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were many seventeen-year-olds. Unit commanders and noncommissioned officers were good and experienced; morale was high. Although the 212th was at full strength it shared the endemic weaknesses of the volks grenadier division: insufficient communications and fewer assault guns than provided by regulation (only four were with the division on 16 December).


Brandenberger rated the 212th as his best division. For this reason the 212th was assigned the mission of protecting the flank of the Seventh Army, just as the latter was responsible for guarding the flank of the forces in the main counteroffensive. More specifically, the Seventh Army plans called for the 212th to attack over the Sauer on either side of Echternach, reach and hold the line of the Schlammbach, thus eliminating the American artillery on the plateau in the Alttrier-Herborn-Mompach area, and finally to contain as many additional American troops as possible by a thrust toward Junglinster. Radio Luxembourg, the powerful station used for Allied propaganda .broadcasts, was situated near Junglinster. As in the case of the 276th Volks Grenadier Division, there is no indication that the LXXX Corps expected to send the 212th into Luxembourg City, although the Germans knew that the 12th Army Group Headquarters and the advance command post of the Ninth Air Force were located there.


On the night of 13-14 December the 212th commenced to strip its extended front in concentration for its part in the counteroffensive. The 423d Regiment made a forced march from the sector southwest of Trier and by daylight had bivouacked on the right wing of the 212th. The following night all three regiments assembled behind a single battalion which acted as a screen along the Sauer between Bollendorf and Ralingen, the prospective zone of attack. On the final night (15-16 December) the division moved into the position for the jump-off: the 423d on the right, north of Echternach; the 320th on the left, where the Sauer turned east of Echternach; and the 316th in army reserve northeast of the city. The long southern flank of the old 212th Volks Grenadier Division sector had been drastically weakened to permit the concentration at Echternach. Only two Festung battalions were left to cover the twelve miles south to the boundary between the Seventh and First Armies, but in this denuded sector the Sauer and Moselle Rivers afforded a considerable natural defense.


The Germans had excellent intelligence of the 4th Infantry Division strength and positions. The Luxembourg-German border was easily crossed, and despite the best efforts of the American Counter Intelligence Corps and the local police the bars and restaurants in Luxembourg City provided valuable listening posts for German agents. It is likely that the enemy had spotted all the American outpost and artillery positions; it is certain he knew that the 212th Volks Grenadier Division would be opposed only by the 12th Infantry during the first assault phase.


The German Thrust Begins


When the German artillery opened up on the 12th Infantry at H-hour for the counteroffensive, the concentration fired on the company and battalion command posts was accurate and effective. By daybreak all wire communication forward of