Page 417


the village, then funneled slowly into the woods. One tank threw its track on the one-way stretch but obligingly coasted off the trail and into the trees. At Commanster a traffic jam started. Most of the nine field artillery battalions in the ring had been grouped in this area and their displacement-while some batteries remained to keep up fire-was a slow, painful process. General Clarke took a hand here as a kind of super traffic cop until the jam cleared. By noon Task Force Lohse and most of the artillery had crossed the river at Vielsalm.


Having cut the St. Vith-Vielsalm road by capturing Rodt in the late morning of the 22d, Remer's Fuehrer Begleit Brigade made no serious attempt to push beyond Rodt, either against CCA, 7th Armored Division, to the west or CCB to the south. Remer's heavy Panthers had made bad going of the muddy roads north of Rodt. Only a few arrived in time to take part in the battle there; for the rest of the day and far into the night the Panthers crawled into the Rodt assembly area. The Fuehrer Begleit trains could not negotiate the churned and mired trails at all. They would have to be threaded through the St. Vith bottleneck.


In the early morning of 23 December Remer gathered a truck-mounted battalion of armored infantry, put some tanks at their head, and started them for Hinderhausen, with the intention of cutting south across the rear of the Americans. About 0800 the Panthers engaged the small covering force at Hinderhausen. A brace of 90-mm. tank destroyers knocked out two of the lead tanks, temporarily halting the attack and giving Lohse's column time to reach Commanster. When the Germans finally maneuvered into position to renew the attack, the Americans broke free and fell back toward Commanster. German infantry and a few tanks pursued but were held off until the last of the CCB column had been pushed through the village and was on its way northwest to the Vielsalm bridge.


Colonel Boylan led the rear guard back toward the bridge but then was ordered, because of a traffic jam at the bridge, to hold on the east bank until the 7th Armored Division headquarters could cross. This covering force consisted of a few light tanks, a couple of tank destroyers and a few rifle squads from the 112th Infantry. The Fuehrer Begleit Brigade did not follow CCB. Remer's orders were to join the LVIII Panzer Corps west of the Salm, and his immediate design was to reach the paved road leading to Salmchateau. The motorized rifle battalion, now led by an assault gun company, headed south toward the road center at Beho, found it free of American troops, and there joined a part of the 62d Volks Grenadier Division. The time now was midafternoon.


Task Force Lindsey, whose cavalry and infantry had screened the main withdrawal of the southern segment of the ring, had come under damaging shell-fire as the 62d Volks Grenadier Division artillery got into position. About 1315 the task force fell back through Beho and proceeded west to Salmchateau, picking up other small blocking groups as it went. Thus far events in the southern sector had gone well for the Americans. There remained the task of evacuating the blocking force which for so long had held the southernmost outposts of the St. Vith salient. This was Task Force Jones, assembling in the