron as insufficient to cover the Losheim Gap and had centered his sole divisional reserve, a reinforced infantry battalion, in the vicinity of Auw so as to support either the cavalry or infantry. Robertson's recommendations finally were noticed and on 11 December the 106th Division had attached to it a full cavalry reconnaissance group instead of only the one squadron. But time to organize the defense of the individual sectors of the 106th Division, much less to coordinate over-all defensive plans and preparations, was short.