the battalions was severed. Many radios were in the repair shops, and those at outposts had a very limited range over the abrupt and broken terrain around Echternach and Berdorf, Luxembourg's "Little Switzerland." Throughout this first day the 12th Infantry would fight with very poor communication. The problem of regimental control and coordination was heightened by the wide but necessary dispersion of its units on an extended front and the tactical isolation in an area of wooded heights chopped by gorges and huge crevasses. In accordance with the division orders to hold back maximum reserves, the 12th Infantry had only five companies in the line, located in villages athwart the main and secondary roads leading southwest from the Sauer River crossings to the interior of the Grand Duchy. These villages, at which the crucial engagements would be fought, were Berdorf, Echternach, Lauterborn, Osweiler, and Dickweiler. Actually, only a few men were stationed with the company command post in each village; the rifle platoons and weapon sections were dispersed in outposts overlooking the Sauer, some of them as far as 2,000 yards from their company headquarters.
The leading companies of the two German assault regiments began crossing the Sauer before dawn. Apparently the crews manning the rubber boats had trouble with the swift current, and there were too few craft to accommodate large detachments. The immediate objective of the northern regiment, the 423d, was the plateau on which stood the village of Berdorf; beyond this the regiment had orders to cut the road running west from Lauterborn and Echternach and link forces with the 320th Regiment. The latter crossed east of Echternach, its first objective being the series of hills north of Dickweiler and Osweiler. Once in possession of these hills the 320th was to seize the two villages, then drive on to join the 423d.
General Barton had warned his regiments at 0929 to be on the alert because of activity reported to the north in the 28th Division area, intelligence confirmed by a phone call from General Middleton. But the first word that the Germans were across the river reached the 12th Infantry command post in Junglinster at 1015, with a report from Company F, in Berdorf, that a 15-man patrol had been seen approaching the village a half-hour earlier. At Berdorf most of Company F (1st Lt. John L. Leake) had been on outpost duty at the four observation posts fronting the river. The company radio was back for repair but each of the artillery observers, forward, had a radio. Either these sets failed to function or the outposts were surprised before a message could get out. The 1st Battalion, 423d Regiment, overran three of the outpost positions, captured the company mortars, machine guns, and antitank guns sited in support of the forward detachments, and moved in on Berdorf. Outpost 2 at Birkelt Farm, a mile and a half east of Berdorf, somehow escaped surprise. Here the 2d Platoon (with twenty-one men and two artillery observers) held out in the stone farm buildings for four days and from this position harassed the Germans moving up the ravine road to Berdorf. Direct assault failed to dislodge these Americans, and the attempt was abandoned pending the arrival of heavy weapons from across the river.
At Berdorf itself, Lieutenant Leake