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tional reconstruction of the German breakthrough east of St. Vith can ever be made. The American units flanking the road had been badly understrength


before the 21st, but the lengthy and destructive barrage laid down by the enemy had caused very severe casualties and shaken the defenders. Sustained shelling had also destroyed all means of communication, except by runner, and left the little groups isolated and unable to support one another. Troop B of the 87th Reconnaissance Squadron and Company A of the 81st Engineer Combat Battalion, both directly in the German path, probably numbered less than forty men apiece when the final blow fell. It appears that if there were any mines left on the Schonberg road they had been lifted in preparation for a promised counterattack by American tanks.


Actually there were only three Shermans on the main road, remnant of a reserve platoon which had been commandeered when the initial tank support had decamped. During the earlier lull the enemy infantry worked through the thick woods, penetrating the thin and disordered American line at a number of points. The final assault, made by the 294th and one or two platoons of Tigers, simply peeled the Americans back on both sides of the road. The three Shermans had aimed their guns to blast the first tanks as they came over the ridge where the American foxhole line had been drawn. In the darkness, and with radios and wire no longer functioning, the first sign of the enemy armor was a volley of flares fired in flat trajectory from the Panthers. Silhouetted in light and with blinded crews the Shermans were disposed of in one, two, three order. In a matter of minutes German infantry and tanks were to the rear of the foxhole line. Lt. Col. Thomas J. Riggs, Jr., commander of the 81st Engineer Combat Battalion, who had tried to organize a counterattack to wipe out the earlier penetrations was lost trying to organize a last-ditch defense in the hamlet of Prumerberg on the main road. No withdrawal orders reached the troops now behind the enemy. Some held where they were; some stampeded blindly through the woods in search of an exit to the west.


A double column of enemy troops and vehicles marched along the road into St. Vith. On the right of Colonel Fuller's sector Company B of the 23d Armored Infantry Battalion and a platoon of the 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion, after having withstood almost continuous assault for four hours, succumbed about the same time to the 183d Regiment, which attacked along the draw from the southeast between CCB, 7th Armored, and CCB, 9th Armored. The 183d Regiment now poured through the draw into St. Vith. Two of the American tank destroyers reached St. Vith and here blocked the main street until nearly midnight, when one was destroyed by a bazooka round. Of the force originally commanded by Colonel Fuller in the eastern sector only some two hundred escaped, and half of these had to be evacuated for wounds or exhaustion. The loss here of the four armored infantry companies would be keenly felt by CCB, 7th Armored Division.


General Clarke, the CCB, 7th Armored Division, commander, could do little to influence the course of the battle. Communications were gone and he had no reserves. About 2130 he ordered what