Page 436


strung out over long miles of road. The German troops who hit the 84th Division outposts and patrols during the daylight hours and whose appearance west of Marche brought the 2d Armored Division precipitately into action constituted little more than a screen for the main body of the XLVII Panzer Corps. By the late afternoon, however, the advance guards of the 2d Panzer and Panzer Lehr had come up to the forward screen and were ready for attack. So far only the 84th Division had been identified as being in the way. The 2d Panzer Division, its first objective Marche, had the shortest road to follow but was delayed for several hours by the demolitions at the crossroads west of Champlon touched off by the detachment of the 51st Engineers. Not until early afternoon did the leading battalion of the 304th Panzer Grenadier Regiment overrun the 4th Cavalry Group outpost at Harsin, and it was dark when this battalion fought its way into Hargimont, there severing the road from Marche to Rochefort.


Inexplicably the forward momentum of the 2d Panzer main column ceased early in the evening. When Luettwitz, the corps commander, hurried into Hargimont, he found that the attack had been halted for the night because American tanks were reported north of the village. Stopping briefly to tongue-lash and relieve the colonel in command, Luettwitz put in a fresh assault detachment which pushed west as far as Buissonville and there bivouacked. The appearance of this force was responsible for the reports reaching American headquarters shortly before midnight that Company E of the 333d had been trapped in Buissonville.


Chief protagonist of the advance on the VII Corps thus far chronicled has been the main column of the 2d Panzer Division, which on the night of 23 December had its head at Buissonville and its body snarled in a long traffic jam on the single road through Hargimont, Harsin, and Bande. But German armored cars, tanks, and motorized infantry detachments had been encountered west and southwest of Marche all during the day. These troops belonged to the 2d Panzer reconnaissance battalion that during the night was attempting to reassemble as a homogeneous striking force west of Buissonville astride the road to Dinant. It was the point of this battalion which Collier's armored infantry encountered at Leignon.


Under the new orders to attack toward Rochefort, CCA had driven a few miles south of Leignon when Capt. George E. Bonney, riding at the head of the column in a jeep, heard the sound of motors on the road ahead. Bonney whirled his jeep and rode back along the column of American halftracks, passing the word to pull off the road and let the approaching vehicles through. When the small German column was securely impounded, the Americans cut loose with the .30-caliber machine guns on the halftracks, killing thirty of the enemy and capturing a like number. Bonney had his leg almost cut off by slugs from one of his own tanks farther back in the column. Since the night was far spent, the enemy strength and location were uncertain, and his command had few if any detailed maps, Collier ordered the CCA task forces to reorganize and to laager until dawn. The leading task force by this time was near the village of Haid, eight miles from Rochefort.


On the day before (23 December),