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Division against the southern side of the Stoumont-La Gleize pocket.


Earlier in the day Hobbs had assured the corps commander that if the 82d Airborne cleared out the south bank of the Ambleve no further help would be needed. His request that evening for an attack by the 82d from the Trois Ponts sector came at a time when the situation along the entire corps front had drastically altered and in part deteriorated. [16] To the south the XVIII Airborne Corps was heavily engaged, the 7th Armored Division was being pushed out of the St. Vith salient, and even in the Trois Ponts area there had been a sudden enemy resurgence. Furthermore a frontal attack from the south would be almost suicidal so long as the Germans held the higher ground on the north bank of the Ambleve.


Hobbs's diagnosis of the problem as "the physical proposition of human beings" may have been a truism but it was sound. On the one side a tough force of cornered Germans weighted the scales, fighting in desperate fashion and given physical and moral backing by heavily armored tanks mounting a superior gun and able to employ hull defilade, blocking a few well-defined and straightened avenues of approach. On the other side the counterweight consisted of a relatively few tanks whose crews knew that their tanks were not heavy enough for a headlong attack and their guns could not match the German tank guns in long-range dueling, and who were working with infantry whose strength was no longer sufficient to pry the Panthers and Tigers out of their lairs. Nonetheless the "human being" could not be exactly equated at a discount rate against machines. Pfc. Jack Gebert demonstrated the point when he advanced through machine gun fire, destroyed a German tank with a bazooka round, climbed onto a U.S. tank, and directed its fire until shot down. He was awarded the DSC posthumously.


The answer seemed to be air attack. The missions set up to aid the 30th Division had been canceled on the morning of 20 December because of bad weather. The First Army air officers, however, had told Ridgway and Hobbs that there was a fair chance of flying weather on the morning of the 22d. Hobbs assured the corps commander that he "could use up to sixteen groups in one day," that his own air support officer would have the targets ready. Here the matter rested in the lap of the weather gods.


Although there was little direct help that the 82d Airborne Division could give the 30th Division while the Germans still held Stoumont, it had aided the attack north of the Ambleve on December by soldering the southern link in the bank around Kampfgruppe Peiper and by beating off the relief detachments of the 1st SS Panzer Division who were trying to lever an opening in this ring. The two companies of the 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry, that fought their way into Cheneux on the


[16] The recital of the subsequent operations by the 82d Airborne Division comes from a variety of sources, mostly at regimental level, although some combat interviews cover battalions and companies: 325th Glider Inf AAR and Jnl; 517th Para Inf AAR; 504th AAR and S-3 Jnl, 505th S-2 and S-3 Per Rpts, 508th "The Belgian Campaign, Part I, 17-31 December"; 82d Abn Div, Commander's Rpt, G-2 and G-3 Jnls. Published sources are mostly of the pictorial public relations type but some are of use, notably: W. G. Lord, Combat Record of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (Paris, 1948); History of the 508th Parachute Infantry (Washington, 1945); and Saga of the All American (Atlanta, 1946).