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tack. Barton's troops and Morris' tanks had brought the 212th and the 276th Volks Grenadier Division to a halt, had then withdrawn most of their advance detachments successfully, and now held a stronger position on a shortened line. The southern shoulder of the German counteroffensive had jammed.


Southern Flank-A Summing Up


The Seventh Arm had thrown three of its four divisions into the surprise attack at the Sauer River on 16 December. The Americans had met this onslaught with two infantry regiments (the 12th and 109th), an armored infantry battalion (the 60th), and an understrength tank battalion (the 70th), these units and others attached making the total approximately division strength. The stubborn and successful defense of towns and villages close to the Sauer had blocked the road net, so essential to movement in this rugged country, and barred a quick sweep into the American rear areas.


In like manner the enemy had failed in the quick accomplishment of one of his major tasks, that is, overrunning the American artillery positions or at the least forcing the guns to withdraw to positions from which they could no longer interdict the German bridge sites. General Barton, it may be added, had refused absolutely to permit the artillery to move rearward. The failure to open the divisional bridges over the Sauer within the first twenty-four hours had forced the German infantry to continue to fight without their accustomed heavy weapons support even while American reinforcements were steadily reducing the numerical edge possessed by the attacker. Further, the German inability to meet the American tanks with tanks or heavy antimechanized means gave the American rifleman an appreciable moral superiority (particularly toward the end of the battle) over his German counterpart.


It should be added that Seventh Army divisions suffered as the stepchild of the Ardennes offensive, not only when bridge trains failed to arrive or proved inadequate but also in the niggardly issue of heavy weapons and artillery ammunition, particularly chemical shells. Perhaps these German divisions faced from the onset the insoluble tactical dilemma, insoluble at least if the outnumbered defenders staunchly held their ground when cut off and surrounded. Strength sufficient to achieve a quick, limited penetration the German divisions possessed, so long as the assault forces did not stop to clean out the village centers of resistance. Strength to exploit these points of penetration failed when the village centers of resistance were bypassed.


Successful the American defense in the Sauer sector had been, but costly too. In six days (through 21 December, after which the Americans would begin their counterattack) the units here on the southern shoulder lost over 2,000 killed, wounded, or missing. German casualties probably ran somewhat higher, but whether substantially so is questionable. In any case, about 800 German prisoners were taken and nonbattle casualties must have been severe, for German commanders later reported that the number of exposure and trench foot cases had been unusually high, the result of the village fighting in which the defender had the greater protection from cold and damp.