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The 110th Infantry Sector I6-I8 December


On the second day of December, a staff officer from General Luettwitz' XLVII Panzer Corps arrived at the headquarters of the Fifth Panzer Army to receive the highly secret word of a great counteroffensive in the Ardennes sector. At the moment Luettwitz' corps was fighting in the bogs and swamps of southwest Holland, where the 30 British Corps and the U.S. 84th Division had essayed an attack in the sector around Geilenkirchen intended to erase the salient retained by the Germans on the left flank of the U.S. Ninth Army. Earlier the XLVII Panzer Corps headquarters had taken part in the Fifth Panzer Army counterattack against the U.S. Third Army in September, had been given new divisions to spearhead the brief spoiling attack in late October against the British and American advance in southwest Holland, and had returned to the line in this sector in mid-November to bolster the failing German defenses. Luettwitz turned the Geilenkirchen sector over to the XVII SS Corps on 6 December and moved with his staff to Kyllburg, close to the Fifth Panzer Army headquarters, where a few trusted officers set feverishly to work on plans for Christrose, the code name for the coming offensive.


The mission given Luettwitz conformed to his reputation for drive and audacity. The XLVII Panzer Corps, if all went well, would cross the Our and Clerf Rivers, make a dash "over Bastogne" to the Meuse, seize the Meuse River crossings near Namur by surprise, and drive on through Brussels to Antwerp. Two thins were necessary to success. First, Luettwitz could not allow any slackening to an infantry pace by frontal attacks against strongly defended American positions. Second, he had to disregard his own flanks, particularly on the south, and resolutely refuse to detach any force for flank protection until the main body was west of the Meuse. The only security for the southern flank would have to come from an advance in echelon and such protection as the less mobile divisions of the Seventh Army could offer on the left.


Intelligence reports indicated that the elements of the U.S. 28th Infantry Division likely to be encountered during the first hours of the attack were battle-weary, small in number, and widely dispersed. The problem then, as seen by Manteuffel and Luettwitz, was not how to achieve the initial breakthrough at the Our and Clerf Rivers, but rather how to employ the armor once these two rivers lay behind. The roads in the corps zone of attack were narrow, twisting, and certain to be muddy; they were particularly bad on the axis assigned to Luettwitz' southern columns. Just east of Bastogne the roads straightened somewhat, but good tank-going could not be expected until the Marche-Rochefort line was reached midway between Bastogne and the Meuse. The road center at Bastogne presented a special problem, a problem recognized in the first German plans. Luettwitz and the army commander ran at least two map exercises to arrive at a solution, but Bastogne lay nineteen air-miles west of the German jump-off positions on the Our River and the final orders to Luettwitz' divisions were couched in very general terms. One thing was agreed upon: Bastogne had to be taken before the bulk of the XLVII Pan-