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mission, assigned before the Third Army began its counterattack, was changed on the evening of 21 December, and so was its route, now menaced by the 80th Division advance on Ettelbruck. Trying to cross the Our River at the Roth bridges, the brigade ran into trouble. The bridges had been damaged by attack from the air, and traffic was backed up for miles on both sides of the river. Untrained drivers and mechanical failures further delayed the brigade as its columns entered the icy, narrow, twisting roads of the Ardennes, but by 23 December the reconnaissance battalion, a rifle battalion in armored carriers, and two tank companies had reached Eschdorf and Heiderscheid. Gravely concerned by the rate of the American advance, the Seventh Army commander sidetracked these troops short of the Bastogne sector to restore the gap which was opening between the 5th Parachute Division and the 352d Volks Grenadier Division, and, as already noted, the main body went in on on the 23d to stop the 80th Division at Heiderscheid. A part of the battalion of armored infantry marched south from Eschdorf and succeeded in getting cut off by the 26th Division night attack at Grevels-Bresil.


The heavy losses suffered by the green brigade in its first hours of battle had a marked adverse impact on the morale of the entire command. Many times, in subsequent days of battle, higher commanders would comment on the damage done the brigade by piecemeal commitment and defeat in its baptism of fire. The loss of the brigade commander, Col. Hans-Joachim Kahler, further demoralized the Fuehrer Grenadier. For successive days the command changed hands as new elements of the brigade arrived under more senior officers; this lack of leadership hardly was calculated to restore the shaken confidence of young, inexperienced troops. Yet despite these early reverses in the counterattack role the young soldiers of the brigade would prove tough and tenacious on the defensive.


On the morning of the 24th the Fuehrer Grenadier Brigade, still without artillery and with half of its tanks and infantry still east of the Our River, stood opposite the inner wings of the American 26th and 80th Divisions. The force of perhaps two rifle companies which had been cut off by the 26th Division south of Eschdorf was known to be fighting its way out to the east. The LXXXV Corps commander therefore decided to use his incoming reinforcements-infantry of the 79th Volks Grenadier Division-in a counterattack to regain contact with the lost companies somewhere around Eschdorf. This would be followed by a pivot to the east, intended to strike the Americans in the flank at Heiderscheid. For this maneuver Col. Alois Weber, commanding the 79th, had available one regiment, the 208th, and a single battalion of the 212th. His division, like the Fuehrer Grenadier Brigade, had encountered the traffic jam at the Our River and while crossing on the Gentingen bridge had been further delayed by American fighter-bombers. The assault gun battalion and tanks from the Fuehrer Grenadier were at Weber's disposal, but his artillery regiment was missing, entangled someplace on the road east