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in communication with any other Americans. Colonel Duggan finally gave the order to retire down the road to Vielsalm. Three armored cars, two jeeps, and one light tank were able to disengage and carried the wounded out; apparently a major part of the force was able to make its way to Vielsalm on foot.


During the early morning Headquarters, CCR, set out from Poteau, heading down the valley road toward Vielsalm. At the small village of Petit Thier it was discovered that a lieutenant from the 23d Armored Infantry Battalion, separated from his column on the march south, had heard the firing at Poteau and had rounded up a collection of stray tanks, infantry, cavalry, and engineers to block the way to Vielsalm. [4] The CCR commander took over this roadblock and, as the force swelled through the day with incoming stragglers and lost detachments, extended the position west of the village. The German column at Poteau, however, made no attempt to drive on to Vielsalm. The main body of the 1st SS Panzer Division needed reinforcements. The panzer grenadier regiment and the assault guns therefore were ordered off their assigned route and turned northeast to follow the column through Stavelot.


The 7th Armored counterattack from St. Vith to relieve the two trapped regiments of the 106th Division had been postponed on the 17th, not canceled. During the early morning hours of 18 December preparation was completed for the attack on Schonberg by the 31st Tank Battalion and the 23d Armored Infantry Battalion, now brigaded under CCB. This was risky business at best. The divisional artillery would not be in position to support the attack. The similar effort by CCB, 9th Armored Division, had been called off and the American forces south of the 422d Infantry and 423d Infantry had withdrawn behind the Our. That the German strength was increasing was made apparent by the events during the night of 17-18 December, but the 7th Armored light observation planes were not available for scouting the enemy dispositions or movements east of St. Vith. General Clarke was well aware of the chancy nature of this enterprise and, at 0645, when reporting to Colonel Ryan, the division chief of staff, pointed out that General Hasbrouck still had the option of canceling the attack.


It would be the enemy, however, and not a command decision that forced the abandonment of the proposed effort. About 0800 the Germans launched a reconnaissance in force northeast of St. Vith, advancing from Wallerode toward Hunningen. Here, only two thousand yards from St. Vith, two troops of the 87th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron and a few antiaircraft half-tracks offered the sole barrier to a thrust into the city. Who made up the enemy force and its strength is uncertain-probably this was the Mobile Battalion of the 18th Volks Grenadier Division, making the preliminary move in the scheme to encircle St. Vith. In any event enough pressure was exerted during the morning to drive the small American screening force back toward St. Vith.


As the cavalry commenced its delaying action a hurried call went out to CCB, 9th Armored, for tanks and antitank guns. Moving through St. Vith,


[4] This outfit was called Task Force Navaho, so named because its leader had worked his way through college selling Indian blankets.