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Although the 18th Volks Grenadier Division was able, on this third day of the counteroffensive, to push some of its troops close in toward St. Vith, the 62d Volks Grenadier Division on the left had moved more slowly. Despite the American withdrawal from the WinterspeltHeckhuscheid area and the promptings of the impatient commander of the LXVI Corps, the 62d only tardily brought itself into conformity with the forward kampfgruppen of the 18th Volks Grenadier Division. The 164th Regiment, reinforced by engineers and assault guns, apparently took some time to re-form after its fight with the 9th Armored Division counterattack force on 17 December. Although German patrols continued up the road to Steinebruck, attempting in vain to seize the bridge during the night, the attack was not pressed until after daylight on the following morning. Two of the three Our bridges chosen for capture in the LXVI Corps' plan now were in German hands, but the bridge at Steinebruck still had to be taken.


The bend in the Our River near Steinebruck necessitated a switch in the new American positions on the far bank; thus while the main frontage held by the 424th and CCB, 9th Armored, faced east, the line at Steinebruck faced south, then swung back until it again faced east. In this sector Troop D, 89th Cavalry Reconnaissance Battalion, plus a light tank platoon and an assault gun platoon, was deployed along the 3,000yard stretch between Steinebruck and Weppler, its left flank in the air at the latter village, its right more or less secured by a provisional company from the 424th Infantry west of Steinebruck.


On the morning of 18 December General Hoge, CCB commander, was ordered to hurry to the 106th headquarters where he was told of the threat developing north of St. Vith. When he sent back orders for the emergency task force from CCB to hasten north, the cavalry troop was included. Covered by one reconnaissance platoon and the cavalry assault guns, sited near the bridge, the remaining platoons of Troop D had left their positions and started filing toward the Steinebruck-St. Vith road when suddenly the movement order was canceled. The cavalry had been under fire since daybreak, and when the 2d Platoon attempted to return to its position on a commanding hill between Steinebruck and Weppler it was forced to move dismounted in a rain of bullets and shells. At the Steinebruck bridge the enemy increased in number as the morning progressed, slipping into positions on the south bank under cover given by exploding smoke shells. To counter this threat the light tank platoon moved into Steinebruck, leaving the American left uncovered. About the same time the provisional rifle company west of Steinebruck took off and one of the cavalry platoons had to be switched hastily to cover this gap.


Thus far the all-important bridge had been left intact, for there was still some hope that the 423d Infantry, at the least, might free itself from the Schnee Eifel trap. By noon the situation was such that the little group of troopers dared delay no longer. On General Hoge's order a platoon of armored engineers went down and blew the bridge-almost in the teeth of the grenadiers on the opposite bank.


An hour later the platoon west of the village saw an enemy column of horse-drawn artillery driving into position.