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make its delayed drive east of St. Vith on the morning of the 18th. The strength of the German forces thrusting west was not yet fully appreciated. Information on the location of the enemy or the routes he was using was extremely vague and generally several hours out of date. Communication between the higher American headquarters and their subordinate units was sporadic and, for long periods, nonexistent. Late in the evening of the 17th and during the morning of the 18th, however, the scope and direction of the German drive thrusting past St. Vith in the north became more clearly discernible as the enemy struck in a series of attacks against Recht, Poteau, and Hunningen.


The Enemy Strikes at the St. Vith Perimeter


The 1st SS Panzer Division, forming the left of the I SS Panzer Corps advance in the zone north of St. Vith, had driven forward on two routes. The northern route, through Stavelot and the Ambleve River valley, carried the main strength of the division, led by its panzer regiment. It was the first group in this northern column which CCR had unwittingly eluded and from which the tail of the 7th Armored artillery column had glanced at Stavelot. The southern route, through Recht and Vielsalm, was assigned to a kampfgruppe of the 1st SS Panzer Division made up of a reinforced panzer grenadier regiment and a battalion of assault guns. This group had been delayed by poor roads and American mine fields west of Manderfeld, and by the end of 17 December it was some hours behind the north column.


The headquarters of CCR, 7th Armored, opened in Recht in midafternoon of the 17th. At that time the combat command retained only the 17th Tank Battalion (assembled to the southeast) because its armored infantry battalion had been diverted to St. Vith. About 2045 CCR got its first word of the Germans it had so narrowly missed when the driver for the division chief of staff, Col. Church M. Matthews, appeared at the command post with the report that during the afternoon he had run afoul of a large tank column near Pont and that the colonel was missing. [3] These Germans, of course, were part of the northern column. Lt. Col. Fred M. Warren, acting commanding officer, sent the driver on to division headquarters to tell his story, and at the same time he asked for a company of infantry. He then ordered the 17th Tank Battalion (Lt. Col. John P. Wemple) to send a tank company into Recht. Warren and Wemple studied the road net as shown on the map and agreed to try to hold Recht through the night. Stragglers came pouring through Recht in the meantime with rumors and reports of the enemy just behind them. The headquarters and tank company had little time to get set, for about 0200 the advance guard of the southern German column hit the village from the east and northeast. Unwilling to risk his tanks without infantry protection in a night fight through narrow streets, and uncertain of the enemy strength, Warren ordered a withdrawal after a sharp 45-minute engagement. CCR headquarters started down


[3] Colonel Matthews' body was discovered about a month later. Col. John L. Ryan, Jr., who had commanded CCR, became the 7th Armored chief of staff.