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of the German attack. The attachment of CCB, 9th Armored Division, to the 106th Division late in the morning promised such aid as then seemed necessary, but Hoge's command post was at Monschau and he would not receive his orders from Jones until about 1800. As a result CCB began its move for St. Vith about 2000 on the 16th.


As the size and direction of the first enemy effort began to assume some shadowy form on the situation maps in the corps and division headquarters, General Middleton advised the 106th Division commander that he could use the 168th Engineer Combat Battalion, which was engaged in routine duties around St. Vith and Vielsalm. This battalion (Lt. Col. W. L. Nungesser) was at about half strength-attendance at schools or special assignments accounted for the rest. The men had not been given any recent training in the use of bazookas or machine guns; a large percentage of the machine gunners would therefore be killed in the fight for St. Vith. At 1030 on 17 December, reports of the German penetration from the east led General Jones to send the 168th out the St. VithSchonberg road with orders to defend astride the road at the village of Heuem. While en route, the engineers met troopers of the 32d Cavalry who had been involved in a running fight along the road west of Schonberg. Heuem, they reported, was in enemy hands and a German column was heading straight for St. Vith.


On the morning of the 17th Colonel Slayden, VIII Corps' assistant G-2, and Lt. Col. Earle Williams, the 106th Division signal officer, while doing independent scouting east of St. Vith, had seen the enemy and tapped the signal wire to ask for artillery interdiction of the highway. The combat engineer battalion deployed about two miles east of St. Vith along the outer edge of a pine forest fringing the ridge mask over which climbs the road from Schonberg. Here forty men or so of the 81st Engineer Combat Battalion (106th Division) joined the 168th. CCB, 9th Armored Division, had passed St. Vith en route to aid the 424th Infantry, and a platoon of Troop C, 89th Cavalry Squadron, was commandeered to reinforce the watch east of the town. [1] This little force was digging in when, at noon, the first enemy patrols were sighted.


The 7th Armored Division Move to St. Vith


When the counteroffensive began, the 7th Armored Division (Brig. Gen. Robert W. Hasbrouck) was in the XIII Corps reserve, planning for possible commitment in the Ninth Army Operation DAGGER intended to clear the Germans from the west bank of the Roer River once the dams were destroyed. [2]


[1] The subsequent story of these units is threaded together from the VIII Corps G-2 and G-3 journals; combat interviews with the VIII Corps staff and the 168th Engineer Battalion; the separate troop histories in the 89th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron AAR; the 168th Engineer Combat Battalion AAR; and the journals of CCB, 9th Armored. (The AAR of the latter is worthless and the journals are very confused; they do, however, have many map overlays from which the action can be traced.)


[2] The history of the 7th Armored in the battle of St. Vith is better documented than any part of the Ardennes story, with the sole exception of the defense of Bastogne. All of the units organic to this command prepared AAR's, including the division trains and artillery. The unit journals, as is common in an armored division, are rather slim, although, in this case, fairly accurate. A quite complete and accurate account was prepared by one of the participants, Maj. Donald P. Boyer, Jr., in 1947 and was published as St. Vith: The 7th Armored Division in the Battle of the Bulge, 17-23 December 1944. (I have used Major Boyer's original typescript which is written in greater detail.) The combat interviews (particularly those compiled by Robert Merriam) are very informative.