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The division, assembled about fifteen miles north of Aachen, had taken no part as a unit in the November drive toward the Roer, although companies and battalions on occasion had been attached to attacking infantry divisions. The period of rest and refitting, after heavy fighting at Metz and in Holland, had put the 7th Armored in good condition. When General Bradley and the 12th Army Group staff met in the afternoon of the 16th to make a tentative selection of divisions which could be taken from other fronts to reinforce the Ardennes sector, the choice in the north fell on Hasbrouck's command. Actually there were armored divisions in the First Army closer to the scene, but they had been alerted for use in the first phases of the attacks planned to seize the Roer River dams (a design not abandoned until 17 December) and as yet little sense of urgency attached to reinforcements in the VIII Corps area.


General Hasbrouck received a telephone call at 1730 alerting, his division for movement to the south (it took five more hours for the 7th Armored G-2 to learn that "three or four German divisions were attacking"). Two hours later while the division assembled and made ready, an advance party left the division command post at Heerlen, Holland, for Bastogne where it was to receive instructions from the VIII Corps. Vielsalm, fourteen miles west of St. Vith by road, had already been designated as the new assembly area. At Bastogne General Middleton outlined the mission: one combat command would be prepared to assist the 106th Division, a second could be used if needed, but under no circumstances was the third to be committed. The decision was left to General Hasbrouck, who first was to consult with the 106th Division as to how and when his leading combat command would be employed. Even at this hour the scope of the German counteroffensive was but dimly seen and the 7th Armored Division advance party was informed that it would not be necessary to have the artillery accompany the combat command columns-in other words this would not be a tactical march from Heerlen to Vielsalm.


The movement plans prepared by the First Army staff assigned General Hasbrouck two routes of march: an east route, through Aachen, Eupen, Malmedy, and Recht, on which CCR would move; a west route, through Maastricht, Verviers, and Stavelot, which would be used by the main body of the division. The division artillery, which had been firing in support of the XIII Corps, was not to displace until the late morning of 17 December, when it would move on the eastern route. Shortly after midnight the Ninth Army was informed that the two columns would depart at 0330 and 0800; actually the western column moved out at 0430. The estimated time of arrival was 1400, 17 December, and of closure 0200, 18 December. A couple of hours earlier the First Army headquarters had told General Middleton that the west column would arrive at 0700 and close at 1900 on the 17th, and that the combat command on the east road would arrive at 1100 and close at 1700. It was on this estimate that General