his tanks and tank destroyers to block the roads west of the river.
The 28th Division commander agreed to pull back where he could, but by the morning of the 18th it was apparent that to re-establish any sort of front behind the Clerf was impossible. The bridges at Clerf and Wilwerwiltz were in German hands (no preparations had been made to destroy them); most of the sixty tanks committed in the central sector were destroyed. No help could be expected from either the right or left wing regiments in shoring up the division center. The 109th Infantry was losing ground on its north flank and soon would be forced back fanwise into the 9th Armored Division zone. The 112th Infantry south wing was giving way under heavy attack, and during the day all communications between the regiment and division were lost.
Miscellaneous troops of the 110th Infantry had joined with units of Combat Command R of the 9th Armored Division (briefly under operational control of the 28th Infantry Division) to defend along the main road to Bastogne in the area west of Clerf. The responsibility for command here was assumed directly by the VIII Corps. General Cota, as a result, decided to concentrate what was left to him-headquarters troops, engineers, stragglers, and the handful of organized units moving back from across the Clerf-in defense of Wiltz, the 28th Division command post. This sizable town lay in a bend of the Wiltz River valley, southwest of Clerf and some three miles away from the enemy-held crossings at Wilwerwiltz. Next to the paved through highway via Clerf, the Wiltz valley offered the best avenue westward. The road center at Wiltz and the bridges there were only about twelve miles from Bastogne. It would be natural, therefore, for the Germans debouching from the Wilwerwiltz bridgehead to defile through the Wiltz valley.
About 1000 on 18 December, General Cota received the welcome word that a combat command of the 10th Armored Division was moving forward to his assistance, probably to be in position to give support by the late afternoon. Middleton had ordered the 44th Engineer Combat Battalion (Lt. Col. Clarion J. Kjeldseth) to Wiltz on the previous evening with about six hundred men (it had been operating sawmills and rock crushers, working on roads, and the like). This unit now relieved the provisional battalion, hastily formed from the 28th Division headquarters, by setting up positions north and east of the town. There were also available some tanks and guns to help the engineers, bandsmen, telephone linemen, and paymasters who composed the defense. All that remained of the 707th Tank Battalion-some six crippled tanks and five assault gunswas gathered in Wiltz after a rear guard action in Wilwerwiltz. Six three-inch towed tank destroyers from the 630th Tank Destroyer Battalion, weapons of the 447th Antiaircraft Battalion, and light armored cars of the 28th Reconnaissance Troop reinforced the perimeter. Southeast of the town the undergunned batteries of the 687th Field Artillery Battalion held firing positions along the road, sited to cover the Wiltz perimeter or support the 3d Battalion, 110th Infantry, fighting at Consthum.
It will be recalled that the troops at Consthum held the 901st Panzer Grena-