a result, toiled through the woods toward Wallerode, arriving there in the early evening.
An opportunity had been missed. Perhaps the German command did not realize the full extent of the gains won in the St. Vith area and was wedded too closely to its prior plans. In any case the German armored reserve was not available. Tanks of the Fuehrer Begleit Brigade, theoretically attached to the LXVI Corps but subject to commitment only on army orders, would not be released for use at St. Vith until too late for a successful coup de main.
On the movement of the main body of the 7th Armored Division on 17 December hung the fate of St. Vith. Behind the reconnaissance and advance elements the bulk of the division moved slowly southward along the east and west lines of march, forty-seven and sixty-seven miles long, respectively. The division staff knew little of the tactical situation and nothing of the extent to which the German armored columns had penetrated westward. It is probable that night-flying German planes spotted the American columns in the early hours of the 17th, but it is doubtful that the tank columns of the Sixth Panzer Army traveling west on roads cutting across the 7th Armored routes were aware of this American movement. Actually CCR of the 7th Armored, on the eastern route, came very close to colliding with the leading tank column of the 1st SS Panzer Division south of Malmedy but cleared the road before the Germans crossed on their way west. The western column made its march without coming in proximity to the west-moving German spearheads, its main problem being to negotiate roads jammed with west-bound traffic.
The division artillery, finally released in the north, took the east route, its three battalions and the 203d Antiaircraft Battalion moving as a single column. Early on the afternoon of the 17th the 440th Armored Field Artillery, leading the column, entered Malmedy, only to be greeted with the sign THIS ROAD UNDER ENEMY FIRE. The town square was a scene of utter confusion. Trucks loaded with soldiers and nurses from a nearby hospital, supply vehicles, and civilians of military age on bicycles eddied around the square in an attempt to get on the road leading out to the west; a battalion from a replacement depot threaded its way on foot between the vehicles, also en route to the west. All that the artillery could learn was that a German tank column was south of Malmedy. This, of course, was the panzer detachment of the 1st SS Panzer Division.
The 440th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, unable to reverse itself, turned west to Stavelot and subsequently joined the western group on its way to Vielsalm. Alerted by radio from the 440th, Maj. W. J. Scott (acting in the absence of the artillery commander who had gone ahead to report at the division headquarters) turned the column around in the square and to avoid the narrow and congested road led it back toward Eupen, cutting in to the western divisional route at Verviers. This roundabout move consumed the daylight hours and through the night the gun carriages streamed along the Verviers-Vielsalm road. The main artillery column again missed the 1st SS Panzer Division by only a hair's breadth. As Battery D, 203d Antiaircraft (AW)