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G-2, but aside from shortening the lines and tightening up tactical control there was little the Americans could do but wait for the blow to fall.


Early in the afternoon the VIII Corps relayed a message from General Patton and the Third Army: "Xmas Eve present coming up. Hold on." But there were more tangible items to lessen the nostalgia and depression of the surrounded garrison on Christmas Eve. The second day of air resupply had been "a tremendous morale booster"-so reported CCB and most of the regiments. Allied air activity on the 24th had heartened the men on the ground. When night fell they could see the fires left as aftermath of the fighter-bomber strikes blazing all the way round the perimeter. (Twice during the night of 24 December, however, the Luftwaffe retaliated with very damaging and lethal bombing sorties on Bastogne and the surrounding area.) Less obtrusive but of considerable impact was the confidence that the commanders and the troops had in each other; a lesson for future commanders may be read in the considerable effort put forth by McAuliffe, Roberts, and the regimental commanders to apprise all the troops of the "situation."


Christmas Eve in the German headquarters brought forth some cognac and a few "Prosits" but in the main was devoted to preparations for a major attack on Christmas Day. As late as the evening of the 24th Luettwitz hoped to obtain more troops from the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division, but the Fuehrer had other ideas. Earlier in the day the Fifth Panzer Army commander posed a question which finally reached Jodl and Hitler: should he turn to finish off Bastogne or continue, with the bulk of his divisions, toward the Meuse and seize the Marche plateau in an attempt to widen the German thrust? Hitler's answer, finally relayed by Model, was that the attack to seize the Marche plateau should be continued with all available forces. This answer did nothing to relieve Manteuffel's worries about his thin and endangered southern flank. [18] To leave Bastogne as a sally port onto his left rear made no military sense to this experienced soldier-so Manteuffel ordered that Bastogne be taken on 25 December.


(The attack order read: "Displacement [in this context a kind of euphemism for "destruction"] of the enemy at Bastogne.")


The German order of battle on Christmas Eve was this (read from the north clockwise). The 26th Volks Grenadier engineer battalion and a few antitank guns maintained a security screen in the Foy-Recogne sector. The 78th Fuesiliers, brought back to strength by a large draft of replacements, held on a front extending from Foy to Neffe. The 901st, its ranks much depleted by the fighting just ended, continued the circle past Marvie and to a point west of the Arlon road. The 39th was deployed on both sides of the Neufchateau road. What earlier had been the "western front"-that is, from Senonchamps north to the Marche road


[18] All of the higher German field commanders appear to have been in a quandary at this stage as to Hitler's intention toward Bastogne. See Manteuffel's queries to his superiors as described in MS #B-151a, and ETHINT-46, Fifth Panzer Army, Mission of November 1944-January 1945. In a conference which the author held with Manteuffel and his chief of staff, Generalmajor Carl Gustav Wagener, in Karlsruhe on 10 June 1960 Wagener said that Hitler expressed no particular interest in Bastogne during the offensive phase, nor did he insist that his original orders to capture Bastogne be followed.