German infantry in their sights, but the artillery supporting the 30th Division and 505th by interdiction fire had taken heavy toll in the enemy assembly areas and on the roads, as later attested by the Germans themselves.
Priess, the I SS Panzer Corps commander, had reasoned with the Sixth Panzer Army staff that Peiper should be given a chance to break out to the east while his force still was reasonably intact. The higher German commands, all the way up to OKW, remained convinced on 22 December that despite the growing strength of the Americans on the north flank the build-up there would not reach dangerous proportions before their own armored columns had reached and crossed the Meuse. Peiper, therefore, had to hold until such time as reinforcement and resupply could once again set his kampfgruppe on the way west.
During the night of 22 December twenty Luftwaffe planes carrying gasoline and ammunition flew to the trapped force. Probably the pilots had been briefed on the assumption that Peiper still held Stoumont, for many of the gasoline containers parachuted into American hands there. Peiper certainly was helped little by this minor and mistaken effort. On this occasion, as it turned out, the American air-warning net worked a bit too well. Both the 30th Division and the 82d Airborne were placed on alert against an airborne attack (although General Hobbs avowed that such an attack made little sense in this heavily forested and broken country). The numerous antiaircraft artillery batteries backing up the divisions stood to their guns all night long, and the infantry were given little sleep as rumors ran wild of parachutists sighted hither and yon.
Interrogation of prisoners and artillery observer reports had indicated that the Germans were moving troops into the sector south of Malmedy reviving the earlier American concern that a hard blow might be dealt there at the 30th Division. As a result General Hobbs was able to hold onto all the reinforcements which had accumulated to the 30th, as well as CCB, 3d Armored Division. The Malmedy threat seems to have been raised by a few troops of the 3d Parachute Division, who had moved west of Waimes, and by rumors rife in the German camp that the 12th SS Panzer Division (held up by the Sixth Army attempt to seize the Elsenborn ridge) was moving in to support the 1st SS Panzer Division. Actually the 23d passed quietly in the Malmedy-Stavelot sector. Opposite the 505th Parachute Infantry the enemy contented himself with sporadic firing across the river. Mohnke, it would appear, lacked the strength needed for resumption of the attack to free Peiper. At least his corps commander, Priess, asked the II SS Panzer Corps to deflect the 9th SS Panzer Division, coming forward on the left, and throw it in at Stavelot. This request was denied.
Major action on 23 December did flare up at La Gleize and along the north bank of the Ambleve, where a part of the 1st SS Panzer Division relief force still maintained a foothold. In the latter sector six American rifle companies were assembled to clear out the woods and restore the cut made by the enemy on the road between Trois Ponts and Stavelot. Regrouping in the heavy woods took nearly all day and was marked by some