gunners blast the paratroopers out of the houses and surrounding woods. The commander of the 77th, apprehensive of a continued house-to-house battle, asked for and received permission to circle around the village, but the new attack up the slopes toward Hemroulle was shot to pieces. In the early afternoon General Kokott called the German attack to a halt, planning to resume the battle under cover of the night.
This last "desperate effort," as Kokott himself termed it, took long to organize and did not get under way until the morning hours of the 26th. Using the German salient at the Isle-la-Hesse road fork as his base, Kokott sent a small assault group from his own division and ten mobile tank destroyers northeast in the direction of Hemroulle with the intention of circling through Savy into Bastogne. This force wedged its way between the two right flank companies of the 327th but was caught in the open by the howitzers massed west of Bastogne which literally blew the infantry assault apart. Four armored tank destroyers continued toward Hemroulle but were finally brought to a halt by a large ditch. Here, while maneuvering, all were put out of action by artillery and tank destroyer fire at close range.
In midafternoon more bad news reached Kokott's command post. He had counted on the 5th Parachute Division to keep Patton's armor at bay in the south, and to make doubly certain had faced parts of the 901st and 39th away from Bastogne in support of the paratroopers. Now word came that the 5th Parachute Division had broken and that the 39th Regiment was under attack. Kokott had little to give the 39th, only five or six tanks which had just been repaired, and he did not dare put these on the road until darkness sent the American fighter-bombers home. Both Kokott and the corps commander, Luettwitz, still expected the main battle to be fought on the Arlon or Neufchateau road, but in the late afternoon the commander of the 39th radioed that American tanks had broken through farther to the west at Assenois. Kokott asked Luettwitz for help, but the latter had empty hands. Late that night new orders came from Field Marshall Model: the 26th Volks Grenadier Division would hold the defenders inside the Bastogne perimeter until the tanks of the Fuehrer Begleit Brigade could arrive to sever the narrow corridor opened to the defenders that afternoon by the American armor.
The siege of Bastogne, for purposes of historic record, may be considered ended at 1645 on 26 December when the 326th Airborne engineers reported contact with "three light tanks believed friendly." True, the breach in the German-held ring opened by the 4th Armored Division was narrow and precarious, but it would not be closed despite the most strenuous enemy efforts in coming days. The staunch defense of Bastogne had impeded the Fifth Panzer Army drive to the west, just as the desperate rear guard battle by the 7th Armored at St. Vith had slowed the advance of the Sixth, demonstrating the axiom of World War I that no salient thrust into the defender's position can be expanded rapidly and successfully if the shoulders of the salient are firmly held by the defender. The human cost of the Bastogne battle, therefore, probably was not out of proportion to the military gains achieved. The 101st Air-