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rounding Bastogne had some diversionary mission during the Christmas Day assault, only the 39th Grenadier Regiment had a major attack assigned in support of the effort in the northwest, this to be an advance astride the Neufchateau-Bastogne highway (which was never carried out).


The Battle on Christmas Day


About 0300 a few German planes droned over the 502d lines and dropped bombs indiscriminately around Rolle, the regimental command post. This seems to have been the Luftwaffe support promised Kokott. A few minutes later the German gunners and mortar crews started to work, their target the American positions at Champs. Here Company A of the 502d was deployed on the northwest edge of the village, its right flank joining the 2d Battalion in a large wood lot midway between Champs and Longchamps. Clad in white snow suits the first German assault party, some fifty grenadiers from the 77th, crept forward under the waning moon toward Champs. At 0400 this group dashed into the village and the German attack began. More of the enemy moved through the woods against the left flank of the 2d Battalion, and within the hour a full German battalion had joined the fight. Company B moved up as a backstop if its sister company should be engulfed or pushed aside, but the confused melee around Champs in the predawn darkness pinned the Germans down.


Meanwhile the two assault battalions of the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division were moving against the 3d Battalion of the 327th. The tank group on the right of the German line drew ahead of its marching partner and an hour and a quarter after the advance began reported to Kokott that the only evidence of American reaction was some tank or tank destroyer fire coming in from the south. Thirty minutes later a brief and optimistic radio message flashed to the rear: the tanks and the infantry battalion festooned thereon had reached the western edge of Bastogne. But elation at the German command post was short lived; word that the German tanks were in the streets of Bastogne never came. The commander of the 115th sent a liaison officer forward to find the battalion or its tanks, but without success. German forward observers were alerted to listen for the sound of German tank fire-but all they could hear was the crash of artillery fire and the crump of exploding mortar shells.


The story of the lost tank group is soon told. The eighteen Mark IV's and the riding grenadiers had broken through the positions held by Companies A and B of the 327th Glider Infantry before dawn and got as far as the battalion command post. Several of the enemy tanks passed straight through battery positions of the 755th Field Artillery Battalion, whose gunners opened up with machine guns as soon as they discerned the distinctive German muzzle-brakes. But the 155-mm. howitzers could not be brought to bear at such close range and the Germans rolled on unscathed. Just west of Hemroulle about half the German tanks wheeled left, defiling along a cart path which led to the road between Champs and Bastogne. As they approached the road the panzers formed in line abreast, now bearing straight toward Companies B and C of the 502d, which were on the march to