the road southwest toward Vielsalm, and the tanks rejoined Wemple.
Made cautious by the collision at Recht, the German column moved slowly, putting out feelers to the southeast before the main force resumed the march southwest along the Vielsalm road. Wemple and his tankers were able to repel these probing attempts without difficulty. CCR headquarters had meanwhile become ensnarled with the remnants of the 14th Cavalry Group and the residue of the corps artillery columns at the little village of Poteau, where the roads from Recht and St. Vith join en route to Vielsalm. This crossroads hamlet had been the worst bottleneck in the traffic jam on 17 December; indeed the situation seems to have been completely out of hand when the CCR headquarters arrived in the early morning hours and succeeded in restoring some order.
On the afternoon of 17 December the 14th Cavalry Group commander had ordered the remnants of his two squadrons to fall back to Recht. Through some confusion in orders both squadrons got onto the St. Vith-Poteau highway, although three reconnaissance teams did reach Recht and took part in the action there. About midnight orders from the 106th Division arrived at the group headquarters which had been set up in Poteau: the cavalry were to return to Born, which they had just evacuated, and occupy the high ground. By this time most of the 32d Squadron had threaded their way south through Poteau, apparently unaware that the group had established a command post there. Shortly after dark Colonel Devine departed with most of his staff for the 106th Division command post, but this command group was ambushed near Recht (Colonel Devine and two of his officers escaped on foot).
Early on the 18th, Lt. Col. Augustine Duggan, senior of the remaining staff, intercepted elements of the 18th Squadron, part of Troop C, 32d Squadron, and the one remaining platoon of towed 3-inch guns from the 820th Tank Destroyer. These were placed under the command of Maj. J. L. Mayes as a task force to comply with the orders from division. With great difficulty the task force vehicles were sorted out, lined the road, and then turned about and faced toward Recht. Mayes's group moved out from the crossroads at first light on 18 December but had gone only some two hundred yards when flame shot up from the leading light tank and an armored car, the two struck almost simultaneously by German bazooka fire. The glare thrown over the snow silhouetted the figures of enemy infantrymen advancing toward the Poteau crossroads. The task force pulled back into the village and hastily prepared a defense around the dozen or so houses there, while to the north a small cavalry patrol dug in on a hill overlooking the hamlet and made a fight of it. By this time the last of the milling traffic was leaving Poteau; eight 8-inch howitzers of the 740th Field Artillery Battalion were abandoned here as the German fire increased, ostensibly because they could not be hauled out of the mud onto the road.
All through the morning the enemy pressed in on Poteau, moving his machine guns, mortars, and assault guns closer and closer. At noon the situation was critical, the village was raked by fire, and the task force was no longer