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left and could only surmise what tank strength the Germans had accumulated opposite CCB on the right.


Field Marshal Montgomery, chipper as always but cautious, had taken steps during the day to bring the 1st Division (British) across the Meuse and into backstop position behind the First Army in the sector southeast of Liege. Other British troops were on the move to assist the 29th Armoured Brigade (British) if the enemy should hit the bridges at Givet or Namur. This was good news to the First Army commander and his staff, not to mention that some elation was abroad as the result of Allied air force activity on this clear day and the reports of prisoners and booty taken from the 1st SS Panzer Division at La Gleize.


The gloomy side of the picture was all too readily apparent. The fall of St. Vith had opened the way for fresh forces and new pressure against the army center and right. The 82d Airborne Division was exposed to entrapment in the Manhay sector and in the course of the evening Hodges would order a withdrawal. The situation as it appeared in the VII Corps on the army right wing was, as just described, somewhat of a cliffhanger. On the left wing, in the V Corps sector, the enemy appeared ready to resume strong offensive operations, and after their Christmas Eve supper Hodges and Huebner sat down to plan the evacuation of the corps' heavy equipment in order to leave the roads free in the event that withdrawal to the north became mandatory.


In the higher echelons of German command the attitude on Der Heilige Abend became more somber as the distance between the particular headquarters and the 2d Panzer position at the tip of the Bulge diminished. Rundstedt seems to have become reconciled, with the fatalism and aloofness of the aged and veteran soldier, to whatever the fortunes of war now might bring. Model, the commander of Army Group B, was outwardly optimistic; his order for Christmas Day called for the passage of the Meuse and the capture of Bastogne. This official mien of optimism contrasts sharply with the attitude his personal staff had noted on 18 December when, it since has been reported, he phoned Rundstedt and Jodl to say that the offensive had failed. Perhaps he saw in the events of 24 December the possibility that the Meuse at least might be reached and some degree of tactical success east of the river be attained, thus confirming his earlier opposition to the Big Solution dictated by Hitler and Jodl. Manteuffel, as Fifth Panzer Army commander, was the man in the middle. He was well aware of the exposed and precarious position of the 2d Panzer Division. He had traveled the forward roads at the tip of the salient, and his practiced eye recognized that the narrow corridor to the Meuse must be widened if the last stage of the drive to the river was to be logistically supported. Doubtless he recognized the tactical merit of Luettwitz' suggestion, probably made late in the afternoon of the 24th, that the forward columns of the XLVII Panzer Corps should be withdrawn from their position of dangerous isolation until such time as reinforcements arrived. On the other hand Manteuffel was well aware of the Fuehrer's attitude toward surrendering ground and could not possibly acquiesce in Luettwitz' proposal. During the evening Manteuffel telephoned Jodl with a personal and desper-