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had no cohesive line of defense, General Kokott had ordered the 77th Regiment to circle north of Hosingen and head straight for the Clerf bridges at Drauffelt, while the 39th cut cross-country, avoiding the villages on the western side of the ridge line, and seized the road junction and bridges at Wilwerwiltz on the Clerf. The eye of the division commander would be on the assault echelons of his right wing regiment, for they would make the main effort to reach the Clerf. The timetable for the 26th Volks Grenadier Division advance called for both its attacking regiments to reach the Clerf River by nightfall of the first day. Adherence to this schedule meant that the villages garrisoned by the American companies would have to be avoided or captured quickly.


The units of the 110th Infantry were disposed as follows to face three full German divisions. On the left of the regimental zone, the 1st Battalion (Lt. Col. Donald Paul) held the intersection of the Skyline Drive and the Dasburg-Bastogne main highway at Marnach, employing Company B and a platoon from the 630th Tank Destroyer Battalion. To the southwest, Company C and the regimental cannon company were deployed in and around Munshausen, guarding the side road which cut cross-country from Marnach to Drauffelt. Company A, at Heinerscheid, was on the extreme left flank of the 110th and so lay outside the path of the XLVII Panzer Corps attack, as did Company D at Grindhausen. The 3d Battalion (Maj. Harold F. Milton) formed the regimental right, with its companies on both sides of the ridge line. Company K, reinforced by Company B, 103d Engineer Combat Battalion, garrisoned Hosingen, a village on the Skyline Drive overlooking two of the four roads which wound from the Our up over the ridge. To the south Company I held Weiler-les-Putscheid, a hamlet in a knot of trails and byroads on the forward slopes of the ridge line. The 110th Antitank Company was in Hoscheid just to the west. Both of these positions lay adjacent to the prospective boundary between the XLVII and LXXXV Corps. West of the ridge, Company L in Holzthum and the headquarters company and Company M in Consthum barred a direct approach to the Clerf crossing site at Wilwerwiltz. Behind the Clerf River and to the west of the regimental command post in the town of Clerf the 2d Battalion (Lt. Col. Ross C. Henbest) lay in divisional reserve. Separated of necessity by the width of the front and the requirements of some depth in the defenses athwart the east-west roads, the units of the 110th could offer little reciprocal support against an enemy attacking in any force.


The massed guns and Werfers of the XLVII Panzer Corps which roared out at 0530 on 16 December gave the Americans their first warning. But the tactical effect of this artillery preparation was considerably less than the German planners had anticipated. The telephone wires connecting the American-held villages were shot out in the first few minutes and Fuller could not reach any of his battalions; artillery radios, however, continued to function. The German barrage, with a limited number of rounds at the guns, dwindled away after about half an hour to sporadic salvos and stray single shots, leaving the advancing infantry without cover while they were still short of the American positions.