The second battalion of the 986th moved cautiously up the draws and ravines toward Bigelbach. This village lay on a slope and had not been occupied, although American patrols moved in now and then at night to check suspicious lights. As a result the 986th was able to report that it had made gains on its left and "taken" Bigelbach. For some reason the Germans did not push on and Company C, holding the hills and crests south of Bigelbach, engaged them in a desultory, long-range fire fight for the rest of the day.
The center German regiment, 988th, made its crossings near Dillingen, aiming in the direction of Beaufort and Haller. Here Company A was deployed in the woods above the Sauer with observation on the river but with insufficient strength to block the numerous ravines running up the wooded heights. By noon the attack threatened to overrun the company and infiltration had taken place at several points, the German movements hidden by the dense pine. Colonel Collins committed Company B, in reserve at Beaufort, to attack through Company A in an effort to restore the position and drive the Germans back over the Sauer. The reserve company ran up against units of the 988th which had penetrated between the two forward companies but moved fast and reached a position abreast of A and C. All this while the batteries around Haller had been shelling the enemy crossing points; the cost to the Germans must have been high, but they kept coming.
In midafternoon General Leonard dipped into his reserves to support the 60th Armored Infantry Battalion. Since the 9th Armored Division was in this sector with a force equivalent only to a combat command, Leonard's reserves consisted of one tank battalion (the 19th), a company from the divisional engineers, a battery from the 482d Aircraft Artillery Battalion, most of the 89th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, a company of self-propelled tank destroyers, and two reconnaissance platoons belonging to the 811th Tank Destroyer Battalion. These units would fight as a combat command, although the sector was not turned over to Col. Thomas L. Harrold and CCA headquarters until the next morning. One troop was taken from the cavalry and given to the 60th Armored Infantry Battalion; the armored cars moved forward and spent the night of 16-17 December outposting Beaufort and patrolling the road which ran from the town into the Schwarz Erntz gorge.
This deep, thickly wooded gorge posed a constant threat to both CCA and the 4th Infantry Division. As yet the enemy made no attempt to utilize the natural sally port, but in the 4th Division sector German infantry surrounded Berdorf, which controlled a lateral road descending into the gorge. In the 9th Armored sector three lateral draws debouched west from the gorge toward Haller, Waldbillig, and Christnach. In the late afternoon Company A, 19th Tank Battalion, joined the 12th Infantry (4th Division) as a mobile reserve in this area. Troop B, 89th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, came up to reinforce Company B, 811th Tank Destroyer Battalion, whose 76-mm. self-propelled guns covered the Waldbillig and Christnach draws. The right flank of the 9th Armored, although none too secure, at least was outposted. During the late afternoon the enemy, who ear