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commander, Brandenberger, had feared that the 80th Division would drive across the Sure during the course of the night and sever the main line of communications leading to the west. By the morning of the 24th, however, reinforcements had arrived and the threat of a clean, quick American penetration was on the wane. The LXXXV Corps (Kniess) thus far had faced the American III Corps with only two divisions, the 5th Parachute and the 352d. Despite the Seventh Army apprehension that two divisions would not possibly hold the long blocking line from Ettelbruck to Vaux-lez-Rosieres and despite daily requests that OKW release additional divisions to the army to strengthen this line, the German High Command was slow to dip into its strategic reserve.


The two larger units earmarked for employment by the Seventh Army were the Fuehrer Grenadier Brigade and the 79th Volks Grenadier Division. Both were a considerable distance to the rear and both were equipped with the conglomeration of makeshift, battle-weary vehicles that was the lot of those divisions not scheduled to join in the original breakthrough and penetration. Even when they were released from the OKW Reserve, it would be a matter of days-not hours-before the mass of either unit could be placed in the front lines. When OKW finally responded to the pleas of the Seventh Army, the most optimistic estimates placed the Fuehrer Grenadier Brigade and the 79th Volks Grenadier Division in the LXXXV Corps area on the morning of 23 December.


Neither of these two formations was rated as having a high combat value. Theoretically the Fuehrer Grenadier Brigade, a younger brother of the elite Grossdeutschland Panzer Division and like it charged with guarding Hitler's headquarters (albeit as the outer guard), should have been one of the first of the Wehrmacht formations. In fact this brigade was of very recent vintage, had suffered intense losses in East Prussia during its single commitment as a unit, and was not fully refitted when finally sent marching to the west. Replacements, drawn from the same pool as those for the Grossdeutschland and the Fuehrer Begleit Brigade, were hand-picked from the younger classes but had little training. The Fuehrer Grenadier Brigade numbered some six thousand men, had a rifle regiment mounted on armored half-tracks and 1 1/2-ton trucks, a reconnaissance battalion, an assault gun battalion, and a mixed tank battalion made up of Mark IV's and Panthers. The 79th Volks Grenadier Division possessed an old Wehrmacht number but, as it stood at the time of its commitment in the Ardennes, was a green division the bulk of whose riflemen had been combed out of headquarters troops in early December. Woefully under-strength in both transportation and supporting weapons, it had neither a flak battalion nor an assault gun battalion and would be forced to lean heavily on its artillery regiment.


The Fuehrer Grenadier Brigade, the first to start for the battle front, was ordered to take the road from Ettelbruck to Martelange and there deploy in support of the 5th Parachute Division. [13] Its


[13] The history of the Fuehrer Grenadier Brigade is included in Die Geschichte Des Panzerkorps Grossdeutschland, II, pp. 735ff. For other German units facing the XII Corps see MSS # B-023 (Heilmann); B-067 (Schmidt); B-030 (Kniess); and the German Seventh Army B.T.O., Taetigkeitsbericht, 2. Halbjahr, 944.