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capture appeared imminent. [3] Earlier this decision had rested with the tactical commands. One can only speculate as to what would have happened if a German armored column had kept to schedule and reached one of the important bridges before the bridge guards received authority to destroy the span.


On 22 and 23 December, the 342d, 392d, 366th, and 1308th Engineer Regiments took up positions along the Meuse, reinforced by a field artillery battalion, a regimental antitank company, and six French light infantry battalions provided by the military governor of Metz. These recently organized French troops were poorly equipped with a motley collection of small arms and a few trucks but they proved very useful in screening the military and civilian traffic along the roads leading to the Meuse, both east and west of the river. All of these troops and the responsibility for the sector Givet to Verdun were handed over to the VIII Corps on the 23d by orders of the Third Army commander, who by now had command on the south side of the Bulge.


Even at this late date Middleton and Patton had some apprehension that the enemy columns might make a left wheel on the east or west bank of the Meuse and drive for Sedan. There was no definition of the VIII Corps rear boundary; as the corps commander saw his responsibility, "a vast area was involved." Not only were the corps west flank and rear open to a German turning movement but the main corps supply line, over which Middleton's troops were being re-equipped, could be cut by raids directed against the Semois and Chiers Rivers, eastern tributaries of the Meuse. Corps engineers were stationed at crossings as far west as Bouillon, and the Semois bridges west of Bouillon that had not been destroyed by the Germans during the September retreat were blown.


The enemy did not turn against the VIII Corps east-west line, and the added burden of defending the Meuse between Givet and Semois, accorded Middleton on the 23d, rested more lightly when a part of the 11th Armored Division reached the west bank on the following day. This division, moving by forced marches from Normandy, closed on the 25th; its commander, Brig. Gen. Charles S. Kilburn, took charge of all troops in the sector. The 17th Airborne Division, ordered from the United Kingdom at the same time as the 11th Armored, was delayed by bad weather which grounded its carrier planes. It finally closed at Charleville on 27 December, by which date the threat south of Givet had faded.


The German panzer forces, had actually aimed at crossing the Meuse between Givet and Liege. Montgomery had reacted promptly to the danger posed by the onrushing 1st SS Panzer Division, but with his 21 Army Group caught off balance in the middle of its shift from south to north the plans and orders of the 19th could be implemented but slowly and in sketchy form. The American Communications Zone personnel and the few British troops who took over the bridges were hardly enough to prepare demolitions, screen the traffic passing back and forth over the river in


[3] The more general impact of the Ardennes on the American supply bases and logistical system is treated in Roland G. Ruppenthal, Logistical Support of the Armies, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1959), vol. II,