Page 544


country but against little opposition and by nightfall of the 24th was near the
bridge site at Bonnal. On the extreme left flank at Bilsdorf, Company C
of the 249th Engineer Combat Battalion was on reconnaissance when it was
struck by a much larger enemy force deployed in the village. The company
commander, Capt. A. J. Cissna, elected to stay behind and cover his men
as they withdrew from Bilsdorf; he fought alone until he was killed. Cissna
was awarded the DSC posthumously. The 1st Battalion of the 328th (Lt. Col.
W. A. Callanan), aided by the 2d Battalion, 101st Infantry, found a rear
guard group of the Fuehrer Grenadier Brigade holed up in Arsdorf, near
the division west boundary, and spent the night of the 24th digging the
grenadiers out of attics and cellars. By midmorning Arsdorf was in hand
and the left flank of the 26th Division was fairly secure except for Bigonville,
three miles northwest, which now passed into the division zone as CCR,
4th Armored Division, left that village to play a new role on the western
flank of the corps.


But the main mission of the 26th Division, to make a crossing at the Sure River, had yet to be accomplished when Task Force Hamilton started the fight at Eschdorf on the night of 24 December. General Paul, beset by incessant urging from the III Corps commander, passed the word to his two forward regiments that the attack must get into high gear, then sent a message to General Millikin that he hoped to seize the Sure crossing before daylight on Christmas Day. Pitched battles at Eschdorf and Arsdorf so entangled the division that the idea of a general movement forward had to be abandoned, particularly when on Christmas Day an additional battalion had to be committed at both of these towns. Although troops of the two attacking regiments were within sight of the river on Christmas Eve they found that there would be no surprise crossing. In the zone of the 104th Infantry the enemy, alerted by the presence of the two companies of the 319th, had strengthened his position at the opposite end of the Heiderscheidergrund bridge and it was apparent that a crossing site would have to be sought elsewhere. On the left the 3d Battalion of the 328th Infantry (Lt. Col. Arthur C. Tillison) reached the bare hill above Bonnal on Christmas morning, just in time to see the last German half-track cross the bridge before it was blown.


The corps commander now released the 101st Infantry from reserve and ordered General Paul to "keep going" and get to Wiltz, four miles the other side of the Sure. Paul planned to relieve the 328th with his reserve regiment, but while arrangements were being made, on the night of the 25th, word flashed back that a bridge had been captured and that the 3d Battalion was crossing. This episode of the Bonnal bridge is an apt-and instructive-example of the "fog of war." The bridge actually had been destroyed eight to ten hours earlier, but it was nearly midnight before the 328th Infantry was able to ascertain that none of its troops had got across the river. Bad news never comes singly. The 104th Infantry had to report that the Germans had blown up one span of the bridge at Heiderscheidergrund.


The Sure River is in itself not too difficult an obstacle, at its widest point no more than twenty-five yards across. The current is not swift, and there are