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of establishing a bridgehead at Echternach on the Sauer River, then undertaking a limited advance to the southwest. The LXXXV Corps was given orders to cross the Our River, north of its juncture with the Sauer, and advance on a westward axis parallel to that of the Fifth Panzer Army. If all went well one of the two divisions would come to a halt in a blocking position around Arlon, south of Bastogne.


Brandenberger would have to rely in the main on his artillery if the Seventh Army was to hold its position at the shoulder of the counteroffensive against any strong attack from the south. One of the first objectives, therefore, would be to neutralize or destroy the American artillery groupments, and for this purpose the army was given a few batteries of the new, long-range 120-mm. guns. The total artillery strength available in the army was 319 guns and 108 rocket projectors. When it came to close and mobile support for the assault Brandenberger's divisions would be in a bad way; there were only thirty assault guns in the army and half of these were with the 5th Parachute Division on the right wing.


At 0530 on the morning of 16 December the guns and rocket projectors of the German Seventh Army opened fire, signaling the attack across the Our and Sauer Rivers. The sector in which the Seventh Army would advance, as flank guard for the two panzer armies carrying the weight of the main counteroffensive, was weakly held. Only small local reserves were at hand to reinforce the vastly outnumbered American troops facing the four divisions under General Brandenberger's command. The northern limit of the Seventh Army attack coincided with the north boundary of the 109th Infantry Regiment (28th Infantry Division) near Stolzembourg; its southern limit was roughly the same as the southern boundary of the 12th Infantry Regiment (4th Infantry Division) near the confluence of the Sauer and Moselle Rivers.


Along this winding front, a distance of some thirty miles, the opponents would be matched at the first shock approximately as follows. On the north wing of the Seventh Army the 5th Parachute Division would cross the Our and strike the 2d Battalion of the 109th Infantry. The boundary between the 109th and 110th ran obliquely, however, and in consequence the 5th Parachute would shortly engage troops of the latter regiment. Next in line on the Our the 352d Volks Grenadier Division would cross into the zone held by the 3d Battalion of the 109th. South of the village of Wallendorf, where the Our flows into the Sauer, the 276th Volks Grenadier Division would push into the narrow segment of the Sauer front held by the 60th Armored Infantry Battalion of the 9th Armored Division (-), then fan out against the left flank of the 12th Infantry. The 212th Volks Grenadier Division, acting as the southern pivot for the entire German counteroffensive, would cross the Sauer in the Echternach sector and drive head on against the 12th Infantry. [2] (Map V)


[2] The chief German source for the Seventh Army operations is MS # A876, Ardennes Offensive of Seventh Army, 16 December 1944-25 January 1945 (General der Panzertruppen Erich Brandenberger). The corps accounts are in MSS # B-030, LXXXV Corps, 1 December 1944-10 January 1945 (General der Infanterie Baptist Kniess) and B-081, LXXX Corps, 13 September 1944-23 March 1945, Part Two (General der Infanterie Dr. Franz Beyer). The individual divisions are covered in MSS # A-930, A-931, 212th Volks Grenadier Division-Ardennes, 16 December 1944-25 January 1945 (Generalleutnant Franz Sensfuss); B-023 (Heilmann); B-067, 352d Volks Grenadier Division, 16 December 1944-25 January 1945 (Generalmajor Erich Schmidt); B-073 212th Volks Grenadier Division, Ardennes (Generalleutnant Franz Sensfuss); and P-032f, Ardennes Project (Generalmajor Hugo Dempwolff). LIII Corps' KTB covers the first hours of action but ends with 17 December.