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hours were a nightmare. Every half hour a gust of enemy artillery fire shook the town; one shell crashed near the American command post, killing LaPrade and wounding Desobry. Maj. Robert F. Harwick, a paratrooper, assumed overall command, while Maj. Charles L. Hustead replaced Desobry as the armored team commander. (Desobry, with an agonizing head wound, was placed in an ambulance headed for Bastogne, but the ambulance was captured en route.) Through the night the panzers prowled on the edge of the village and the German grenadiers came out of their foxholes in abortive forays to reach the streets. But the paratroopers held the enemy at arm's length and the enemy tankers showed little inclination to engage Hustead's remaining eight Shermans, which had been brought into the village, in a blindfold duel.


Earlier in the day the 101st commander had planned to establish a defensive line running northwest to southeast in front of Bastogne from which the 501st, tied in with Desobry and Cherry as flank guards, would launch a counterattack. The events of the 19th, as it turned out, showed how little room for maneuver was left the Americans. Colonel Roberts, assessing the reports from CCB in the early evening, advised McAuliffe that "right now the whole front is flat against this town [Bastogne]." Roberts was right; nonetheless there remained two indentations in the fast-forming German line: the thumb sticking out at Noville and Team Ryerson's little enclave on the east edge of Mageret. The latter, however, disappeared during the night hours, for Ryerson, on orders, circled the enemy troops in Mageret and brought his depleted command into the lines of the 501st at Bizory. (Ryerson later was killed at Bastogne.)


General Luettwitz lacked the full German corps he craved to throw against Bastogne on the 20th. The 26th Volks Grenadier Division could count on only two of its regiments. Panzer Lehr had a substantial part of the division immediately east of Bastogne, but at least one infantry regiment, much of its artillery, and the bulk of the division trains were still toiling along the gummy little roads -hardly more than trails-climbing west out of the Wiltz valley. Furthermore, Luettwitz had ordered Bayerlein to hold out a reserve for a dash toward Sibret. The neighboring corps might lend Luettwitz a hand in the north-after all its 2d Panzer either had to break through at Noville or had to retrace its steps-but the Fifth Panzer Army commander had reiterated in no uncertain manner that Lauchert's goal was the Meuse, not Bastogne.


The entire artillery complement of the 2d Panzer was in place to support the attack at Noville when the 20th dawned. Lauchert's armor was in poor repair after the long and rough march A goodly number of tanks had been shot up in the first day's action at Noville, and the combination of muddy terrain and American antitank fire boded no good for a headlong armored assault. Lauchert therefore told his panzer grenadiers to carry the battle in company with small tank packets.


While the German guns plastered the village the grenadiers moved in about 0530 on three sides. Smoke and swirling fog veiled the attackers but the 420th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, firing from northwest of Bastogne, laid down a protective curtain which held the enemy