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River where a vague and ill-defined German movement had been reported. But beyond checking these specific enemy advances the XVIII Airborne Corps had the more difficult task of sealing the gap of nearly twenty miles which had opened between the V and VIII Corps.


During the morning of 19 December the 504th and 505th Parachute Infantry Regiments marched out of the Werbomont assembly area under orders to push to the fore as far as possible, relieve the 2d Battalion, 119th Infantry, and improve the American defense line by adding a bridgehead across the Lienne Creek. There were no Germans here and by noon the initial deployment was close to completion. Meanwhile rumors had reached the First Army command post that the enemy had cut the main north-south highway running between Bastogne and Liege in the neighborhood of Houffalize. More rumors, mostly from truck drivers whose missions on the rear area roads usually gave them first sight of the westernmost German spearheads, put the enemy somewhere near Hotton, ten miles northwest of the XVIII Airborne Corps boundary marker at La Roche. Hastily complying with First Army orders, the 3d Battalion of the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment and a tank destroyer platoon set off southwestward to block the approaches to Hotton. By nightfall the battalion was in place, stuck out alone on the corps' right wing and waiting for troops of the 3d Armored to appear. A couple of hours before midnight a patrol did meet the armored "point"-Maj. Gen. Maurice Rose, the 3d Armored commander, riding in a jeep far in front of his tank columns.


The main body of the 82d Airborne Division began to push toward the east and south in midafternoon. With the 508th Parachute Infantry in support, the 504th and 505th moved along the roads toward La Gleize and Trois Ponts respectively. This proved to be only a route march, for the Germans were nowhere about. [8] By midnight the 505th had a battalion each in the villages of Haute-Bodeux and Basse-Bodeux, effectively backstopping the small American force which still held Trois Ponts. The 504th, which had marched northeast, occupied the village of Rahier with two battalions. The 325th Glider Infantry, minus the battalion sent to Hotton, remained in and around Werbomont as corps and division reserve. One of its companies moved during the evening to the crossroads at Manhay, due south of Werbomont, a crossroads which General Ridgway styled "of vital significance." And a company of the 508th meanwhile established an outpost position on the Manhay-Trois Ponts road at Bras.


By the morning of 20 December, therefore, the 82d Airborne Division had pushed a defensive screen north, east, south, and west of Werbomont. It is true that to the south and west the screen consisted only of motorized patrols and widely separated pickets in small villages, but now there was a good chance that any major enemy thrust could be detected and channelized or retarded. Thus far, however, the XVIII Airborne Corps was making its deployment against an unseen enemy. Indeed, so confused was the situation into which Ridgway


[8] The German intelligence was unaware that the XVIII Airborne was in this area. Radio intercept, however, had warned that a combat command of the 3d Armored would move to the Werbomont sector very shortly. OB WEST: I.c. Tagesmeldung, Anlage I:2 (19 Dec 44).