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open? There is no certain answer. The episode of Ezell's task force can be read only through the fog of war as this is generated by the failure of communications, the complexity and unwieldiness of field command, and the natural, human proclivity for overrating (or underrating) the accomplishments of the enemy.[4]


"Drive Like Hell"


General Patton inspected the III Corps dispositions and divisions on 20 December, concluded that the corps concentration was proceeding satisfactorily, and the following day gave the order for attack at 0600 on the 22d. The corps scheme of maneuver, issued to the divisions in the early afternoon, was simple. The III Corps would advance north in the direction of St. Vith. The 80th Infantry Division, on the right, would maintain contact during its advance with the left wing of the XII Corps. The 26th Division would form the center. The 4th Armored Division would advance on the left- Bastogne lay in its zone.


The last of the eleven field artillery battalions which had been taken from active engagement on the old Third Army front to form the corps artillery arrived during the day. They had wheeled north at an average twenty-mile-per-hour clip. In addition the infantry divisions each had a tank battalion and a self-propelled tank destroyer battalion attached. To eke out some cover on the open west flank, Task Force Lyon, consisting of the 178th Engineer Combat Battalion with reinforcements, was assigned the task of erecting roadblocks and preparing bridges for demolition.


The Third Army commander's last instruction to his commanders reflected the admonition against a dribbling attack given by General Eisenhower: he (General Patton) favored an attack in column of regiments, "or in any case lots of depth." As usual Patton was optimistic. He felt certain that the enemy was unaware of the storm about to break, that German intelligence had not spotted the appearance of the 26th Division in the area, and that it did not know the exact location of the other two divisions. "Drive like hell," said Patton.


The 80th Division Advance


Despite hurried preparations the III Corps attack got off at the appointed hour on the 22d. The 80th Division, whose regiments earlier had assembled north of Luxembourg for the defense of that city, had as line of departure the Mersch-Arlon road on a front of five and a half miles.[5] During the night it was learned that the 109th Infantry of the dispersed 28th Division still was facing the enemy near Vichten, five miles to the north. This would give some cover for the development of the 80th Division attack; so McBride ordered his left wing regiment to pass through the


[4] 'Ezell's adventure was carefully checked at the time and is the subject of a special series of combat interviews.


[5] Very detailed coverage of the 80th Division operation will be found in the combat interviews. The division records are less useful than the AAR's and journals of the three infantry regiments. See also, Capt. Roy T. McGrann, The 610th Tank Destroyer Battalion (Pittsburgh, Pa.; Geyer Printing Company, 1946).