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force reached their comrades by Christmas morning.


The appearance of the 75th Infantry Division (Maj. Gen. Fay B. Prickett) in the 3d Armored sector promised the needed rifle strength to establish a solid defense in the rugged country east of Hotton and along the bluffs of the Aisne River. To establish a homogeneous line the Americans would have to seize the high, wooded, and difficult ground south of the Soy-Hotton road, and at the same time push forward on the left to close up to the banks of the Aisne over the tortuous terrain south of the Erezee-Grandmenil road. With the two regiments of the 75th attached to the 3d Armored (the 289th Infantry and the 290th Infantry), General Rose ordered a drive to cement the CCA wing in the west.


The units of the 75th had been scattered in widely separated areas after their arrival in Belgium. A smooth-running supply system had not yet been set up, and to concentrate and support the rifle battalions would prove difficult. But the 290th (Col. Carl F. Duffner), which had been moving into a defensive position around Petit Han, north of Hotton, received orders at 1600 on the 24th to assemble at Ny for an attack to begin two hours later. There ensued much confusion, with orders and counterorders, and finally the attack was rescheduled for a half-hour before midnight. The regiment had no idea of the ground over which it was to fight but did know that the line of departure was then held by a battalion or less of the 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment deployed along the Soy-Hotton road. The 2d and 3d Battalions of the 290th were chosen for this first battle, their objective the wooded ridge south of the road.


About midnight on the 24th the battalions started their assault companies forward, crossing a small stream and ravine, then halting to reorganize at a tree line which edged a broad meadow over which the assault had to be carried. Here all was confusion and the companies were not straightened out until dawn. Finally the assault began, straight across the open, snow-covered meadow beyond which lay the ridge line objective. Losses among these green troops were severe and most of the officers were killed or wounded. Despite this harsh baptism of fire the troops reached the wood cover at the foot of the ridge and held on. In midafternoon more infantry came up (probably from the 517th), plus a platoon of tank destroyers, and a fresh assault was now organized. This carried through the woods and onto the ridge. Participants in the action later estimated that the 3d Battalion, 290th Infantry, alone suffered 250 casualties, but this figure probably is exaggerated. [11]


Farther east the 289th Infantry also had a rough introduction to battle on rugged terrain far more difficult than any training ground in the States. On the night of 24 December the regiment moved by truck to Fanzel, north of Erezee, there receiving orders to attack at 0800 the next morning and seize the high ground north of the Aisne. Early on Christmas morning, as already related, the 3d Battalion was hastily thrown into the fight being waged by the 3d Armored troops west of Grandmenil. By the hour set for the 289th to attack,


[11] Capt. David C. Clagett, Study for the Advanced Infantry Officers Course, Class 1.