snow made it easy to follow the routes assigned. (Overhead the buzzbombs could be traced on their flight to Antwerp.) At only two points did the enemy interfere with the marching columns of the 82d Airborne, and at only one of these by design. After the debacle at La Gleize, Colonel Peiper and some 800 of his kampfgruppe had taken refuge in the densely wooded and broken ground north of Trois Ponts, waiting for an opportunity to cross the Salm and rejoin their comrades of the 1st SS Panzer. The hour chosen by Peiper coincided with the move made by the 50th Parachute Infantry as it pivoted on Trois Ponts back from the river. The two forces, both attempting to withdraw, brushed against each other and one company of the 505th got into a brief but hot fire with Peiper's men. Colonel Ekman, however, had a mission to complete before day dawned and with General Gavin's permission the 505th let Peiper go.
The second action this night was no accident. It involved the covering force of the 508th, led by Lt. Col. Thomas Shanley, in what the regiment later recorded as "one of the best pieces of fighting in the 508th's history." The main body started on the seven-mile trek to its new line with no sign of the enemy and by 0415 was in position. Some time around midnight the covering platoons near the Vielsalm bridge site (one each from Companies A and B) heard much noise and hammering coming from the direction of the bridge, which the airborne engineers had partially demolished. Suddenly artillery and mortar shells erupted around the American foxhole line, a barrage followed by smoke shells. Out of the smoke rose dark figures, whooping and yelling as they charged the paratroopers. The platoon from Company B had a few moments to get set and then stopped the grenadiers with machine gun fire before they could reach the position. The Company A platoon, closer to the river's edge, had a worse time of it. Here a few of the enemy got into the American position, while others blocked the withdrawal route to the west. At one point the 508th wrote this platoon off as lost; but skillfully led by 1st Lt. George D. Lamm the paratroopers fought their way through the enemy and back to their own lines.
The 19th Regiment, which had hit the paratroopers at Vielsalm, followed the American spoor doggedly, despite the laggard pace of the rest of the division, and in the early afternoon of 25 December was observed in Odrimont, a couple of miles from the 508th outpost line. That night the 19th hit the regimental left, with perhaps two battalions making the assault, but was beaten back after a three-hour fire fight. Two nights later the 19th struck again, this time driving on a narrow front against the right wing of the 508th. Company G was driven out of the twin villages of Erria and Villettes where it was bivouacked, but this penetration came to an abrupt halt when two artillery battalions went to work. The following morning the commander of the 3d Battalion (Lt. Col. Louis G. Mendez) organized a counterattack which swept through Erria (catching a number of the tired grenadiers still asleep in captured bedrolls) and restored the line. The American gunners had done much to take the sting out of the enemy force over 100 German dead were counted