failed when the 4.5-inch guns of the 770th Field Artillery Battalion were cut off at Samree en route from La Roche.
Even when separated from the 7th Armored trains the St. Vith front was considerably stronger and better organized than it had been. Incidentally, the quick and forceful reaction to all German probing during the day and the fact that Hasbrouck had kept only a very small reserve out of the line had created an impression of American strength in the enemy headquarters well beyond the fact. The front held by the 7th Armored Division, CCB of the 9th Armored, and attached units by this time had expanded to about thirty-two miles. Traced on the map the line assumed the form of a horseshoe, the bend at St. Vith, the open prongs facing west. This opening had been partially covered by the advance southeastward of the 82d Airborne Division, but a gap of some five miles still existed north of the Cherain outpost set up by Task Force Jones.
The VIII Corps passed to General Patton's Third Army during the 20th. Word of this, handed down by Colonel Ryan who had been at the VIII Corps headquarters in Neufchateau and had worked his way back to the division trains, caused a little confusion as to the exact status of the units attached to the 7th Armored Division. In the early evening CCB, 9th Armored Division, received orders to revert to the VIII Corps and move that same night to St. Hubert, seventeen miles west of Bastogne. The loss of this combat command would create a wide breach in front of the enemy congregating south of St. Vith, a breach which hardly could be filled by the last reserves at Hasbrouck's disposal. The 7th Armored commander, at Hoge's request, got Middleton to cancel the order, and CCB, 9th Armored, subsequently was taken under the First Army command. The attachment already existing was thus legalized. What Hasbrouck needed now he tersely relayed in a message through the 7th Armored trains to the XVIII Airborne Corps: "We can hold if no troops are taken away from us and our right rear is given protection."
The addition of the 7th Armored Division to the XVIII Airborne Corps had contributed greatly to the phenomenal expansion of a corps front which measured only some twenty-five miles on 19 December but which represented a sector of approximately eighty-five miles on the evening of 20 December. On the 19th most of Ridgway's troops had engaged in patrolling with no enemy contact; on the 20th the XVIII Airborne Corps faced the westernmost elements of the I SS Panzer Corps, the entire LXVI Corps, and the LVIII Panzer Corps. Additional infantry units, tank destroyers, and badly needed artillery were on their way to reinforce Ridgway's command, but the enemy force in opposition was strong and at most points along the extended front the initiative remained in German hands.
Whether the XVIII Airborne Corps could maintain the freshly added burden imposed by the 7th Armored Division salient remained to be seen. But that the XVIII Airborne Corps lacked the strength to close the gap of thirteen road miles between the VIII Corps and itself (that is, the gap between the 7th Armored Division detachment at Cherain and the elements of the 101st Airborne at Foy) was rapidly becoming apparent to all. The corps' mission, as it had devolved by the end of the day, would be