The 106th Infantry Division had been activated in March 1943. Early in 1944 the division took part in the Tennessee maneuvers, but its training program (as in the case of many new divisions) was more or less vitiated when some 60 percent of the enlisted strength was drained off to meet the heavy demands for trained infantry before and after D-day. When the 106th Division relieved the 2d Division on 11-12 December, freeing the latter for use in the proposed V Corps attack to seize the Roer River dams, it moved into well-prepared positions and a fairly quiet front. The veteran 2d Division had protected its front-line units against the bitter Ardennes weather with log dugouts for the rifle and weapon squads. Stoves were in the squad huts and the kitchen ranges were up front in covered dugouts. Heavy weapons were exchanged, the 106th taking over the .50-caliber machine guns, mortars, and other weapons where they had been emplaced in order to conceal the relief from the enemy. The extensive communications net prepared by the 2d Division, with wire to almost every squad and outpost, was left to the 106th, but unlike its predecessor the 106th had few sound-powered telephones.
Before his departure the 2d Division commander handed over his defensive scheme and briefed the incoming commander and staff. Because General Robertson had looked upon the Losheim Gap as particularly sensitive, the 2d Division defensive and counterattack plans laid special emphasis on support for troops in that sector. In brief, the 2d Division planned to pull the forces in the gap back to the Manderfeld ridge while the two regimental combat teams on the Schnee Eifel would withdraw west to a shortened line along the Auw-Bleialf ridge road, thus freeing one combat team for counterattack in the north. Local counterattack plans prepared by regiments and battalions likewise were handed over. From 12 through 15 December the 106th Division commander and staff reconnoitered the new area; then, after a conference with the VIII Corps commander, they began study on detailed recommendations for a more adequate defense. These were never completed or submitted although General Jones did make oral requests to alter his deployment.
In the circumstances then existing, adequate measures to cope with the problem of such an extended front would have required one of two things: substantial reinforcement or withdrawal to a shorter line. Some five weeks earlier General Middleton had acted to reduce the Schnee Eifel salient by withdrawing the 23d Infantry (2d Division) from its forward positions in the West Wall. It was into this new westward sector on the right flank of the salient that the 424th Infantry moved-even so, the regiment took over a front of nearly six miles. Middleton was under compulsion from higher headquarters to retain the Schnee Eifel salient and the existing dispositions of the two regiments therein. There were plans afoot for an attack toward Bonn, as part of the forthcoming Allied offensive, and the gap in the West Wall represented by this salient would be extremely useful in any sortie against Bonn.
Besides the 14th Cavalry Group the 106th Division possessed the conventional attached units: a tank destroyer battalion (the 820th) and an antiaircraft battalion (the 634th Automatic