major assault against the Rhine and Germany itself.
Meanwhile the XII Corps had the task of cleaning out the German positions in the small forests and wood lots between the Saar and the West Wall so that no entanglement in these outworks would dull the full shock of the hard blow which was being readied. For this mission General Eddy employed two infantry divisions, the new 87th and the veteran 35th, their attack to begin on 16 December.
The fighting was extremely bitter, and the enemy made the Americans pay dearly for each yard gained toward the West Wall. The superiority of the attacker in men and materiel, however, as usual was clearing the field, a fact of battlefield life that was all too evident to the German defenders. On the night of 16 December the commander of the XC Corps, facing Eddy's divisions, warned his superiors that the German line was so thin and ragged that if the Americans decided on an all-out attack neither the existing battle line nor the West Wall could be held. But in this instance the calculated risk assumed by Hitler in stripping the Army Group G sector to feed troops and weapons into Army Group B paid off. It turned out that the battered and weakened German divisions in front of the XII Corps had done their job, had held long enough.
To take the pressure off the XII Corps infantry Patton was preparing to bolster the attack with the 6th Armored Division when General Bradley informed the Third Army commander of the day's happenings on the VIII Corps front. The army group commander ordered that the 10th Armored be dispatched to Middleton forthwith. this move from the Third Army to begin on the 17th. General Morris started his division north, and Patton canceled the 6th Armored attack which had been poised in front of Forbach-one of the few occasions on which the Third Army commander called off an attack that he personally had ordered. So far as the Third Army staff knew at this stage, however, the German blow in the Ardennes presented no dire threat and the attack on the 19th would go as scheduled.
But on 18 December Bradley called Patton to his Luxembourg headquarters, and there Patton learned for the first time of the grave situation faced by the First Army. When asked what help he could give, the Third Army commander replied that he could intervene in the battle with three divisions "very shortly." He telephoned the Third Army chief of staff to stop the XII Corps attack forming for the following day and to prepare the 4th Armored and 80th Infantry Divisions for immediate transfer to Luxembourg. The 87th Division halted its slow advance, as did the 35th. On the move out of rest area for assembly in preparation for the XII Corps' attack, the 4th Armored and 80th likewise stopped.
When it became apparent by nightfall of the 18th that the situation on the First Army front had deteriorated beyond expectation, General Bradley decided upon immediate use of the Third Army's resources. Patton had returned to his command post at Nancy when, a couple of hours before midnight, Bradley called with word that conditions on the VIII Corps front were much worse, that the troops promised by the Third Army had to move at once, and that Patton was to attend a meeting with the Supreme Commander the following morning at Ver-