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The American gunners in the groupment west of Lommersweiler immediately answered the cavalry call for aid, apparently with some effect; yet within the hour at least a part of the twenty-two enemy guns counted here were in action, firing in preparation for an assault across the river. It would seem that a German rifle company first crossed into Weppler, now unoccupied, then wheeled and encircled the 2d Platoon on the hill. Only five Americans escaped. [6] Two or more companies crossed near the blasted bridge and by 1530, despite the continual pounding administered by the 16th Armored Field Artillery Battalion and the rapid fire from the cavalry tank, assault, and machine guns, had nearly encircled Troop D. A cavalry request for medium tanks perforce was denied; the tank companies sent north to Hunningen had not yet returned and General Hoge had no reserve. A company of the 27th Armored Infantry Battalion, however, was put in to cover the cavalry left flank. With the enemy infantry inside Steinebruck and excellent direct laying by the German gunners picking off the American vehicles one by one, the cavalry withdrew along the St. Vith road.


The CCB position at the Our (where two companies of armored infantry, a company each of light and medium tanks, plus the reconnaissance company, were deployed on a front over 4,000 yards) was no longer tenable. There had been no contact whatever with the 424th Infantry to the south. General Hoge conferred with General Jones at St. Vith and the two decided that the combat command should withdraw from the river northwest to slightly higher ground. Commencing at dark, the move was made without trouble and CCB settled along an arc whose center was about two and a half miles southeast of St. Vith. In this position the combat command blocked the main Winterspelt-St. Vith highway and the valley of the Braunlauf Creek, a second natural corridor leading to St. Vith. The gap between Hoge's command and CCB, 7th Armored, which at dark had been 3,000 yards across, closed during the night when a light tank company and an anti-aircraft battery came in. Later, liaison was established with the 424th Infantry on the right, which had been out of contact with the enemy during the day and remained in its river line position. Although the 62d Volks Grenadier Division was quick to occupy the ground vacated by CCB, no attempt was made to follow into the new American position.


During the afternoon of 18 December while the combat commands of the 7th and 9th Armored Divisions were fighting holding actions along the eastern front of the St. Vith area, General Hasbrouck engaged in an attempt to restore the northern flank of the 7th Armored in the Poteau sector. The opportunity for a decisive American counterattack toward Schonberg was past, if indeed it had ever existed, and Hasbrouck's immediate concern was to establish his division north flank in a posture of defense in the St. Vith-Vielsalm area. The loss of the vital road junction at Poteau, earlier in the day, made the connection between the forces of the division at St. Vith, around Recht, and in the Viel-


[6] 2d Lt. R. L. Westbrook commanded this platoon. Although severely wounded he led the survivors to safety, then went back to his platoon's position to search for stragglers. He was given the DSC.