for tank maneuver, that reinforcements must be brought up for a headlong plunge. Meanwhile the German cannoneers continued to pummel Noville. Desobry had many casualties, but several ambulances had been wrecked by shellfire and it was difficult to get the wounded out.
The reinforcements reaching Desobry consisted of a platoon from the 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion (three companies of which constituted the only corps reserve Middleton had to give the 101st Airborne) and the 1st Battalion (Lt. Col. James L. LaPrade) of the 506th Parachute Infantry. Although McAuliffe assigned the 506th the mission of covering the northern approaches to Bastogne, the remaining two battalions had a string attached as the division reserve, and the regimental commander, Colonel Sink, was under strict orders not to move them from their positions just north of Bastogne. As the paratroopers approached Noville, they came under heavy, well-aimed artillery fire, twenty to thirty rounds exploding on the village every ten minutes. Vehicles and buildings were aflame-this was indeed a hot corner, the village itself practically bare of life. Desobry's detachment was deployed south and west of the village; the Germans were firing from the north and east, a more comfortable position since the higher ground encircling Noville tilted up on the enemy side of the dish.
By 1430 the 1st Battalion was ready to begin the assault against the enemy-held high ground. The center company walked almost immediately into a rain of barrage fire and was stopped with heavy losses. The two remaining companies were met with intense small arms fire but in fifteen minutes worked their way forward in short spurts to a point where one last dash would put them on the crest. As the paratroopers lay here, a mass of green-clad figures suddenly erupted over the hill. Later the 1st Battalion estimated this attack was carried by a rifle battalion backed by sixteen tanks. The American assault had smacked headlong into the attack the 2d Panzer had been readying since mid-morning. As the fight spread, nearly thirty-two panzers were counted on the field. The two antagonists each reported subsequently that "the enemy counter-attack halted." Both probably were correct-although both continued to suffer heavy casualties. The German tanks might have decided the issue, but for over half an hour they stayed well back of the rifle line, perhaps fearful lest bazooka teams would reach them in the smoke and fog billowing up the hill, perhaps fearful of the bite in the few Shermans left. When a few of the enemy tanks finally ventured to approach, the American tank destroyers south of the village got on the flank of the panzers and put away five of them at 1,500-yards range.
Now as the smoke and fog increased, only small eddies broke the pall to give a few minutes of aimed fire. Two of the airborne companies fell back to the outskirts of Noville while the third, on the hill to the east, waited for darkness to cover its withdrawal. At one juncture the 1st Battalion was under orders to leave Noville, but Brig. Gen. Gerald J. Higgins, the assistant division commander who was acting alter ego for McAuliffe, told the paratroopers to stay put and promised assault gun and tank destroyer support for the morrow.
To the Noville garrison the dark