Page 160


Steinebruck. The terrain and general uncertainty as to the enemy strength and dispositions dictated a coordinated attack. By noon the 16th Armored Field Artillery Battalion was in position west of the river to support the attack. At this time General Hoge had in hand three companies of armored infantry and the 14th Tank Battalion, a force deemed sufficient to drive the Germans back from Elcherath. But the enemy also was bringing up reinforcements, for at noon an American spotter plane reported a column of vehicles entering Winterspelt (perhaps this was the 2d Battalion of the 164th Regiment).


Two companies of the 27th Armored Infantry Battalion (Lt. Col. George W. Seeley) advanced to clear the hills flanking Elcherath while Company B moved along the main road. Threshed by small arms fire from the grenadiers on the wooded slopes Company B suffered about forty casualties, but the surprise appearance of a tank platoon shook the enemy infantry somewhat. About ninety Germans, hands high, came forward to surrender. A little after 1500 General Hoge ordered his infantry to halt and dig in; he had decided to throw in the less vulnerable tank battalion and thrust for the high ground east of Winterspelt. The 14th Tank Battalion was on its way to the Steinebruck bridge when the assistant division commander of the 106th arrived with word from General Jones that Hoge might make the attack if he wished, but that CCB must withdraw behind the Our that night. Since there was little or no point to further effort in the direction of Winterspelt, Hoge told his infantry to dig in and wait for nightfall, then withdrew the tanks to their assembly area.


In the early afternoon Colonel Reid had gathered the staff of the 424th to review the regimental position. Nothing was known of friendly units to the right and left; no information was getting through from the division headquarters; the enemy appeared to be working his way around the left flank of the 424th and had penetrated into the regimental service area. If a withdrawal was to be made starting in the early evening, preparations would have to begin at once. Reid decided to hold where he was for he had no orders releasing his regiment from the "hold at all costs" mission. Finally, at 1730, the regimental liaison officer arrived with orders from Jones that the 424th should withdraw immediately. During the night of 17-18 December both CCB, 9th Armored, and the 424th Infantry made a successful move across the river, although in the hurried withdrawal the latter was forced to leave much equipment behind. The line now occupied by these two units stretched a distance of seven thousand yards, from Weppler (northeast of Steinebruck) south to Burg Reuland.


The intervention of the 9th Armored combat command had not achieved the results which had been hoped for, but had contributed indirectly to the successful withdrawal of the 424th Infantry and had delayed the drive by the 62d Volks Grenadier Division toward the Our crossings-and St. Vith. The German division commander later wrote of the "serious crisis" caused by the American counterattacks around Elcherath. The heavy concentration of American artillery supporting CCB also gave the Germans pause. It seems probable that the failure of the 183d