ported, to circle around and into Hotton from the north, intending a squeeze play by attack in the dark from both Soy and Hotton. But neither claw was able to grip the enemy holding the core high ground. So the night ended. During its course the 560th Volks Grenadier Division had made a smooth and unperceived relief of the 116th Panzer Division. At dawn the grenadiers held an irregular front reaching from the Ourthe River east to the Baraque de Fraiture crossroads athwart the LiegeBastogne highway. This sector from river to highway now formed the center of the LVIII Panzer Corps with the 2d SS Panzer Division moving in on the east and the 116th Panzer Division circling to form the western wing beyond the Ourthe.
Events of the 22d had shown a movement of large German forces to the west, consequent to the fall of St. Vith, and brought the threatepitomized by the appearance of the 2d SS Panzer Division-of a largescale build-up for an attack to push through the XVIII Airborne Corps in a climactic, dramatic bid for Spa and Liege. The orders issued by General Ridgway on the night of 22 December, it will be remembered, were a detailed expression of the larger Allied plan to halt and then amputate the German forces swelling the western end of the salient, orders to hold the line or win more favorable positions while the VII Corps assembled on the right flank and a counterattack to regain St. Vith formed on the left.
Between the Ourthe River and the Liege-Bastogne road the single combat command of the 3d Armored Division, now reinforced, had the mission on the 23d of building a forward line along the Salmchateau-La Roche road as a breakwater against the anticipated German surge to the north. From the head of the enemy salient, between Soy and Hotton, to the Salmchateau-La Roche road was a distance of eleven miles. Attempts to get this counterattack moving in the night battles near Hotton and Dochamps had failed. Strength to do the job had increased somewhat but far from enough to guarantee success. With the main force of CCA west of the Ourthe and CCB still mopping up in Kampfgruppe Peiper's stronghold, General Rose had available three tank battalions and four armored infantry companies of his own division. Newly arrived reinforcements had swelled the rifle contingent by two battalions, the 1st Battalion of the 517th Parachute Infantry and the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion. Total artillery support consisted of the 105-mm. self-propelled howitzers belonging to the 54th and 83d Armored Field Artillery Battalions, plus three self-propelled 155-mm. guns from the 991st Field Artillery Battalion-any unbalance of force favorable to the Germans hardly would be redressed by the weight of American gun metal. In conference on the morning of the 23d the commanders of the XVIII Airborne and VII Corps agreed that Rose needed more troops. But the one battalion of the 75th Infantry Division assigned could not reach the scene for some hours.
The story of the 23d is one of local counterattacks to hold or restore existing positions against an enemy who retained the initiative and maintained the momentum of the attack rolling northward. The critical point would be the Baraque de Fraiture crossroads at