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earlier had been thrown out of Stoumont) would attack from the north as soon as the sanatorium, which overlooked the northern entrance to the town as well as the western, was wrested from enemy hands. The sanatorium, then, and the rise on which it stood held the final control of Stoumont.


Peiper did not wait for the counter-attack which might lose him the sanatorium. Sometime before 0500 the lull which had succeeded the night of fierce fighting was broken by a German assault against the 1st Battalion positions on the roadway west of the town. The road itself was blocked by a tank platoon from the 740th Tank Battalion, the infantry dug in behind. The first tank facing the enemy fell to an antitank gun; in the darkness three more were set aflame by Panzerfausts in the hands of the infiltrating enemy infantry. The Germans were finally thrown back but they had succeeded in disorganizing the 1st Battalion to the point where General Harrison felt that his own attack would have to be postponed. The division commander agreed to Harrison's proposal that the attack be launched at 1245 instead of 0730 as planned. In the meantime the regimental cannon company and the 197th Field Artillery Battalion set to work softening up the Germans.


At the new hour the 1st and 2d Battalions jumped off. The 1st Battalion assault drove the enemy infantry out of some of the sanatorium rooms, but when a heavy German tank moved in on the north side (where it was screened from the Americans) and started blasting through the windows the Americans withdrew under smoke cover laid down by friendly mortars. Although the 2d Battalion made some progress in its advance through the woods the battalion commander, Major McCown, was captured while making a personal reconnaissance, and his troops fell back to their original position. The American tanks, unable to advance along the narrow sunken road under the guns of the Panthers and Tigers, remained north of the town.


A call from the division commander in late afternoon for "the real picture down there" elicited a frankly pessimistic answer from General Harrison. Two battalions, the 1st and 3d, had been cut down and demoralized by earlier enemy counterattacks; they were "in pretty bad shape." As to the armored detachment: "The trouble is the only places where tanks of any kind can operate are on two sunken roads. The Germans have big tanks, so tanks have been of no help to us." Further, Harrison told Hobbs, he would advise against continuing the attack on the morrow: "That place [Stoumont] is very strong. I don't think those troops we have now, without some improvement, can take the thing. That is my honest opinion. They are way down in strength. The trouble is that we can only get light artillery fire on the town, and the Germans can shoot at us with tank guns and we can't get tanks to shoot back unless they come out and get hit." [15] To this forthright opinion there was little to add. General Hobbs cautioned Harrison to be on the lookout for a German attempt to break out during the night and head west, and told him that an attempt would be made to work out a scheme with General Ridgway for an attack by the 82d Airborne


[15] 30th Div telephone journal, 21 Dec 44.