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new orders to Hasbrouck (it was now about 0200 on the 22d). The 424th and 112th Infantry Regiments were to withdraw from their positions. The entire force under Generals Hasbrouck and Jones was to form a defensive ring west of St. Vith and east of the Salm River. By early morning of the 22d the withdrawal of the southernmost units was under way and the circle was beginning to form. The command situation finally was "regularized" when Ridgway gave Maj. Gen. Alan W. Jones the command of the 7th Armored Division (he ranked Brig. Gen. Robert W. Hasbrouck) in addition to his own division and its attachments. Actually this change had no effect on the conduct of subsequent operations and was effective for only a few hours.


A perimeter defense by units cut off from the rest of the XVIII Airborne Corps was a very temporary expedient; the ground now occupied, in the opinion of the local commanders, could not be held for long. General Clark later phrased the problem thus:


In studying the map of the area it will be noted that the troops were to be disposed surrounding a forest through which there was a paucity of roads. There was practically no possibility of being able to shift forces to meet a threat at any point How units were to be supplied in such a situation is not understood. Air supply of such a large and scattered force would have been most difficult. Without supply the force would have been through in two or three days.


Fortunately for the forces in the salient the withdrawal to the "goose egg" defense, a move made with extreme difficulty on muddy and congested roads and trails, was unhampered in its first phases by any German reaction. The occupation of St. Vith had considerably disorganized the attacking division, whose regiments jammed into the town from east, north, and south. Orders given the 18th Volks Grenadier Division early on the 22d to continue the attack along the main road through Rodt and Poteau toward the Salm River could not be carried out for some hours. On the left the bulk of the 62d Volks Grenadier Division was still confronted with an unbroken defense. The only force in position for an immediate exploitation was Remer's Fuehrer Begleit Brigade, whose tanks finally had arrived on the evening of 21 December.


The Final Withdrawal from the St. Vith Sector


The raid made by Remer's infantry past Rodt now paid dividends. Having found a negotiable route for his heavy vehicles, Remer prepared to capture Rodt, cut the main road between that village and Vielsalm, and overrun such of the American batteries as remained in the way. In the midst of a snowstorm, sometime around midnight of the 21st, Remer's tank group and his armored infantry started along the narrow trails winding through the thick woods north of the Rodt-Vielsalm road. By daybreak the Fuehrer Begleit advance guard had arrived at the edge of the forest north of Rodt. This small village, 4,000 yards west of St. Vith, lay on the reverse slope of a ridge line along which extended the north flank of the 7th Armored Division. Here a number of secondary roads entered the St. Vith-Vielsalm highway, one from Recht in the north, others from Hinderhausen and Crombach in the south. As a result of the regrouping