bieval, on the main road, was launched late in the day but was repulsed by the American artillery. Krag decided to shift his advance toward Salmchateau and there possibly link up with friendly forces he knew to be coming from St. Vith. He had available nearly three reconnaissance troops and an assault gun battalion. His accompanying battalion of selfpropelled artillery was within range of Salmchateau. A sharp attack in the late afternoon brought Krag's detachment through the American outposts in the hamlets west of Salmchateau and by nightfall he had a troop in the south section of the town, its task made easier by the preliminary shelling laid in by the battalion of field guns. From this point on Kampfgruppe Krag fought two battles, one to mop up the town, the other to capture American vehicles trying to break out of the valley road in the south.
As the evening wore on, the leading Americans bottled up in the defile hastily organized an attack to open the exit through Salmchateau, but there was little room to deploy, and this attempt failed. At the tail of the column disaster, in the form of the Fuehrer Begleit advance guard, suddenly struck. The light tanks and tank destroyers, earlier disposed at Cierreux, and now brought back to form the column rear guard, were spotted by German scouts and set upon in the dark by assault guns that lighted their targets with high velocity flares. Several of the American fighting vehicles were destroyed before they could return fire. To make matters worse some engineers blew a culvert, trapping the tail of the column. In sharp fighting most of the mechanized force at the tail was destroyed.
This was not to be the end. A trail had been discovered leading west out of the valley, and most of the middle of the column, led by a light tank company, escaped over it. Fortunately bright moonlight allowed some maneuver. Striking northwest and fighting off the small blocking forces left behind by Kampfgruppe Krag, the bulk of this part of the column succeeded in reaching the 82d Airborne. By midnight on the 23d over two hundred men from the column had reached the 508th Parachute Infantry and many others straggled in before daylight. How many vehicles and men were captured by the enemy is impossible to say.
There is a postscript to this story. During Task Force Jones's disengagement the 440th Armored Field Artillery had emplaced to give covering fire and protect the flank of the task force. When the 440th commenced its withdrawal word came in that the Germans had blocked the designated crossing site at Salmchateau. Thereupon the 440th formed in column, cut loose with every available machine gun, knifed through the startled enemy, and roared over the bridge at Vielsalm.
The troops under General Hasbrouck's command who came back across the Salm River were greeted by a warm letter of commendation from the Supreme Commander and orders to return at once to the fight. It is difficult to determine with surety how much of the 7th Armored Division, CCB, 9th Armored, 424th Infantry, 112th Infantry, and the numerous attached units had been lost during the