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der placing the First and Ninth Armies under Montgomery's command stressed that the flanks of the penetration must be held but added that all available reserves should be gathered to start counterattacks in force. Montgomery's problem, then, was to cover the west flank of the First Army between the XVIII Airborne Corps and the Meuse while reforming his new command for the counterattack mission. It would appear that at this juncture the field marshal was thinking in terms of a counterattack against the western tip of the salient, for he told Hodges that he wanted the most aggressive American corps commander who could be found and sufficient troops to launch an attack from the area southwest of the XVIII Airborne.


As to the first item, the marshal made his wishes very clear: he wanted Maj. Gen. J. Lawton Collins ("Lightning Joe"), whose VII Corps had been carrying the left wing of the December Roer River offensive; nor would he listen to any other names. Where to find the divisions needed was more difficult. But Bradley already had ordered the 84th Infantry Division to leave the Ninth Army and come in on Ridgway's flank, the 75th Infantry Division had just arrived from the United States and would reach the battle zone in a few days, the 3d Armored Division might be available in the proximate future. This, then, was the line-up for the new VII Corps when Collins reported to Hodges in the early morning of the 21st. Collins got the promise of an addition to his putative force when Brig. David Belchem, 21 Army Group chief of operations, who was visiting headquarters, suggested that the 2d Armored Division be taken from the Ninth Army reserve. Collins, who considered the veteran 2d and 3d the best armored divisions in the U.S. Army, accepted with enthusiasm. Later in the day Montgomery met with Hodges and Simpson, confirming the proposed transfer of the 2d Armored from Simpson's command.


The VII Corps Assembles


Along the Roer River front the Ninth Army was being stripped progressively of its reserves as the German threat in the south increased. After the 7th Armored and 30th Infantry Divisions had been rushed to the First Army on 17 December, the next to go would be the 84th Infantry Division (Brig. Gen. Alexander R. Bolling), taken out of the Geilenkirchen sector. Bolling received orders on the night of the 19th to make ready for relief by the 102d Infantry Division, and at noon the next day his leading regimental combat team, the 334th, was on the road to Belgium. At Chaudfontaine the First Army G-3 told Bolling to assemble the 84th in the Marche sector, but the First Army staff could furnish little accurate information as to the location of friendly or enemy troops in that area. Temporarily attached to the XVIII Airborne Corps, Bolling had no knowledge of the embryo attack plan for the VII Corps. He was alerted, however, to be ready to attack northeast or east on order. [4]


[4] Both the VII Corps and the 84th Division prepared AAR's and G-3 journals. The regiments of the 84th also have AAR's and unit journals. The semiofficial history of the latter division was prepared by a member of the division, Lt. Theodore Draper, The 847h Infantry Division in the Battle of Germany, November 1944-May 1945 (New York: The Viking Press, 1946). See also Cpl. Perry S. Wolff, A History of the 334th Infantry (Mannheim, Germany: Mannheimer Grossdruckerei, 1945). The tank battalion supporting the 84th also has published its combat record: Capt. E. Castagna, The History of the 771st Tank Battalion (Berkeley, Calif.: Lederer, Street & Zeus


Co., Inc., 1946).