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The artillery support furnished the 5th Division, however, had been very effective; German records note it with considerable distaste. As might be expected of this pockmarked and tortuous ground, both sides speak with respect of the enemy's mortars.


By 26 December, the last day of full-fledged attack by the XII Corps against the Sauer salient, the Third Army was fully oriented on its new axis. With the 6th Armored Division en route from the south to join the XII Corps, it was possible to relieve the armor already in the zone and effect a general regrouping calculated to restore some organizational unity. CCA, 9th Armored, therefore, was ordered to Arlon and III Corps control; the 106th Infantry was restored to the 28th Infantry Division, still with the VIII Corps; the 10th Armored Division was directed to hand over its sector to the 6th Armored Division on 27 December and rejoin the XX Corps at Metz. General Patton, wishing to integrate his northern front a little better, redrafted the boundary between the III and XII Corps so that the 80th Infantry Division passed in place to the latter. This new intercorps boundary would originate in the north near Wiltz, run south toward Heiderscheid, and continue to a point below Merzig.


Neither Patton nor Eddy had a definite plan for the employment of the XII Corps once its immediate mission was accomplished and the anchor position of the Third Army opposite the German shoulder was secured. When it became apparent that the fight on the near bank of the Sauer was nearly finished, the corps commander made a tentative plan-probably at Patton's instigation-for an attack north over the Sure River and on toward Bitburg using his new armored division and the 10th Infantry. In addition Eddy asked Irwin's opinion on a river crossing by the 5th Infantry Division. General Irwin agreed that such a follow-up was "worth a thought," reasoning that "the West Wall line in front is weak and we have destroyed much of the garrison."


The Third Army commander finally decided that the 5th and 80th Infantry Divisions would hold the existing line while the 6th Armored moved west to the Bastogne sector and there attacked northward on the left of the 4th Armored Division. The corps front was duly re-formed, the 5th Division edging to the left to join the 80th and the 4th Infantry Division (now commanded by Brig. Gen. Harold W. Blakeley because General Barton had been evacuated by reason of illness) taking over a wider sector on the right. The corps commander did not immediately dismiss the idea of an attack east across the Sauer River and through the West Wall. This project was on-again-off-again until, on 2 January, Patton ordered that plans be made for a corps attack northward. The XII Corps front, however, would remain quiet until 18 January.