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roads to Paris and Liege with hundreds of jeeps carrying enemy saboteurs or raiding parties in American uniform. Belgian or French cafe keepers who for weeks had been selling vin ordinaire, watered cognac, and sour champagne to the GI's suddenly were elevated by rumor, suspicion, and hysteria to captaincies in the Waffen-SS. Ladies of no certain virtue who so far forgot themselves as to use some Teutonic phrase picked up from their clients during the years of German occupation found themselves explaining this linguistic lapse to the military police or Counterintelligence Corps agents with far more earnestness than they had ever shown in justifying a moral lapse to agent or flic. The American officer who had the misfortune to appear on the heels of the most recent rumor in some headquarters where he was unknown stood a good chance of being welcomed with a cocked pistol leveled at his belt buckle. Jeep drivers who had forgotten their grade school geography quickly brushed up on the list of the forty-eight state capitals after having been stopped six or seven times by guards who thrust the muzzle of an Ml into the driver's seat with a gruff demand for a quick identification of the capital of Alabama or Oregon. Field grade officers tried once to "rank" their way past a barricade, then resigned themselves to singing the first bars of "Mairzy Doats" for the edification of an adamant young private. And the heavily wrapped, pregnant farm wife who wished to cross any bridge found her delicate condition a cause of considerable embarrassment both to herself and the suspicious bridge guards. [2]


In the first days of the German advance, security measures along the Meuse had been handled by the commanders of installations in the army rear areas. By the 20th this responsibility, particularly along the Meuse south of Givet, had been largely handed over to the Communications Zone and its commander, Lt. Gen. John C. H. Lee. General Lee's responsibility of course reached far west of the Meuse. Guards had to be provided for the great supply dumps and headquarters cities, so also for rail lines, pipelines, supply roads, and the French telephone and telegraph system. Far to the west in Normandy supply troops went on the alert against a possible raid by the German garrisons of the Channel Islands. In Paris, the GI's Mecca, soldiers on leave were rounded up and started back to their units; those who remained in the City of Light found night life drastically curtailed by a rigidly enforced curfew.


Four engineer general service regiments could be assembled for the Meuse line but would require some time to make the move. The commander of the Oise Intermediate Section of the Communications Zone, Brig. Gen. Charles 0. Thrasher, had two locally available engineer units, the 354th and 1313th Engineer General Service Regiments, and these were organized as Task Force Thrasher on 20 December, beginning at once the work of preparing the Meuse rail and road bridges for demolition. Shortly afterward General Thrasher was authorized to blow these bridges if their


[2] For a Belgian view of the German offensive, see Paul Levy, Les Heures Rouges des Ardennes (Bruxelles, 1946). It may be added that not a single act of sabotage at the Meuse crossings was reported during the entire Ardennes campaign. Headquarters Advance Section, G-3, History of Operations: December 1943-1 July 1945.