Page 191


one platoon to clearing the Germans out of the south end of town, sent one platoon to Reuler to help the 2d Battalion, and, sent one to the 1st Battalion at Heinerscheid where the light tanks of the 707th Tank Battalion had been smashed earlier in the day. The appearance of the Shermans in Clerf cooled the ardor of the German infantry.


The 2d Panzer Division advance guard had taken a bloody nose on the Marnach road, but more tanks and infantry were arriving hourly and maneuver was possible. During the afternoon the Germans pressed the 2d Battalion back through Reuler, the Americans fighting stubbornly with the aid of the dwindling tank force from the 9th Armored Division and the few remain ing towed tank destroyers of Company B, 630th Tank Destroyer Battalion. A platoon of self-propelled tank destroyers had arrived early in the afternoon but left precipitately, losing one gun as it careened down the road back through Clerf. Shortly before dusk Companies E and F dug in on a ridge north of Reuler under a rain of German shells. On their left German tanks were wiping out the last posts of the 1st Battalion. At Heinerscheid, Company A had been overrun in midafternoon, leaving open an avenue into the 2d Battalion left flank. Then the enemy grenadiers encircled the American roadblock at Urspelt, whereupon the light tank platoon destroyed its single remaining tank and withdrew on foot to Wiltz-the 2d Battalion flanks were wide open.


Colonel Lauchert was worried about the slow rate of the 2d Panzer advance. He even dispatched a kampfgruppe to seize a bridge considerably south of Clerf apparently intending to swing his attack column to a poorer road in the event that Clerf continued to hold. But now the north road into the town was open. A small tank-infantry team blasted the single s7-mm. antitank gun in the path and crossed the bridge at the railroad station. At the same time a tank platoon, shrouded in darkness and with no American tanks left to contest the passage, wound its way into the south end of Clerf. At l825 Colonel Fuller phoned the 28th Division chief of staff that his command post was under fire and that enemy tanks occupied the town. Fuller and some of his staff made their escape, hoping to join Company G, which had been released at division headquarters and was supposed to be coming in from the west. Later Colonel Fuller was captured, with a group of stragglers he commanded, while attempting to break through to the west. At 1839 the sergeant at the regimental switchboard called the division to report that he was alone-only the switchboard was left.


This was not quite the end in Clerf. At the chateau by the south bridge 102 officers and men of the regimental headquarters company still were in action. Around them Clerf was crawling with tanks, for most of the Mark IV Battalion of the 3d Panzer Regiment had assembled in the town during the night. Perhaps the tankers were too busy looting the American freight cars and supply dumps to bother with the little force in the chateau. Perhaps they did not care to risk bazooka fire in the dark. In any case the defenders made radio contact (their last) with the 28th Division as late as 0528 on the morning of 18 December. The final word on the defense of Clerf would come from the enemy.