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orders I ever issued," the 7th Armored commander sent his "division reserve" -two tank destroyers-hurrying south from Vielsalm. One of the tank destroyers arrived just as a German tank platoon hove into sight at Cierreux, hit the two leaders, and drove off the five remaining tanks. During the lull that followed, a platoon of light cavalry tanks and a section of towed tank destroyers came east from the river road to give a hand.


Colonel Nelson, commanding the 112th Infantry, had sent a radio message some time around 1300 telling Hasbrouck that the withdrawal east of the river had been completed, that only the 112th covering force remained. Nelson waited for three hours for the division order to withdraw (a liaison officer with such an order had left Hasbrouck's command post at 1345). Then, with German tanks only two hundred yards from the regimental command post, lacking any communication with the 7th Armored headquarters, and out of touch with what was happening elsewhere, he gave the word to pull out of Salmchateau. By this time Task Force Jones was moving along the Bovigny-Salmchateau road which traversed the narrow defile cut by the Salm River. The infantry, considerably disorganized, had just crossed the river west of Cierreux and started feeding into the 2,500-yard-long column on the valley road when word passed down the line that the light tanks in the van had been hit by enemy fire as they entered Salmchateau. Here was the column, straitjacketed on the valley floor by high ridges to either side, unable to move forward or back, and with the enemy apparently closing in from every side. But Colonel Nelson. his executive officer, Col. William F. Train, and a few other officers set to work to organize a breakout.


Actually the column was blocked at Salmchateau before the pursuing troops of the Fuehrer Begleit Brigade caught up with the tail. This bridgehead village lay in the outpost line of the 508th Parachute Infantry. Just north, the wing of the 82d Airborne defense running west to the Baraque de Fraiture crossroads (and junction with the 3d Armored Division) rested on the Salm River. In the late afternoon of the 23d the single company of the 112th Infantry at the eastern end of the Salm River bridge had been attacked by a larger force from the 62d Volks Grenadier Division. The Americans had blown the bridge and fallen back through Salmchateau to the lines of the 82d, whereupon a few of the Germans crossed the river and entered the village. The stopper was more firmly seated in the bottleneck just at dark with the arrival of a detachment from the 2d SS Panzer Division coming in from the southwest.


While the 2d SS Panzer Division was awaiting the gasoline needed for its projected attack north along the seam between the 82d Airborne Division and the 3d Armored in the Baraque de Fraiture sector, the reinforced Reconnaissance Battalion (Maj. Ernst Krag) had been dispatched on the 22d to cut the main road between Salmchateau and the Baraque de Fraiture crossroads. Krag's detachment attacked straight north, driving in the American outposts in villages south of the road and dropping off small parties en route to form blocking positions covering the eastern flank of the division advance. An attack to seize the village of Jou-