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deployed around and to the rear of the crossroads. In the dark hours before dawn of the 23d the first move came, as the 2d Battalion made a surprise attack on Fraiture and was driven back after a bitter fight with the paratroopers. [4]


The surprise attack at Fraiture having aborted, the Germans settled down to hem in and soften up the crossroads defense. Radios that had been taken from captured American vehicles were used to jam the wave band on which the American forward observers were calling for fire. Whenever word flashed over the air that shells were on their way, enemy mortar crews dumped shells on American observation posts-easily discernible in the limited perimeter-making sensing virtually impossible. Late in the morning Lt. Col. Walter B. Richardson, who had a small force backing up Kane and Orr, sent more infantry and a platoon of tanks toward the crossroads. By this time the German grenadiers occupied the woods to the north in sufficient strength to halt the foot soldiers. The American tanks, impervious to small arms fire, reached the perimeter at about 1300, whereupon the rifle line pushed out to east and south to give the tankers a chance to maneuver.


But at the crossroads time was running out. Shortly after 1600 the German artillery really got to work, for twenty minutes pummeling the area around the crossroads. Then, preceded by two panzer companies (perhaps the final assault had waited upon their appearance), the entire rifle strength of the 4th Panzer Grenadier Regiment closed upon the Americans. Outlined against new-fallen snow the line of defense was clearly visible to the panzers, and the Shermans had no maneuver room in which to back up the line. The fight was brief, moving to a foregone conclusion. At 1700 the commander of F Company asked Billingslea for permission to withdraw; but Gavin's order still was "hold at all costs." Within the next hour the Germans completed the reduction of the crossroads defense, sweeping up prisoners, armored cars, half-tracks, and the three howitzers. Three American tanks managed to escape under the veil of half-light. Earlier they had succeeded in spotting some panzers, who were firing flares, and knocked them out. A number of men escaped north through the woods; some got a break when a herd of cattle stampeded near the crossroads, providing a momentary screen. Company F of the 325th Glider Infantry suffered the most but stood its ground until Billingslea gave permission to come out. Ultimately forty-four of the original one hundred sixteen who had gone to the crossroads returned to their own lines. Drastically outnumbered and unable to compensate for weakness by maneuver, the defenders of the Baraque de Fraiture crossroads had succumbed, like so many small forces at other crossroads in the Ardennes.


The dent made here at the boundary between the 3d Armored and the 82d Airborne Divisions could all too quickly develop into a ragged tear, parting the two and unraveling their inner flanks. The next intersection on the Liege road, at Manhay, was only four miles to the north. From Manhay the lateral road between Trois Ponts and Hotton would place the Germans on the deep flank and rear of both divisions. Generals Rose and Gavin reacted to this threat at once; so


[4] The main actions of the 2d SS Panzer in this sector are developed as a part of Chapter XXIII.