155-mm. howitzer battalion, close by. The German 294th was acting under orders to clear the way into the Our valley, but to do so it had to neutralize or destroy the American artillery, whose positions had been plotted earlier by the corps observation battalion. Stealing forward by squads and platoons, the grenadiers brought the battery positions under crossfire from their machine pistols while mortar crews and gunners worked to knock out the American field pieces.
Colonel Descheneaux, intent on easing the increasing pressure, dispatched a task force about 1300 to recapture Auw and cut off the enemy to the south. This counterattack, employing Company L, the cannon company, and part of the antitank company, was based on a plan taken over from the 2d Infantry Division. The task force started its advance in the midst of a sudden snowstorm, made contact with the Germans near Auw, then suddenly received orders to return to the regimental command post at Schlausenbach, which was now threatened by infantry advancing along the draw from the east. Even while the task force was approaching Auw the enemy had stepped up the drive to overrun the artillery, sending assault guns in to do the job. But the American cannoneers stayed with their howitzers, firing with the shortest fuze possible, while others of the artillery worked their way to within bazooka range of enemy assault guns. The attack was stopped, after three assault guns had been knocked out. The Germans returned to the softening-up process and waited for night to fall; artillery and mortar fire accounted for 36 men in Battery A of the 592d in the late afternoon.
When day closed, the attempt to destroy the artillery was resumed, flares and searchlights marking the German movements. Earlier, General Jones had taken steps to block the gap between the 14th Cavalry Group and the 422d, ordering his reserve, the 2d Battalion, 423d Infantry (Lt. Col. Joseph F. Puett), to move through St. Vith to Schonberg. By 1730 Puett's battalion had detrucked and set up defenses to cover the road net at the latter point. Three hours later General Jones telephoned Colonel Puett, ordering an immediate attack to cover the open left flank of the 422d and permit the two hard-pressed artillery battalions to displace southward. Apparently General Jones intended that the battalion should turn north to Andler and push aside the enemy along the AuwAndler-Schonberg road. Puett, however, got on the wrong road and turned south, leaving the northern approach to Schonberg open. (About the same time, the cavalry troop at Andler pulled out.) Ultimately the 2d Battalion found its way through the dark across country and reached the 89th Field Artillery Battalion. Meanwhile the 422d commander had swung his left battalion (the 2d) around to face north, expecting to link up with the reserve battalion.
This, then, was the situation. The 106th Division had lost relatively little ground during the daylight hours of the 16th. Still, the enemy had succeeded in creating a shallow salient in the Winterspelt sector, had penetrated between the 424th and 423d, and had uncovered the left flank and rear of the 422d Infantry. Through the night of 16-17 December, therefore, the German LXVI Corps continued to push its tired infantry into these sectors. while fresh troops