Page 162


THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE


about 2130. But in the ensuing hours the situation of Devine's command had altered radically.


It will be recalled that the 14th Cavalry Group had withdrawn to the Holzheim-Andler line, breaking contact with the enemy. About 1830 on 16 December the units of the 18th Reconnaissance Squadron which had moved to Holzheim on the left of the line withdrew to Wereth, farther west, with the consent of the group commander. This move left Troop A of the 32d by itself at Holzheim. The troop commander was concerned with his exposed left flank and requested permission to move to Honsfeld, in the 99th Division zone, somewhat over two miles to the north. Group headquarters was loath to approve such a move and asked for a report by liaison officer. Finally the commander of Troop A decided to act on his own initiative; the troop reached Honsfeld at 2100 and was incorporated in the defense of that village. Its subsequent sto ry belongs with that of the 99th Division. During the evening German troops had been reported on the road south of Holzheim. The executive officer of the 32d Squadron received this report at Herresbach, where the squadron headquarters and Troops E and C were assembled. Although no Germans had yet appeared, the executive officer was apprehensive lest Herresbach become a cul-de-sac. The road southeast to Andler might be ambushed. The poor secondary road northwest to Wereth was blocked by fallen trees, probably felled by the Belgians. Reconnaissance showed one way out of the village, a poor dirt trail, which led westward for about four miles was decided that this trail would be used if the elements in Herresbach had to withdraw any farther.


As a result of the reshuffling during the night the cavalry position extended obliquely southeast from Wereth through Herresbach to Andler. Troop B at Andler, then, lay close to the enemy, directly astride the main approach to Schonberg and St. Vith. At daybreak two of the troop's reconnaissance teams-about twenty men-were suddenly engulfed by Tiger tanks and infantry. This apparition was the 506th Panzer Battalion which had been thrown in by the Sixth Panzer Army to reinforce its advance toward Vielsalm, and which had detoured south of the inter-army boundary in search of a passable road. Contact was momentary. Troop B hastily withdrew south to Schonberg while the Tigers went lumbering off to the northwest. Now that Andler was in enemy hands the 32d Cavalry Squadron at Herresbach was isolated. The squadron executive officer requested permission to withdraw via the woods trail, which had been surveyed earlier, and the 14th Cavalry Group commander-who had arrived at his command post in Meyerode-gave consent. About o830 the 32d Squadron and the numerous strays and stragglers who had congregated in Herresbach began the difficult move. All vehicles finally emerged from the woods and joined group headquarters at Meyerode.


Thus far only Troop B had actually seen and engaged the Germans. Troop B was hit again at Schonberg, this time by elements of the 294th Regiment led in person by the 18th Volks Grenadier Division commander, and headed west along the St. Vith road, looking for a