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jaw of the hastily constructed German vise-the 1st SS Panzer attack?


The 1st SS Panzer was still licking its wounds after the disastrous fight as advance guard of the Sixth Panzer Army, when Model ordered the division to move south, beginning 26 December. Most of its tanks were in the repair shops, fuel was short, and some units did not leave for Bastogne until the afternoon of the 29th. This march was across the grain of the German communications net and became badly snarled in the streets of Houffalize, where Allied air attacks had caused a major traffic jam, that forced tank units to move only in small groups. It is probable that fewer than fifty tanks reached the Bastogne area in time to take part in the 30 December attack.


The appearance of this SS unit was greeted by something less than popular acclaim. The regular Army troops disliked the publicity Goebbels had lavished on the feats of the SS divisions and the old line commanders considered them insubordinate. Worse still, the 1st SS Panzer Division came into the sector next to the 14th Parachute Regiment: the SS regarded themselves-or at least were regarded-as Himmler's troops, whereas the parachute divisions were the personal creation of Goering. (It is not surprising that after the attack on the 30th the 1st SS Panzer tried to bring the officers of the 14th before a Nazi field court.) [14]


The 167th Volks Grenadier Division (Generalleutnant Hans-Kurt Hoecker), ordered to join the 1st SS Panzer in the attack, was looked upon by Manteuffel and others with more favor. This was a veteran division which had distinguished itself on the Soviet front. The 167th had been refitting and training replacements from the 17th Luftwaffe Feld Division when orders reached its Hungarian casernes to entrain for the west. On 24 December the division arrived at Gerolstein on the Rhine; though some units had to detrain east of the river, Hoecker's command was at full strength when it began the march to Bastogne. A third of the division were veterans of the Russian battles, and in addition there were two hundred picked men who had been officer candidates before the December comb-out. Hoecker had no mechanized heavy weapons, however, and the division transport consisted of worn-out Italian trucks for which there were no spare parts.


The 167th and the kampfgruppe from the 1st SS Panzer (be it remembered the entire division was not present on the 30th) were supposed to be reinforced by the 14th Parachute Regiment and the 901st of the Panzer Lehr. Both of these regiments were already in the line southeast of Bastogne, but were fought-out and woefully understrength. The first plan of attack had been based on a concerted effort to drive straight through the American lines and cut the corridor between Assenois and Hompre. Just before the attack this plan was modified to make the MartelangeBastogne highway the initial objective. The line of contact on the 30th extended from Neffe south into the woods east of Marvie, then followed the forest line and the Lutrebois-Lutremange road south to Villers-laBonne-Eau. The boundary between the 167th and the 1st SS Panzer ran through Lutrebois. The 167th, lined up in the north along the BrasBastogne road, would


[14] See MSS # A-932 (Gersdorff); B-041 (Hoecker); and B-799 (Reschke).