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the large bridgehead cities, and maintain patrols, much less make an adequate defense against any crossing attempt in force.


As of noon, 21 December, Brig. Gen. Ewart C. Plank reported that the vital crossings at Liege, Huy, Namur, and Givet were guarded only by the 29th Infantry (a separate regiment assigned to line of communications duty), two antiaircraft gun battalions, two antitank guns, four British scout cars, and a British reconnaissance force of 300 men. The great bridgehead city of Liege had as crossing guards only two rifle companies and two cannon company platoons. The bridges at Liege and other nearby points presented a special problem. The V-bomb barrage directed into the area and German bombing planes made any installation of demolition charges on the bridge structures a hazardous business. Fearful that these important spans would be prematurely destroyed by sympathetic explosion, the engineers could do no more than collect explosives and detonating devices in the vicinity of, but not on, the bridges in question.


Although the crossings north of the bend in the Meuse still were weakly held on the 21st, the danger of a successful enemy penetration beyond the river had lessened. The movement of the 30 Corps, begun late on the 19th, was not designed to erect a linear defense for every yard of the Meuse line but instead was the first phase of Field Marshal Montgomery's plan to create a counterattack force capable of dealing with any German columns which might reach and cross the river. By the afternoon of the 20th the British 43d Division and an attached tank brigade were west of Maastricht, poised to roll up the flank of any penetration across the Meuse.


Next day the new disposition of the 30 Corps was completed. The 29th Armoured Brigade had returned to its battle-worn tanks and armored cars and was established along the river between Namur and Givet. The 2d Household Cavalry Regiment, already on the river line for the past twenty-four hours, crossed the Meuse and pushed reconnaissance as far as Marche and Rochefort, meeting American patrols but no enemy. By the close of the day, General Horrocks could decide and did that now it was possible to hold the enemy at the Meuse line. The British responsibility, be it remembered, extended only as far south as Givet and did not include the actual defense of the bridges at Liege.


On the night of 23 December a jeep load of Germans dressed as Americans appeared at Dinant, one of the few actual materializations of the oftrumored saboteur parties. The jeep and its crew were captured by a British post. It was a little late for such tactics. By this time each of the main crossings-Givet, Dinant, and Namur-was guarded by an armored regiment and a rifle company, and it is a fair assumption that the opportunity for a German coup de main in the British-held sector was gone by the 23d. [4] In the VIII Corps sector south of Givet the possibility of a surprise stroke still existed on this date, for there remained a number of weak links in the Meuse chain, but the odds were increasing that the defender could at


[4] On 23 December Montgomery ordered all demolition charges removed from the bridges in the British sector. SHAEF SGS 381/2 Germany, German Counter Offensive, vol. I.