30th Infantry Division against Kampfgruppe Peiper. When General Rose moved his forward command post to Hotton on 20 December, the residue of the 3d Armored was assembling between Hotton and Soy, a force numbering only the small reserve combat command and the 83d Reconnaissance Battalion. Nothing was known of any friendly troops to the front, nor did information on the location and strength of the enemy have more than the validity of rumor. Since it was necessary to reconnoiter and clear the area west of the important section of the north-south highway, now his objective, General Rose decided to divide his limited strength into three columns, two attacking via generally north-south routes and then swinging eastward; the third, on the extreme left, driving east to the Manhay crossroads and then turning south on the main highway.
This was a risky decision, as the 3d Armored commander well knew, for the zone of attack was very broad and if one of the small columns ran into a superior enemy force the best it could do would be to fight a delaying action on its own. Terrain and weather, however, would aid the reconnaissance somewhat, for although the area was laced by back roads and trails German maneuver would be drastically curtailed and a German advance limited to the few open and passable roads. General Rose tried to retain as much flexibility as he could, in view of the vague status of the enemy and the width of the front to be covered. The three task forces, or more properly reconnaissance teams, assigned to Lt. Col. Prentice E. Yeomans each had a reconnaissance troop, a medium tank company, a battery of armored field artillery, and a platoon of light tanks. The reserve, commanded by Col. Robert L. Howze, Jr., was made up of an armored infantry battalion, two companies of light tanks and one of mediums, plus a company of engineers. This reserve would follow the middle task force.
The attack or reconnaissance, time would tell which, began in early afternoon. On the right Task Force Hogan (Lt. Col. Samuel M. Hogan) set out along a secondary road surmounting the ridge which rose on the east bank of the Ourthe River and extended south to La Roche, the boundary for the XVIII Airborne Corps right wing. The Ourthe River, then, would form a natural screen on this flank. Hogan's column met no opposition en route to La Roche and upon arrival there found that the town was defended by roadblocks that had been thrown up by the 7th Armored Division trains. At this point the route dropped into the river valley, following the twists and turns of the Ourthe toward the southeast. Hogan sent on a small scouting force which covered some three miles before it was confronted by a German roadblock. There was no way around, daylight was running out, and the force halted.
The road assigned Task Force Tucker (Maj. John Tucker), the center column, followed the Aisne River valley southward. At the village of Dochamps this route began an ascent from the valley onto the ridge or tableland where lay the town of Samree. At Samree Task Force Tucker was to make a left wheel onto the La Roche-Salmchateau road (N28), which followed a high, narrow ridge line to the east, there crossing the main Liege-Bastogne highway. This intersection, the Baraque de Fraiture,