St. Vith-Vielsalm road. Again there was confusion, either in the orders issued or their execution. Instead of moving back by separate roads both squadrons moved onto the main highway leading west from St. Vith to Vielsalm. Darkness found the group caught up in the traffic jam, three columns wide, crawling slowly out of or into St. Vith.
Before dawn, on 17 December, the enemy renewed his attack to envelop the major part of the 106th Division. At 0725 a radio message from the 423d Infantry reported that the Germans had overrun Bleialf and requested the division to send help at once to prevent a thrust in force to the north. In the 14th Cavalry Group sector, the enemy was in Andler and driving toward Schonberg. Finally, at 0905, the news reached the 106th Division command post in St. Vith that the enemy forces striking north from Bleialf had pushed the 423d Infantry back to the northeast and had joined hands with the forces at Schonberg. The German plan of envelopment had succeeded-the 422d and 423d Regiments were encircled. The only question remaining was whether the two units could break out or be released by an American counterthrust from the west. The answer lies in the state and dispositions of the trapped regiments.
The 2d Battalion, 423d, committed the previous evening, had organized a defensive position astride the Auw-Bleialf road close behind the beleaguered 589th Field Artillery Battalion. Most of the 589th reached the infantry lines, but Battery C had become mired in an area which was under constant fire and toward dawn the bogged howitzers were destroyed where they lay. The medium pieces of the 592d Field Artillery Battalion had been less close-pressed by the German infantry; during the early morning of 17 December the battalion, with only one howitzer missing, withdrew to St. Vith. The two remaining batteries of the 589th were less fortunate. While en route to St. Vith the column was surprised on the road about a mile south of Schonberg; three of the remaining pieces were lost there (two had been lost at firing positions). The three howitzers left to the battalion were emplaced in support of the hasty defenses being reared around St. Vith. The 590th Field Artillery Battalion, having moved north from the 423d Infantry zone during the night, also was en route to the west when suddenly its escape was blocked by the tanks which had struck the 589th. Reconnaissance showed that the other exit routes were held by the enemy or were mired to the extent of being impassable. The battalion therefore rejoined the forces in the pocket and took up firing positions in the Halenfelder Wald. This one battalion of the division artillery could be of little help, for its service battery, sent west for ammunition, would be unable to return.
While the artillery was attempting escape, with varying degrees of success, the 2d Battalion, 423d, repelled two enemy attempts to advance south of Auw. Meanwhile patrols had discovered some German troops at Laudesfeld, about a thousand yards west of the battalion positions. The 2d Battalion commander, now out of contact with the command post at St. Vith, decided to fall back and defend Schonberg. When the battalion finally turned to follow the artillery out of the trap, it found the way effectively blocked by German tanks. Although the