Page 384


Kane's tanks reached the foot of the hill German antitank guns started to work. Maneuver on the soft earth flanking the road promised that the tanks would bog down; attack straight along the road was suicidal. After futile attempts at counterbattery against the enemy gunners the tanks withdrew to the north. Kane's column had been short of infantry, and Dochamps presented a problem to which the answer was infantry.


Just after dark there appeared in the American bivouac six trucks carrying two officers and eighty men belong- ing to the 1st Battalion, 517th Parachute Infantry. Lost from its convoy the detachment had been passed around from headquarters to headquarters, finally ending up with Kane. The paratroopers were handed the job of taking Dochamps, this time by an attack from the north guiding on a narrow-gauge railway which approached the village. Twice the detachment moved forward, only to meet machine gun fire from front and flank. The second try ended when the Germans counterattacked from a hill northwest of the village. More than a handful of infantry would be required if the 3d Armored Division was to regain control of the Dochamps-Samree heights.


The story of Task Force Hogan on the 22d is quickly told. Cut off at Marcouray, Hogan received radio orders to try once more to break out northeast through Beffe. Little aid could be spared by the Americans in the north, but a small task force from CCA was organized to drive toward Hogan. There proved to be simply too many Germans between Beffe and the Soy-Hotton road. In any case, Hogan, who had been rushed into action with his tanks half full, was running out of gasoline. In early afternoon his column retired to Marcouray and sent out requests for fuel, surgical supplies, and reinforcements. All this while the enemy knew Hogan's exact whereabouts but paid him scant attention. When the 116th Panzer Division moved out on the night of 22 December, the commander of the 560th detailed some of his engineers to watch Hogan's laager.


The armored German kampfgruppe astride the road between Soy and Hotton was content to remain on the defensive pending its withdrawal southward, but the German tanks and antitank guns ruled as "King of the Rock" on the crest overwatching the road. Grooved by the road, the first American attack from Soy toward Hotton slammed straight into direct fire and lost six medium and two light tanks. Cross-country maneuver by infantry was indicated. Long awaited, the 1st Battalion of the 517th Parachute Infantry and a company from the 643d Tank Destroyer Battalion arrived in Soy at twilight. Howze had expected to use the paratroopers in a daylight attack to reopen the Hotton road, but the division commander demanded an immediate commitment. Thrown into assault over strange ground, only half an hour after crawling out of their trucks, the paratroopers made little headway against six German self-propelled guns and clusters of machine gun nests. By 2000 the attack west from Soy was stopped dead still.


An alarm from Hotton, suddenly assailed after a day of quiet, forced a second try. This time Howze ordered two of the paratroop platoons, tanksup-