weapon, the engineers would remove the mine field, and the advance would continue.
Harrison decided that a flanking move through the woods to the north might work and in the afternoon elements of the American rifle companies reached the edge of La Gleize, only to come under machine gun and 20-mm. fire from streets and houses. General Harrison's main worry was the heavy German tanks gathered in the center of the town. Would they break out in a desperate counterattack against the lighter and more vulnerable Shermans? Would they slip through the net and bludgeon their way to the Ambleve? To deal with the tanks, Allied planes were promised for a strike at the town square. They came as promised but hit Malmedy instead of La Gleize, their bombs burying a number of civilians in one of the hotel buildings before the strike could be called off.
Peiper had yet to be driven out of La Gleize; the 1st SS Panzer Division bridgehead force north of the Ambleve (which had cut off a part of Task Force Lovelady) still had to be liquidated. But this fight in the bend of the Ambleve had become anticlimactic, dwarfed by far more important operations elsewhere on the northern shoulder of the Ardennes salient. Through the early evening of the 23d the telephone wires connecting the headquarters of the First Army, the XVIII Airborne Corps, and the 30th Division were busy: the First Army insisting that Hobbs must release CCB, 3d Armored, for immediate return to its hard-pressed division; the 30th Division commander protesting that the loss of the combat command would leave La Gleize open on two sides and make it impossible to mop up the bridgehead force; General Ridgway for his part essaying on the scene the role of the honest broker. The final decision was favorable to Hobbs: General Boudinot, the CCB commander, would start his trains moving but at least two-thirds of the command would be left for the final tough fight envisaged for the coming morning. The net had been drawn tight around Peiper, as tight as it could be drawn in this complex of woods and hills. But on the morning of the 24th most of the quarry had flown. Late the previous afternoon Mohnke had radioed Peiper permission to break out. Peiper knew that he could not take his vehicles or his wounded, that the escape would have to be made at night and on foot. Leaving a rear guard to demolish the tanks, trucks, and guns, Peiper and some eight hundred of his command started at 0100 in single file through the woods fringing La Gleize on the south, crossed the river, and as day broke took cover among the densely wooded hills north of Trois Ponts. On the night of the 24th Peiper's force crossed the Salm, briefly engaging troops of the 82d Airborne Division in a brisk exchange of fire, and on Christmas morning rejoined the 1st SS Panzer Division south of Stavelot.
The 30th Division commander, under pressure from corps and army to finish the job at La Gleize and release Boudinot's armor, had made no promises that La Gleize would fall on the 24th but had urged his unit commanders to get the attack rolling early and finish off the defenders. To tired troops who had expected a desperate last stand it must have been gratifying to find the town open for the taking. They liberated