in firing position) and a massed infantry assault drove the troopers out. When ordered back into the village the cavalrymen found it jammed with German infantry.
By daylight small hostile groups had pushed far to the west in the sectors of the two armored combat commands'. Some had even climbed out of the Braunlauf valley and engaged in scattering fire against the battalion of the 424th Infantry in the reserve position at Maldingen. In general, however, the battle was waning all along the eastern arc, bringing a brief respite to the men in the foxholes, now subjected to a freezing, blasting wind after hours of fighting in snow and slush. Although no major disruption had occurred in the ring defense, the night attacks had developed cracks in the line at Crombach and in the valley of the Braunlauf which would widen under a little more pressure. Most important, the 62d Volks Grenadier Division had robbed the Americans of their chance for a night withdrawal.
At Vielsalm General Hasbrouck waited impatiently for word that the two harassed combat commands were ready to disengage. He was acutely conscious of the narrow margin of protection afforded by the 82d Airborne Division and worried lest a northward attack by the incoming 2d SS Panzer Division beat back the west flank of the 82d and close off the Salm River exits once and for all. Finally, at 0500, this message went out from the command post of the 7th Armored Division:
The situation is such on the west of the river south of [the] 82d that if we don't join them soon the opportunity will be over. It will be necessary to disengage whether circumstances are favorable or not if we are [to] carry out any kind of withdrawal with equipment. Inform me of your situation at once particularly with regard to possibility of disengagement and execution of withdrawal.
General Hoge, whose combat command was first in the march table, was able to give a favorable answer, but all this last-minute improvisation took time. As a result, orders charging CCB, 9th Armored, to pull out at 0600 were received in Hoge's command post at 0605. About ten minutes later the withdrawal commenced, running smoothly to conclusion. One tank company was left as rear guard north of Maldingen, there blocking the approach from the German concentration area at Galhausen, but the enemy reacted slowly and the rear guard got away with the loss of only two tanks. A small cavalry detachment, Task Force Lindsey (Capt. Franklin P. Lindsey, Jr.), remained through the morning, screening the exit route at its Maldingen entrance. The first phase of the withdrawal had been auspicious. Be it noted, however, that the southern route (via Beho, Salmchateau, and through the 82d Airborne lines at Lierneux) followed a hard-surfaced motor road, that as yet there was little traffic congestion, and that the enemy efforts prior to the withdrawal had not disorganized the command but had simply forced its left flank closer to the avenue of escape.
The southern force of CCB, 7th Armored, under Colonel Wemple, was next to go, the plan calling for a move south through Braunlauf and onto the route traveled by Hoge's columns. Wemple's task had been complicated by the events of the night, since the Germans had