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Battalion could reorganize on the west bank, at least two German platoons had crossed the river. They were immediately knocked back, however.


To the south of Trois Ponts the 3d Battalion of the 505th had been deployed on a wide front which was ex- tended still more as its neighboring battalion concentrated at Trois Ponts. Near the three or four houses of the hamlet of La Neuville a bridge still spanned the Salm, covered by a platoon roadblock on the east bank. At dark a German column of tanks (or assault guns) and infantry approached the bridge. The platoon called for artillery, engaged in a short exchange of fire, withdrew, and blew the bridge. Four large enemy fighting vehicles remained at the bridge site when the rest of the thwarted column turned away. They were too close for shellfire; so a four-man patrol armed with Gammon grenades crossed in the dark to deal with them, but as the patrol reached the east bank the tanks turned and lumbered off. During the evening enemy foot soldiers also tried to sneak across the wreckage of the railroad bridge south of Trois Ponts, an attack quickly ended when shellfire caught them right at the river.


Although most of the night of 21 December passed quietly it was a time of strain because the 505th line at Trois Ponts was thin, the enemy was known to be strong, and the river was fordable. The 82d Airborne Division as a whole was too widely dispersed to permit immediate and large-scale help in the Trois Ponts sector. General Gavin, who had been in and out of the regimental command post all day long, could give Colonel Ekman only one rifle company and a battery of groundmount .50caliber machine guns for help on the morrow.


When 22 December dawned the XVIII Airborne Corps still was engaged in maneuvering to create a solid barrier along its 4s-mile front against the Germans heading for the Meuse. Things were not going too well. The St. Vith salient had been dealt heavy blows and the lines there were crumbling. The enemy had pushed as far along the Ourthe River valley as Hotton and was gathering to the west of that river. General Hobbs, whose 30th Division was holding the corps north flank, felt that his sector now was secure although he knew that enemy reinforcements had crossed the Ambleve. But he was concerned lest the Germans bring off a successful eccentric attack north of Trois Ponts which would separate the 30th Division from the 82d Airborne. This he told General Ridgway in a telephone conversation on the morning of the 22d, but Ridgway gave him Gavin's assurance that the paratroopers would hold, that nothing would get through to the west. To the corps commander the priority project in this sector remained that of eliminating the La Gleize-Stoumont pocket as rapidly and as thoroughly as possible, freeing the 30th Division and its attached armor for urgent work elsewhere.


After a quiet night in most of the 30th Division lines the day came with intense cold, falling snow, and heavy overcast. Veteran troops by this time had learned that beautifully clear weather at the foxhole line often meant bad flying weather back at the air bases; but they knew too that close tactical support necessitated a decent modicum of clear weather. At 0806 the 30th Division air officer learned that his targets