Page 277


hasty conference the counterattack was postponed until the following morning.


It was just turning dark when the assistant G-2 of the 7th Armored led a company of tanks and another of armored infantry into St. Vith. This detachment had literally forced its way, at pistol point and by threatening to run down the vehicles barring the road, from Vielsalm to St. Vith. About this time the Germans made another attempt, covered by artillery fire, to thrust a few tanks along the east road. Three American tank destroyers which had been dug in at a bend in the road were abandoned-their crews shelled out by accurate enemy concentrationsbut the attack made no further headway and perhaps was intended only as a patrol action. The 106th Division now could report, "We have superior force in front of St. Vith."


Why did the LXVI Corps fail to make a determined push toward St. Vith on 17 December? German assault guns or tanks had been spotted west of Schonberg as early as 0850. By noon German infantry were in Setz, with at least five hours of daylight remaining and less than five miles to go, much of that distance being uncontested. By mid-afternoon the enemy had reached the 168th Engineer positions less than two miles from St. Vith. Yet at no time during the day did the Germans use more than three assault guns and one or two platoons of infantry in the piecemeal attacks west of Schonberg. The successive concentrations laid by the American artillery on Schonberg and both sides of the road west-from 9 o'clock on-must have affected enemy movement considerably. The bombs dropped on Schonberg and its narrow streets late in the day may have delayed the arrival of reinforcements, and air attack certainly helped to scatter the most advanced German troops. The stand made by Troop B, 32d Cavalry Squadron, near Heuem and the later fight by the engineers gave the German point an excuse to report-as it did-the presence of "stubborn resistance" east of St. Vith.


It seems likely, however, that only small German detachments actually reached the Schonberg-St. Vith road during the daylight hours of 17 December. The German corps commander, General Lucht, had ordered the Mobile Battalion of the 18th Volks Grenadier Division up from reserve during the previous night with orders to advance via Andler. (It will be remembered that the 18th Volks Grenadier Division was charged with the encirclement and capture of St. Vith.) The Mobile Battalion (comprising three platoons of assault guns, a company of engineers, and another of fusiliers) did not arrive at Schonberg until after noon. During the morning the division commander had led a battalion of the 294th Regiment to Schonberg, but seems to have halted there (perhaps to secure the Schonberg bridge against recapture), sending only small detachments against Troop B at Heuem. With the arrival of the assault guns some attempt was made to probe the American defenses east of St. Vith. This, however, was not the main mission assigned the advance guard of the 18th Volks Grenadier Division, for the original plan of advance had called on the Mobile Battalion to seize the high ground at Wallerode, northeast of St. Vith, which overlooked the valley road from Schonberg. The bulk of the German advance guard, as