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dense woods alternate with rolling fields and clearings. The land is veined with roads, but of varying quality; at their interlacings are found the single farmhouse or the village of a half-dozen dwellings, all promising the phenomenon common to military operations in the Ardennesthe fight for the crossroad. Bastogne, with seven entrant roads, naturally dominates the road complex in this area whether movement be from east to west, as attempted by the XLVII Panzer Corps, or from south to north, as planned for the American III Corps. But in addition to the south-to-north highway from Arlon to Bastogne, there are main roads branching from Arlon to the northeast and northwest, thus offering some flexibility of maneuver. Only one main road south of Bastogne runs east and west, that from Luxembourg City through Arlon to Neufchateau. This road would form the base of operations for the III Corps. (See Map IX.)


The enemy situation on the new III Corps front was obscure. The Bastogne garrison knew little of the German deployment beyond the encircling units in direct contact, while the VIII Corps' screen, behind which the III Corps was forming, had been too weak to fight for information. The situation along most of the tenuous and sketchy VIII Corps line was indeed so confused that the location of friendly roadblocks or outposts could hardly be plotted. On the day before the counterattack it was known that the German columns had carried to and beyond Bastogne. It was presumed that the Arlon-Bastogne road had been cut, but this was not certain. Elements of four German divisions were supposed to be in the line opposite the III Corps: the 5th Parachute and the 212th, 276th, and 352d Volks Grenadier Divisions. All but the 5th Parachute had been identified days earlier as belonging to the Seventh Army. What these enemy divisions could do and what they intended to do quite literally was any man's guess. The III Corps attack would have to push off through a fragmentary screen of friendly troops whose positions were uncertain, against an enemy whose exact location was unknown, over terrain which had not been scouted by the Third Army.


The enemy was equally in the dark as to the III Corps capabilities and intentions. The 26th Infantry Division could not be located by German intelligence after it left Metz and would not be identified as present in its new sector until two days after the American drive commenced. The enemy traced the 80th into Luxembourg, but on 22 December believed it was reinforcing "remnants" of the 4th Infantry Division in a purely defensive role.


When General Millikin and his staff settled into the Arlon headquarters on 20 December, with only two days to go before the counterattack target date, the divisions that made up the attack force were either still on the move or were barely completing their shift. The 26th Infantry Division was en route from Metz to Arlon; the 80th Division had just closed into an assembly area near Luxembourg City after a march of 150 miles; the 4th Armored Division had reached Arlon and was trying to find its assembly area on the Arlon-Neufchateau road. Nor were the three divisions equally ready for return to the fray.


The 26th Division (Maj. Gen. Willard S. Paul) was full of rifle replacements, mostly inexperienced and lacking recent