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close to the bridge got a direct hit, thus blocking the span. Peculiarly enough the enemy made no further attempt to win a way across. In the afternoon, when the troops of the 158th and the 9th Canadian Forestry Company undertook a counterattack across the river they found no trace of the enemy. So confused was the location of friend and foe that for a few hours two-way traffic between Marche and Bastogne was resumed.


The capture of Noville during the afternoon freed the 2d Panzer Division to continue the advance toward the Meuse. On the other hand, Luettwitz' corps was having trouble bringing gasoline forward on the crowded, winding supply roads in its sector; furthermore, the 2d Panzer Division would take some time to reassemble for the move on Marche. [4]


It remained for the division reconnaissance battalion, reinforced by artillery and engineers, to make the next foray against the Ortheuville crossing site. The reconnaissance troops got there about 2200. For two hours German howitzers, mortars, and machine guns pummeled the American defenses on the far bank, setting buildings aflame and tying the engineers and tank destroyers to their positions. At midnight the enemy infantry forded the river, attacking from out of the darkness against defenders whose movements were etched by the light of flares and burning houses. While those who had waded the river circled to the engineer flanks, more Germans crossed into the village, this time by way of the bridge. Earlier the Americans had rewired demolition charges and installed the detonator in a foxhole close to the span, but for some reason there again was no explosion.


The bridge defenders were in contact with the 1128th Engineer Group headquarters through the Belgian telephone system (which continued in operation although its wire ran through the German lines). A request for infantry support could not be filled and the commanding officer of the 1128th ordered the defenders to fall back southwest to St. Hubert. Most of the 158th Engineer Combat Battalion reached St. Hubert. As a parting gesture the tank destroyers, which had seen no tank targets, laid indirect fire on the bridge. A muffled explosion led the engineers to report that the span was at least severely damaged.


If so, the German engineers were quick to make repairs, for the advance guard of the 2d Panzer Division began to roll almost immediately on this and other temporary bridges thrown across east of Ortheuville. When daylight came the 2d Panzer Division was bunched up in assembly area with its head across the river near Tenneville and its rear guard, arrayed to meet a counterattack from Bastogne, near Salle. Inexplicably, so far as the American patrols were concerned, the 2d Panzer Division did not bestir itself during the 21st to employ its victory at Ortheuville for a move on Marche, in which the advance regimental combat team of the 84th Infantry Division was assembling. The answer here was logistical, not tactical: Lauchert's armor would have to waste the entire day waiting for gasoline.


[4] The difficulties which beset the 2d Panzer are well described in MSS # A-939 (Luettwitz) and B-456, 2d Panzer Division, 21-26 December 1944 (Oberstleutnant Ruediger Weiz) and also in the Third U.S. Army interrogation of Lauchert.