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into the battle for control of the Marche plateau. Manteuffel could hardly disengage from Bastogne and turn the fight over to the Seventh Army (indeed, this was not the Fuehrer's intention), but it was crystal clear that the 2d Panzer Division advance guard had to be reinforced and the narrow wedge it had driven toward the Meuse had to be expanded into a pile driver blow to cross that river. [5]


Manteuffel's immediate tactical problem had four parts: the road to the isolated 2d Panzer advance guard must be reopened, [6] both for tank fuel and reinforcements; the northern flank of the salient reaching toward Dinant would have to be covered at once and in considerable strength; in the southwest where signs of an American concentration were appearing the southern side of the corridor toward the Meuse must be barricaded, perhaps as far back as Bastogne; finally, the assault front in the center required greater width and depth on the Marche plateau. The solution of this problem demanded more strength than the Fifth Panzer Army, with its tail caught in the crack at Bastogne, could amass.


Manteuffel had been promised at least three more divisions, Jodl had assured him that the II SS Panzer Corps was being rushed forward by the Sixth Panzer Army to take over the fight on his right wing east of the Ourthe River, and he had reason to expect that the 9th Panzer Division would arrive in time to take part in the attack planned for Christmas Day. For this attack, primarily designed to reach the "extended index finger" (as one German report calls it) formed by the advance detachment of the 2d Panzer in the woods around Foy-Notre Dame, Manteuffel counted on a drive by the bulk of the 2d Panzer to reach its cut-off troops while the Panzer Lehr attacked Humain and Buissonville to reopen the line of communication.


In addition the Fifth Panzer Army commander had plans to employ the divisions already in this northwestern sector as the vertebrae on which a full-bodied and integrated salient could be developed reaching to and overlapping the Meuse. The right shoulder of the expanding salient would, in Manteuffel's plan, be formed by the 116th Panzer Division. This unit was now in full force on the west bank of the Ourthe, had penetrated the American line at Verdenne, and was in position to bring artillery fire on the Hotton-Marche road. The objective given the 116th Panzer, therefore, was the town of Baillonville (north of Marche), from where it could block an Allied attack southward along the highway from Liege to Marche. The 9th Panzer Division, upon arrival, was ticketed to take position on the right of the Panzer Lehr, thus beefing up the 2d Panzer attack in the center. This was the German plan for 25 December.


The Celles Pocket


Although the VII Corps had become involved in a defensive battle, General Collins still expected to launch the corps counterattack which would signal the beginning of aggressive operations against the north flank of the Bulge. In midafternoon on 24 December General Harmon telephoned the VII Corps command post and asked permission to throw another combat command of his 2d Armored Division against elements of the 2d Panzer which had been identified in the neighborhood of Ciney and Celles. (See Map VIII.) The corps commander was away from the command post visiting his divisions; so the call was taken by the corps artillery commander, Brig. Gen. Williston B. Palmer. Palmer knew that the First Army had attached strings to any wholesale commitment of Harmon's division and that Hodges' consent and probably Montgomery's would be needed before more of the 2d Armored was unleashed. He therefore told Harmon to wait-it was too late in the day to launch an attack in any case-until the corps commander reached the 2d Armored command post. Harmon was persistent and called again asking for "immediate authority." Palmer, sorely tempted to give Harmon the permission he needed, reluctantly steeled himself and told Harmon to await Collins' appearance at the 2d Armored command post.


A few minutes later Palmer had a call from the First Army chief of staff, General Kean, who said that Collins was authorized to use all his corps and could change his defensive line. In guarded words Kean asked Palmer if he saw "a town A and a town H" on the map and then mentioned a "pivoting move." Palmer, imbued with Collins' attack philosophy and eager to give the green light to the 2d Armored, looked hastily at the map spread before him, picked out two villages southwest of Ciney and forward of the 2d Armored positions: Achene and (Le) Houisse. This looked


[5] Manteuffel"s recollections of this period are very vivid: see MS # B-151a.


[6] See Chapter XVIII for the earlier story of the 2d Panzer advance guard.