Page 205


with an order to hold in essentially the positions which the regiment now occupied. [17] But the situation east of Bastogne was growing more precarious and the division commander decided to bring the 112th back to join in the defense of Bastogne. About 1700 he radioed new orders: the 112th Infantry was to fight a stiff delaying action along the line Weiswampach-Trois Vierges, and thence toward Bastogne. Two hours later the 112th Infantry acknowledged receipt of these instructions.


Colonel Nelson decided to pull back through Huldange since enemy tanks were known to be in Trois Vierges. Early on 19 December the 112th Infantry and 229th Field Artillery Battalion moved under cover of a heavy fog and assembled without hindrance around Huldange, the defensive front now facing south. Here Nelson received a message from the 28th Division which ordered the regiment to hold the line LausdornWeiswampach-Beiler, which the 112th Infantry had just abandoned. Colonel Nelson at this moment had two contradictory orders and would have to risk his regiment if he carried out either.


Through the roundabout artillery channels he asked permission to join the 106th Infantry Division, only a little distance away to the north. Nelson also reported to General Jones at Vielsalm and set the problem before him. Jones attached the 112th Infantry to his own division on the spot, assuring Nelson that he would assume full responsibility. The sequence of events in this story of difficulties in command and communication is none too clear, but the VIII Corps commander approved the attachment. On the morning of the 20th Jones ordered the regiment to sideslip back to the east, reoccupy Beiler, and dig in along the eastwest ridge line, Leithum-Beiler-Malscheid. Thus deployed on the right of the 424th Infantry, the 112th was another piece filling out the fast developing "island defense" of St. Vith.


The Fall of Wiltz


The total impact of the severe German blows dealt the 110th Infantry in the late afternoon and evening of 17 December was not felt at the division and corps headquarters for several hours. Information on the hard-pressed battalions and their companies was sketchy and secondhand. At 2013 General Cota phoned the VIII Corps commander to say that the situation was critical, that routes were open for the German tanks to come through, and that "there is some question in regard to the 110th Infantry CP." He added, however, that he had "three battalions now trying to counterattack from Clerf to Marnach." (By this hour, of course, the story was quite different: the 1st Battalion was cut to pieces, most of the 2d Battalion was surrounded, and the 3d Battalion was holding at Consthum and Hosingen only by the skin of its teeth.)


The corps commander was loath to yield ground to the enemy. Nonetheless he advised Cota to withdraw the 110th back of the Clerf, that "under the circumstances it was necessary." Furthermore, Middleton instructed Cota to use


[17] Cota was acting on orders from the VIII Corps commander who wished to deny the enemy the use of Highway N 26, the main paved road from the south into St. Vith.