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been completed. Adams now was confronted with the necessity of pushing his defenses farther east to protect the new supply point. He dispatched part of a battery of the 203d Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion to the Baraque de Fraiture crossroads formed by the intersection of the SamreeSalmchateau road and the main Liege-Bastogne highway, the same junction which had seemed so important to the XVIII Airborne Corps commander in his map reconnaissance of this area. Upon arrival there the newcomers found that some gunners from the 106th Infantry Division, commanded by Maj. Arthur C. Parker, already had dug in to defend the vital crossroads.


The German appearance at the broken bridge which altered Colonel Adams' plans had even greater effect in General Krueger's headquarters. Krueger had no bridging available in the corps trains when the word reached him on the night of the 19th. The fact that he had to rely on the limited capacity of the 116th Panzer Division engineers meant that the western branch of the Ourthe could not be spanned before the evening of 20 December. Such a delay was out of the question. To sidestep to the south would bang the corps against very strong resistance forming around Bastogne and would scramble the vehicular columns of Krueger's armor with the 2d Panzer Division. By this time the 116th Panzer Division rear guard had occupied Houffalize without a fight. The main body of the division, having marched unopposed nearly to the road which runs from Bastogne northwest to Marche, was preparing to seize a second bridge over the west branch of the Ourthe at Ortheuville. Krueger had no faith that any stroke of fortune would deliver the Ourtheuville bridge untouched. This was the end of the fourth day of the German advance and the Americans, he reasoned, were long since on guard against a coup de main there.


Weighing the apparent American strength in the Bastogne sector against the total absence of resistance at Houffalize the LVIII Panzer Corps commander decided, late in the evening of the 19th, to shift his advance to the north bank of the Ourthe River and reroute the 116th Panzer Division toward Samree by way of Houffalize. The order to halt his division and countermarch to Houffalize was a distinctly unpleasant experience for General von Waldenburg. (He would later say that his decision was "fatal to the division.") The business of reversing a mechanized division in full swing under conditions of total darkness is ticklish at best; when it is conducted by tired officers and men unfamiliar with the road net and is hampered by supply and artillery trains backing up behind the turning columns it is a serious test for any unit. Nevertheless the 116th sorted itself out, issued supplies, refueled its vehicles, and by early morning was en route to Houffalize. Meanwhile the 1128th Regiment, leading the 560th Volks Grenadier Division, had been closing up fast on the 116th Panzer Division in a series of forced marches (that later won for the 560th a commendation for its "excellent march performance"). By noon of 20 December the bulk of the 116th Panzer Division followed by a large portion of the 560th Volks Grenadier Division had defiled through Houffalize and was on the north bank of the Ourthe River. [13]


[13] The German sources for other units than Kampfgruppe Peiper include: MSS ETHINT-21 (Kraemer), and ETHINT-34, OKW, Ardennes Offensive (Maj. Herbert Buecks); MSS A-873 (Waldenburg); A-924 (Kraemer); A-955 (Dingler); B-027 (Langhaeuser); B-321 (Krueger); B-506 (Trielel).