Company C, dispatched as reinforcement, had reached the village of Targnon when it began to pass men of the 3d Battalion moving to the rear. The company dismounted from its trucks and marched as far as the entrance to Stoumont. Failing to find the 3d Battalion commander the riflemen joined the tanks, which by this time had no infantry cover and were running low on ammunition. The newly wedded tank-infantry team yielded ground only in a slow and orderly withdrawal. The impetus of the German advance was considerably reduced when a 90-mm. antiaircraft gun, sited at a bend in the road west of Stoumont, knocked out a couple of German tanks and momentarily blocked the highway.
The situation was precarious-and not only for the force left to Sutherland. The only armor between the 119th Infantry command post and Liege was a detachment of ten Sherman tanks which had been whipped out of the First Army repair shops, manned with ordnance mechanics, and dispatched through Aywaille to block the Ambleve River road. In front of the 119th command post the ten tanks of the 743d had but few rounds left in their ammunition racks.
At 1035 the 30th Division commander, who was in Sutherland's command post, called the First Army headquarters to ask for the 740th Tank Battalion. The S-2 of the 119th Infantry had discovered that this outfit, a new arrival on the Continent, was waiting to draw its tanks and other equipment at an ordnance depot near Sprimont, about ten miles north of the 119th command post. The First Army staff agreed to Hobbs's request, but the unit it handed over was far from being ready for combat. The depot had few fully equipped Shermans on hand and the first tank company drew fourteen Shermans fitted with British radios (unfamiliar to the American crews), five duplex drive tanks, and a 90mm. self-propelled gun. While Hobbs was on the phone trying to convince the army staff that he must have the tanks, his chief of staff, Colonel Stephens, was being bombarded by army demands that some part of the 119th should be pulled out and shifted north to cover the road to Spa and First Army headquarters. This was out of the question for the moment, for Sutherland had only a single battalion at his disposal.
All this while the little tank-infantry team held to its slow-paced withdrawal along the river road, lashing back at the Panthers in pursuit. Retreating through Targnon and Stoumont Station the force reached a very narrow curve where the road passed between a steep hill and the river bank. Here Lt. Col. Robert Herlong, who now had all of his 1st Battalion engaged, ordered the tanks and infantry to make their stand. It was about 1240. Fog was beginning to creep over the valley. A forward observer from the 197th Field Artillery Battalion, whose pieces now were in position, saw three German tanks leave Targnon and head down the road. A call sent a salvo crashing down on the western side of the village just as a large tank column started to follow the German point. Followed by more shells these tanks turned hurriedly back into Targnon. One of the point tanks did reach the American position, poked its nose around the bend in the road, got a round of high explosive uncomfortably close, and took off.
It is true that Herlong's tanks and infantry held a naturally formidable road-