Page 215


Perhaps Model did not care to recognize that the paratroopers in this once elite division had been replaced by meagerly trained Luftwaffe ground troops and Navy battalions. Lacking experienced fighting men and the heavy weapons requisite for close support, Heilmann instructed his line officers to avoid pitched battles for defended positions. After all, the goal to be reached by the night of 16 December was near the town of Wiltz some ten miles west of the Our. Therefore the 5th Parachute Division plan called for a quick and unopposed crossing at the Our; a bridge to be in at Roth by midafternoon of the first day; a rapid advance past the villages where the weak American forces were located; and a lightning stroke to force the crossing sites near Wiltz.


If this plan were successful the 5th Parachute Engineer Battalion would ferry the assault companies across the Our, then join the advance and reach the Wiltz sector with ferrying equipment by the end of the first day. The 14th Parachute Regiment had orders to cross the Our in the north near Stolzembourg, drive past Putscheid and seize a crossing point on the Wiltz someplace west of Hoscheid. To the south the 15Th Parachute Regiment was intended to cross the Our at Roth (named as the main divisional bridge site), seize the high ground near Vianden, then establish a bridgehead over the Sure at Bourscheid. The task of erasing such American units as might be left in the towns and villages was given the 13th Parachute Regiment, which had no transport and would be brought forward with the bulk of the heavy weapons once the Our bridge was in Since the Seventh Army had ordered each of its divisions to commence the attack with only two battalions, spearheaded by single shock companies, the initial transfer to the far bank of the Our would be a gradual process (and would, as it proved, lead the Americans to believe that the first Germans across were only patrols). Nonetheless, Heilmann hoped that the vehicles of the 15Th Parachute Regiment and the self-propelled 7s-mm. guns of the 11th Assault Gun Brigade would be across the Our River before the close of the first day, for he counted on these two units to lead the advance to the division objective south of Bastogne.


The second German division assembled opposite the 109th Infantry was the 352d Volks Grenadier Division (Col. Erich Schmidt). The boundary point between the latter and its northern neighbor was fixed about a half-mile south of Roth, but for some reason the precise extension of the boundary line west of the Our had not been settled. As a result complications would arise once the 5th Parachute Division and the 352d Volks Grenadier Division advanced beyond the river. The 352d had full ranks, mostly from the Luftwaffe and Navy, but lacked training and veteran noncoms. Its artillery regiment contained four battalions, but was mostly horse-drawn and woefully short of radio equipment. There were only six assault guns in the divisional company. On the night of 12 December the 352d pulled out of the long line between Stolzembourg and Bollendorf which then comprised the division front and re-formed in the woods east of the Our, leaving only a small security force to screen the movements of the divisions moving up on the right and left. When the 109th Infantry sent a large combat patrol across at Vianden on the morning