Page 402


dered to make an all-out attack and take St. Vith itself on 21 December, whether or not the Fuehrer Begleit Brigade was ready. This, one of his division commanders opined, was easier said than done.


The course of battle on 21 December initially affirmed the pessimistic view with which most of German unit commanders seem to have started the attack. Remer, still missing most of his tanks, had been instructed to drive from Nieder-Emmels straight south into St. Vith. South of NiederEmmels the St. Vith road crossed the ridge where, the day before, the American tank destroyers had broken the back of the German attack before it could get rolling. The Fuehrer Begleit commander, with the independence that characterized the actions of a man who stood ace-high with Hitler, decided to shift the attack and take Rodt (Sart-lez-St. Vith), about two and a half miles west of his assigned objective. The rifle battalion assigned to carry out this mission happened to come under American artillery fire while assembling west of Nieder-Emmels before dawn, or thus Remer explains the failure to strike Rodt. So he compromised by sending a large combat patrol into the woods west of that village with orders to find a covered route along which the tanks might advance on Vielsalm once they arrived.


The section of the main St. Vith-Vielsalm supply road west of Rodt was guarded by two American medium tank companies spread over a distance of three miles. It was easy for the German infantry to move unnoticed through the heavy timber. They even succeeded in ambushing enough vehicles, passing back and forth along the road, to promise motorization of the brigade's bicycle battalion. The American tankers caught on to what had happened when messengers and liaison officers failed to arrive at their destinations, but by this time the Germans had journeyed on to the southwest. Near Hinderhausen they attempted to surprise the 275th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, an outfit that had been exposed to close-quarter fighting before. With the help of two tanks and an antiaircraft artillery half-track mounting the dreaded .50-caliber quad, the artillerymen beat off the attack. When the raiders turned back to rejoin Remer they found the American tankers waiting; however, evasion in the woods was easy, although at this point the prized vehicles were abandoned and most of the captured Americans escaped. Meanwhile Remer's armored group had arrived north of St. Vith and the brigade was ready for attack as soon as darkness came.


On most of the front held by the 7th Armored and the troops of the 9th Armored and 106th the morning passed in ominous quiet. Patrols working in front of the American lines came back with reports of enemy activity and movement; some kind of an attack was in the offing but it seemed slow in coming. Apparently the German corps command had some difficulty in organizing a co-ordinated and well-timed advance over the broken and wooded ground around St. Vith. In fact, he had not reached the commanders of his two infantry divisions with orders until daylight. The center regiment of the 62d Volks Grenadier Division (the 190th), charged with seizing the high ground in the thick forest east of Grufflange, did get one battalion under way in the morning and succeeded