defended and German tanks, more likely than not, would be found guarding the main road. The 37th Tank Battalion had lost tanks here and there along the way and had no more than twenty Shermans in operation. The 53d Armored Infantry Battalion, weak to begin with, now was short 230 men. The two battalion commanders, Abrams and Jaques, stood by the road discussing the next move and watching what looked like hundreds of cargo planes flying overhead en route to drop supplies to the 101st when Abrams suggested that they try a dash through Assenois straight into Bastogne. It was true that Sibret was next on the CCR itinerary, but it was known to be strongly held and Bastogne was the 4th Armored Division objective. Jaques agreed.
Abrams radioed Capt. William Dwight, the battalion S-3, to bring the C Team forward. It was now about 1520. Another message, this time through the artillery liaison officer, gave the plan to the 94th Armored Field Artillery Battalion and asked that the 101st Airborne be told that the armor was coming in. The 94th already was registered to fire on Assenois, but there was little time in which to transmit data to the division artillery or arrange a fire plan. CCR alone among the combat commands had no telephone wire in. Continuous wave radio could not be counted on. Frequency modulation was working fairly well, but all messages would have to be relayed. Despite these handicaps, in fifteen minutes three artillery battalions borrowed from CCB (the 22d, 253d, and 776th) were tied in to make the shoot at Assenois when the call came.
Colonel Abrams had entrusted Captain Dwight with the shock troops (Company C of the 37th Tank Battalion and Company C of the 53d Armored Infantry Battalion), telling him: "It's the push!" By 1620 all was ready and the team moved out, Shermans leading and half-tracks behind. Abrams stayed glued to his radio. At 1634 he checked with the 94th Field Artillery Battalion and asked if he could get the concentration on Assenois at a minute's notice. Exactly one minute later the tank company commander, 1st Lt. Charles Boggess, called from the lead tank. Colonel Abrams passed the word to the artillery, "Concentration Number Nine, play it soft and sweet." A TOT could hardly be expected with existing communications, but the thirteen batteries (an unlucky number for the enemy) sent ten volleys crashing onto Assenois.
Eight antitank guns were sited around the village; here and there a gun crew fired a wild shot before a shell blasted the piece or the furious fire of the Sherman machine guns drove the cannoneers to their holes. At the dip in the road on the village edge Lieutenant Boggess called for the artillery to lift, then plunged ahead without waiting to see whether the 94th had his message. So close did the attack follow the artillery that not a hostile shot was fired as the tanks raced into the streets. The center of the village was almost as dark as night, the sun shut out by smoke and dust. Two tanks made a wrong turn. One infantry half-track got into the tank column; another was knocked out when an American shell exploded nearby. The initial fire plan had called for the battery of 155's to plaster the center of the town, and these shells still were coming in when the infantry half-tracks entered the streets. Far more vulnerable to the rain of shell fragments than the tankers,