Page 159


which thus far had held its ground, German patrols wormed forward to cut the barbed wire and lob hand grenades toward the American foxholes. An hour or so before dawn the German searchlights flickered on, followed by a storm of shells from guns and Werfers. The fusillade actually was directed against the juncture between the 424th and 112th, but Company G, 424th, came under this fire and suffered many dead as day came and the pounding continued. The main German thrust, however, was made farther north, at Winterspelt. A company or more of the 62d Volks Grenadier Division had taken possession of the eastern half of the village during the night and at daybreak reinforcements finally drove the 1st Battalion from Winterspelt.


Even so, the 424th still blocked the road to the Our River and Steinebruck. To speed up the attack, the German corps commander, General Lucht, himself hurried to Winterspelt to get the 62d moving toward the Our. Apparently the 62d had become somewhat disorganized, its losses had been high, and its left regiment had made little headway in the Heckhuscheid sector. Furthermore, the division on its left, which had been pushing toward the south flank of the 424th, now pulled out and left the 62d to go it alone, seriously hampering Lucht's ability to exploit the dent hammered into the American lines at Winterspelt. But the right regiment of the 62d advanced almost unopposed north of Winterspelt while the division center, now composed of the 2d Battalion, 164th Regiment, reinforced by assault guns and engineers, Continued beyond Winterspelt to occupy the saddle which overlooked the approaches to Steinebruck. The left wing of the 424th was pushed out of the way, folding back toward the south and west, but finally was pegged down by a scratch task force led by 1st Lt. Jarrett M. Huddleston, Jr. To hold this flank and extend it as the enemy moved into the gap, Colonel Reid kept adding whatever troops he could find to this junior officer's command. Steinebruck bridge remained in American hands.


General Hoge's CCB, 9th Armored Division, diverted to the Winterspelt area on the night of the 16th, arrived in St. Vith before dawn on the 17th and received its final orders. The armored infantry (27th Armored Infantry Battalion) would move at once to seize the series of hills near Winterspelt; the tanks (14th Tank Battalion) would assemble west of the Our River and thence be committed as the situation unrolled. About this time the 106th Division commander borrowed a platoon of the 811th Tank Destroyer Battalion from CCB, sending it to Schonberg to relieve the forward command post of the 106th (the platoon did reach the 423d Infantry). The situation in front of St. Vith was changing so rapidly that a platoon of the reconnaissance troop leading CCB had to be sent to defend the road out of St. Vith to the east, while a company of tanks and another of tank destroyers were diverted to screen the entry of the 7th Armored Division.


Word that Winterspelt was no longer in friendly hands reached CCB just as its two leading rifle companies started moving to the Our. By 0930 one company was across the river and had run into German infantry dug in along the high ground overlooking the village of Elcherath, fifteen hundred yards from