back its 82d Airborne Division from the V Corps and in addition received the 3d Armored Division (-). The XVIII Corps commander thus had an entire airborne division, more than half of an armored division, and a reinforced regimental combat team to employ in checking a further westward drive by the Germans assembled in the La Gleize-WerbomontStoumont area.
The subsequent operations of the XVIII Airborne Corps would be molded in considerable degree by events prior to its appearance in the battle area. Already set forth have been the engagements in the Stoumont sector with two battalions of the 119th Infantry committed. The 2d Battalion of the 119th Infantry had left the regiment on 18 December with the independent mission of blocking the Germans at Werbomont and Trois Ponts, thus covering the assembly of the 82d Airborne. Late in the afternoon the battalion reached Werbomont, found no sign of the enemy, and detrucked for the march to Trois Ponts. About dusk the column reached the Lienne Creek in the vicinity of Habiemont, a village on a bald summit overlooking the Lienne. Here Maj. Hal D. McCown, the battalion commander, learned that German tanks had been sighted at Chevron, another hamlet a mile or so north on the Lienne. McCown, whose battalion was reinforced by a platoon each of tanks, tank destroyers, and infantry cannon, turned north only to find that the bridge near Chevron had been destroyed by friendly engineers and that no hostile crossing had been made. He moved north again but this time encountered fire from across the creek. Uncertain as to the situation and with darkness upon him, McCown ordered the battalion to deploy on the bare ridge line rising west of the creek.
Some time later the Americans heard tracks clanking along the road between their position and the creek; this was the reconnaissance detachment which Peiper had sent north and which had found a bridge, albeit too weak a structure for the German tanks. A brief fusillade from the ridge and the Germans fled, leaving five battered half-tracks behind. One prisoner from the 2d SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment was taken. His company, he told interrogators, was the advance guard of a fourcompany detachment whose mission was to reconnoiter toward Werbomont and take that town. But no other attempt was made that night to run the 2d Battalion gauntlet. Screened by McCown's force, the 82d Airborne Division was free to detruck and assemble around Werbomont, as the night progressed, according to plan.
Recall that on the morning of 18 December the 82d Airborne Division started for Bastogne but was diverted short of its destination and ordered to Werbomont. General Gavin had gone from the First Army headquarters to Werbomont and made a personal reconnaissance of the ground as far as the Ambleve River. This, of course, was on the morning of the 18th so that he saw none of the enemy forces who at that moment were turning in the direction of Werbomont. The advance party of the 82d arrived in the village at dark and opened the division command post. Although there was now serious question whether the convoys of the 82d would reach Werbomont in force before the Germans, the bulk of the division moved without opposition into the area during the night of 18 December. The follow-