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the rifle regiment at dark, swing around Bastogne, and seize and hold the village of Senonchamps immediately west of Bastogne. From this point the battalion would lead an attack into the city. The 26th's commander had high hopes for this admittedly risky foray. The reconnaissance battalion was in good condition and its commander, Major Kunkel, had a reputation for daring. Kokott expected the battalion to reach Senonchamps during the morning of the 21st.


Through the dark hours General Kokott waited for some word from Kunkel's kampfgruppe. At daybreak the first report arrived: the reconnaissance battalion was in a hard fight at Sibret, two miles south of its objective. Next came an irate message from the corps commander: the 5th Parachute Division had captured Sibret and what was the 26th Reconnaissance Battalion doing hanging around that village? Kokott, his pride hurt, sent the division G-3 jolting uncomfortably on a half-track motorcycle to find out what had gone wrong.


From very sketchy German and American sources the following broad outline of the fight for Sibret emerges. When Kunkel crossed the Bastogne-Neufchateau road, he came upon a stray rifle company of the 5th Parachute Division which was engaged south of Sibret in a fire fight. About 0300 this German company had reached the road junction at which the remnants of the 630th Tank Destroyer Battalion formed their roadblock. The American gunners, fighting on foot with rifles, apparently delayed the Germans for a couple of hours. Then the rifle company and troopers from Kunkel's command advanced through the dark to the south edge of Sibret, while German mortar fire started falling in the village. The first rush carried a group of the enemy into the solidly built gendarmerie at the southern entrance. Probably it was this initial success which was credited to the 5th Parachute Division.


General Cota went through the streets rounding up all the troops he could find for a counterattack against the gendarmerie, but the building could not be taken by unsupported riflemen. It was well after daybreak now, but very foggy; the armored vehicles of the German battalion were closing on the village and it was necessary to reoccupy the gendarmerie as a barrier. The three howitzers in the village defense had been overrun by tanks, but a battery of the 771st Field Artillery Battalion remained emplaced some two thousand yards northwest of the village. After much maneuvering to attain a firing site where there was no minimum elevation, the battery opened on the Germans barricaded in the gendarmerie. At almost the same time the enemy started a very heavy shelling. It was about 0900 and Kampfgruppe Kunkel was well behind schedule. The garbled radio messages reaching the XLVII Panzer Corps retracted the early report that Sibret had been taken and told of heavy fighting in the "strongly garrisoned" village. But the Germans could not be shelled out of the gendarmerie, tanks moved in on the American battery, and General Cota ordered his small force to retire south to Vaux-lez-Rosieres; there he set up his division command post.


Meanwhile the staff of the 771st Field Artillery managed to get two guns into position to meet the enemy advance north of Sibret, but both guns and their tractors were put out of action by direct