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dier Regiment at bay until the afternoon of 18 December and, even as they withdrew, continued to block the road to Wiltz. The northern regiment of the Panzer Lehr Division, the 902d, made better progress. The capitulation of the gallant garrison at Hosingen, during the morning, removed this threat to the 902d supply road. The 26th Volks Grenadier Division, having completed its initial mission by seizing an undamaged bridge across the Clerf at Drauffelt during the night, made way for the Panzer Lehr Division to strike for Bastogne. The Panzer Lehr Reconnaissance Battalion, earlier withdrawn from the fight at Holzthum, reverted to its parent command and crossed the river first. The 902d, advancing by way of Munshausen, now cleared of Americans, followed. Despite harassing fire from American guns and mortars the Germans moved swiftly. At the crossroads east of Eschweiler the Reconnaissance Battalion turned to the left and bore down on Wiltz. The 902d, led in person by the division commander, continued toward the west, although briefly delayed in a fight with a few towed antitank guns and armored cars near Eschweiler. [18]


German field guns, by this time west of the Clerf, opened fire on Wiltz at noon. Two hours later tanks and self-propelled guns struck the 44th Engineers, which was outposting the little hamlets northeast of Wiltz. A section of tank destroyers, supporting the forward outpost, was overrun by the more mobile German tanks, but the engineers held their fire for the German infantry on the heels of the panzers and then cut loose, with satisfying results. The American howitzers, south of Wiltz, also took a hand in slowing the German attack. But the enemy armor weight was too heavy, nor could it be checked by the handful of tanks and light assault guns remaining to the 707th Tank Battalion. By dusk the American line had been pushed back nearly to Weidingen when orders came to withdraw behind the Wiltz River and destroy the bridge at Weidingen. For some reason the bridge was not blown. But the pressure on the Wiltz perimeter relaxed briefly as the Panzer Lehr Reconnaissance Battalion turned back toward the north to rejoin its division in the race for Bastogne. Infantry of the 26th Volks Grenadier Division took over the attack on the northeast (probably the 39th Volks Grenadier Regiment).


On German operations maps Wiltz lay athwart the boundary which divided the attack zones of the XLVII Panzer Corps and the LXXXV Corps. On 19 December the right wing division of the latter, the 5th Parachute Division, took over the attack on Wiltz, or perhaps more accurately, drifted into a fight for the town. On the evening of the 18th Col. Ludwig Heilmann, commander of the 5th Parachute Division, knew that the divisions on his right and left were well ahead of his own. In fact the troops of the 26th Volks Grenadier Division sent against Wiltz from the northeast were acting under orders to protect the flank and rear of Panzer Lehr against possible American counterattack from the Wiltz valley. Heilmann, therefore, had decid-