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CHAPTER XIII


VIII Corps Attempts To Delay the Enemy


CCR, 9th Armored Division, and the Road to Bastogne


CCR, 9th Armored Division, the armored reserve of the VIII Corps, had been stationed at Trois Vierges on 13 December in position to support the corps left and center. It consisted of the 52d Armored Infantry Battalion, 2d Tank Battalion, 73d Armored Field Artillery Battalion, and the conventional task force attachments. By the afternoon of 17 December German armored gains at the expense of the 28th Division, forming the center of the corps front, caused General Middleton to start gathering what antimechanized means he could find for commitment; this included the platoon of self-propelled tank destroyers from CCR which, as described earlier, he dispatched toward Clerf.


When the second day of the battle came to a close, it had become apparent that the German columns advancing in the central sector were aiming at the road system leading to Bastogne. Delayed reports from the 28th Division indicated that an enemy breakthrough was imminent. The 9th Armored Division commander already had sent CCR south to Oberwampach, behind the 28th Division center, when General Middleton ordered the combat command to set up two strong roadblocks on the main paved road to Bastogne "without delay."


This order came at 2140, ten minutes after word that the enemy had crossed the Clerf reached the VIII Corps command post.


The two roadblock positions selected by the corps commander lay on Highway N 12, which extended diagonally from St. Vith and the German border southwestward to Bastogne. Both positions were on the line which General Middleton would order held "at all costs." Earlier, Middleton had directed the commander of the 106th Division to watch the northern entrance to this road, but the immediate threat on the night of the 17th was that the mobile spearheads of the German attack would gain access to this road much closer to Bastogne. One of the blocking positions was the intersection near the village of Lullange where the hard-surfaced road from Clerf entered that leading to Bastogne. Clerf and its bridges were only five miles away from this junction and, on the evening of 17 December, already under German fire. The second position, three miles to the southwest on Highway N 12 near the village of Allerborn, backed up the Lullange block. More important, the Allerborn road junction was the point at which a continuation of Highway N 12 turned off to the southeast and down into the Wiltz valley where advance patrols of the main German forces, albeit still on the far bank