in large blank spaces on the G-2 maps in the American headquarters.
At the close of this first day of battle, therefore, the only certain view of the enemy was this: German forces were attacking all along the line from Monschau to Echternach; they had succeeded in making some dents in the forward American positions; at a number of points the defenders seemed to need reinforcement; and the amount of German artillery which had been used was suspiciously large for only a limited objective attack. During the night of 16 December the German assault waves overran or destroyed a large number of communications points and much radio or wire equipment in the forward areas, drastically slowing the flow of information to higher American headquarters.
To many American units 17 December opened as just another day. Company B of the 341st Engineer General Service Regiment, for example, went that morning to work on a railroad bridge under construction at Butgenbach. (Before noon the surprised engineers were shelled out.) As the morning progressed, however, the higher American headquarters began to comprehend that the enemy was making a full-scale attack and this with no limited objective in mind. By 0730 the V Corps commander had sufficient information to convince him that the enemy had broken through the lines of the 99th Division. At 0820 the VIII Corps artillery radio reported to Middleton that German troops were approaching St. Vith along the Schonberg road. Two hours later the American command nets were jammed with Allied air force reports of large enemy vehicular columns moving westward. Even more significant was the fact that the fighterbomber pilots were having to jettison their bomb loads in order to engage increasingly large flights of German planes.
Two other key pieces helped fill out the puzzle picture of enemy forces and intentions. Prisoners had been taken from a number of units known to belong to the Sixth Panzer Army, a formation long carried in Allied G-2 estimates as the German strategic reserve in the west. Second, some ninety Junker 52's had been counted in the early morning paratroop drop, an indication that the Germans had planned a serious airborne assault. By late morning of the 17th, therefore, it can be said that the American commanders had sufficient information to construct and accept a picture of a major German offensive. It would take another thirty-six hours to produce a really accurate estimate of the number of German divisions massing on the Ardennes front.
The 12th Army Group commander, General Bradley, had gone to Paris to discuss the replacement problem with General Eisenhower, when, on the afternoon of the 16th, a message from his own headquarters in Luxembourg City gave word of the German attack. Eisenhower suggested that Bradley should move the 7th Armored Division down from the north and bring the 10th Armored Division up from the Third Army. The 12th Army Group had no strategic reserve, but plans already existed to move troops in from Patton's Third Army and Simpson's Ninth in the unlikely event that the undermanned VIII Corps front was threatened. Bradley telephoned Patton and told him to send the 10th Armored Division north to help Middleton. Patton, as Bradley