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VII Corps flank at Ciney. He told the First Army commander, therefore, that the XVIII Airborne Corps must be withdrawn to a shorter, straighter line and that the VII Corps could be released from "all offensive missions." General Collins might, on his own volition, draw the left wing of the VII Corps back on the line Hotton-Manhay, conforming to Ridgway's regroupment. [4]


The American line to be formed during the night of 24 December was intended to have a new look. The 82d Airborne would pull back to a much shorter front extending diagonally from Trois Ponts southwest to Vaux Chavanne, just short of Manhay. CCA of the 7th Armored would withdraw to the low hills north of Manhay and Grandmenil (although Colonel Rosebaum protested that the high ground now occupied by his command south and southeast of Manhay was tactically superior) and retain a combat outpost in the valley at Manhay itself. The 3d Armored task forces had been promised support in the form of the 289th Infantry, due to arrive on Christmas Eve; so Hickey mapped his new position to rest on the Aisne River with its east flank tied to Grandmenil and its west resting on Amonines. Since the 289th, a green regiment, would be put into an attack on the morning of the 25th to clear the Germans out of the woods near Grandmenil, Hickey decided that Task Force Kane would have to remain in its covering position at Freyneux and Lamormenil while the 289th assembled, and that Task Force Brewster-thus far exposed only to desultory attack-would have to hold on at the Manhay road until the 7th Armored had redressed its lines.


A glance at the map will show how difficult the series of American maneuvers begun on Christmas Eve would be and how tricky to coordinate, particularly in the Manhay sector. Yet it was precisely in this part of the front that communications had not been thoroughly established and that tactical cohesion had not as yet been secured. As shown by later events, communication between the 3d Armored and the 7th Armored commanders and staffs failed miserably. There had been so many revisions of plans, orders, and counterorders during the 24th that Colonel Rosebaum did not receive word of his new retrograde mission until 1800. The withdrawal of CCA, 7th Armored, and the elements of CCB, 9th Armored, south and southeast of Manhay was scheduled to begin at 2230and most of these troops and parts of the 3d Armored would have to pass through Manhay.


Toward Manhay, on the night of 24 December, the main body of the 2d SS Panzer Division was moving. The seizure of Odeigne the night before had opened a narrow sally port facing Grandmenil and Manhay, but there was no road capable of handling a large armored column between Odeigne and the 2d SS Panzer assembly areas south of the Baraque de Fraiture. On the 24th the commander of the 3d Panzer Grenadier Regiment secured General Lammerding's approval to postpone a further advance until the German engineers could build a road through the woods to Odeigne. By nightfall on Christmas Eve this road was ready-and the Allied fighter-bombers had returned to their bases. The 3d Panzer Gren-


[4] Collins' decision is described in Chapter XXII.