Page 225


The 109Th Infantry, however, had been forced back fanwise away from the rest of the 28th Division. Its closest friendly forces were those of CCA, 9th Armored Division, now south and east of the 109th across the Sauer. Colonel Rudder, still under orders to fight for time and space, was enjoined by General Cota on the morning of 19 December "not to recoil any further than the Sure [Sauer] River." The 109th, fortunately, was given a few hours to rest and better its defenses before the enemy continued the advance to wipe out the Diekirch-Ettelbruck bridgehead.


Early in the afternoon German guns opened up on the Diekirch positions (the artillery regiment of the 352d had just come into position west of the Our), and those elements of the 915th and 916th Regiments which the 352d commander could personally gather were thrown into a series of piecemeal assaults. For two hours the fight went back and forth, [5] involving the 2d Battalion on the Diekirch-Hoscheid road and the 3d Battalion aligned on the ridge east of Diekirch. Schmidt, the German division commander, tried to lead his troops forward and was seriously wounded. When night came the fight flared up once more, small groups of the enemy probing for weak points while artillery fire and searchlights were employed to guide the attack and distract the defenders. Colonel Rudder phoned the 28th Division chief of staff about 2000, told him that the 109th might be cut off and surrounded, and suggested that he should pull his regiment back to the southwest across the Sauer to cover the left flank of the 9th Armored Division. General Cota agreed that a further withdrawal could be made but instructed Rudder to stay in his own zone of action, that is, to make a withdrawal to the west.


Fifteen minutes later the 28th Division commander got in touch with General Middleton, the VIII Corps commander, and presented the alternatives now facing the 109Th Infantry. The 109th "could fight it out . . and that would be the end"; the regiment could tie in closely with the 9th Armored force and withdraw to the south; or the 109th and the 9th Armored force could be pulled back toward Bastogne. General Middleton had just finished speaking to Maj. Gen. John W. Leonard, the 9th Armored commander, and had promised a battalion from the incoming 80th Infantry Division to fill the gap between Leonard and Rudder. (General Bradley or Maj. Gen. William H. H. Morris, Jr., the provisional corps commander, later canceled this move so as to keep the 80th together.) Middleton therefore told Cota that the 109Th was to hold, but if forced back it should retire to the west behind the Alzette, a stream line directly south of Ettelbruck. These orders were passed on to the 109th. However the final instructions to Rudder recognized the need for reliance on the commander on the ground; he was to "act according to the situation." In point of fact the 109Th already was on the march west through Ettelbruck. General Leonard still expected that the 109th would fall back to the south and join the 9th Armored (the 109th was