Page 338


reinforced by a tank platoon from the 743d Tank Battalion. Also the riflemen had the comforting knowledge that they could call for and receive artillery support: the 118th Field Artillery Battalion had moved through bullet fire and set up northeast of the town.


The fight for Stavelot continued all through the night of the 18th with German tanks, now free from the air threat, working through the streets as far as the town square. At daybreak the 1st Battalion and its tanks went to work and by noon had reclaimed all of the town down to the Ambleve River. Twice during the afternoon tank-led formations drove toward the town, but both times the American gunners dispersed the field gray infantry and the tanks decided not to chance the assault alone. It is not surprising that the German infantry gave over the field. The 118th cannoneers fired 3,000 shells into the assault waves, working their guns so fast that the tubes had to be cooled with water.


By the night of 19 December the 1st Battalion had a firm grip on Stavelot-but, in the most telling stroke of all, its attached engineers had dynamited the Ambleve bridge across which Peiper's force had rolled west on the morning of 18 December. The armored weight of the 1st SS Panzer Division could make itself felt only if it continued punching westward. Without fuel the punch and drive were gone.