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with some critical remarks about the original failure to apprehend the importance of Bastogne. He then proceeded to tell the assemblage that the Ardennes offensive, as planned, was at an end, that Bastogne had become the "central problem," and that the German High Command viewed the forthcoming battle as an "opportunity," an opportunity to win a striking victory or at the least to chew up the enemy divisions which would be poured into the fight. The operation would be in three phases: first, close the ring once again around Bastogne; second, push the Americans back to the south; third, with reinforcements now on the way, take Bastogne in a final assault.


Army Group Luettwitz would conduct the fight to restore the German circle with the XXXIX and XLVII Panzer Corps, the first attacking east to west, the second striking west to east. A number of the divisions en route to Bastogne had not yet arrived and the attack set for the 30th would be neither as strong nor as coordinated as Manteuffel would wishbut he was under pressure from his superiors and could entertain no further delay. The eastern assault force comprised the much understrength and crippled 1st SS Panzer and the 167th Volks Grenadier Divisions; its drive was to be made via Lutrebois toward Assenois. The attack from the west would be spearheaded by the Fuehrer Begleit advancing over Sibret and hammering the ring closed. The 3d Panzer Grenadier Division was to advance in echelon to the left of Remer's brigade while the remnants of the 26th Volks Grenadier Division and 15th Panzer Grenadier Division screened to the west and north of Bastogne. The timing for the arrival of the incoming reinforcements-the 12th SS Panzer, the 9th SS Panzer, and the 340th Volks Grenadier Divisions-was problematical.


The Contact


Generalmajor Walter Denkert, commanding the 3d Panzer Grenadier Division, planned to attack at 0730 on 30 December because of the predisposition the Germans had noted (and on which they had capitalized many times) for the Americans to delay the start of the day's operations until about eight or nine o'clock in the morning. His division expected to move south through the Bois de Fragotte (between Chenogne and Senonchamps), then swing southeast to retake Villeroux. The attack plan was intended to pave the way for Remer's brigade (attached to the 3d Panzer Grenadier Division since Denkert was the senior commander) to seize Sibret and permit the combined force to debouch against Assenois and Hompre. The Americans, as it turned out, were not as dilatory as had been anticipated-both their attack divisions were moving north by 0730. Remer also kept to his time schedule.


The Fuehrer Begleit advance was geared for a one-two punch at Sibret. The battalion of Remer's panzer grenadiers, which had clashed briefly with Task Force Collins in Chenogne the previous evening, moved out over the snow-covered fields to pry an opening on the north edge of Sibret, while the Fuehrer Begleit tank group-carrying a battalion of grenadierswaited in Chenogne to move forward on a parallel trail which passed through Flohimont