Page 625


side of Harlange-the German attack would pass obliquely across its front but without impact.


During the night of 29 December the tank column of the 1st SS Panzer moved up along the road linking Tarchamps and Lutremange. The usable road net was very sparse in this sector. Once through Lutremange, however, the German column could deploy in two armored assault forces, one moving through Villers-la-Bonne-Eau, the other angling northwest through Lutrebois. Before dawn the leading tank companies rumbled toward these two villages. At Villers-la-Bonne-Eau Companies K and L, 137th Infantry, came under attack by seven tanks heavily supported by infantry. The panzers moved in close, blasting the stone houses and setting the village ablaze. At 0845 a radio message reached the command post of the 137th asking for the artillery to lay down a barrage of smoke and high explosive, but before the gunners could get a sensing the radio went dead. Only one of the 169 men inside the village got out, Sgt. Webster Phillips, who earlier had run through the rifle fire to warn the reserve company of the battalion west of Villers.


The battle in and around Lutrebois was then and remains to this day jumbled and confused. There is no coherent account from the German side and it is quite possible that the formations involved in the fight did not, for the reasons discussed earlier, cooperate as planned. The American troops who were drawn into the action found themselves in a melee which defied exact description and in which platoons and companies engaged enemy units without being aware that other American soldiers and weapons had taken the same German unit under fire. It is not surprising, then, that two or three units would claim to have destroyed what on later examination proves to have been the same enemy tank detachment and that a cumulative listing of these claims-some fifty-odd German tanks destroyed-probably gives more panzers put out of action than the 1st SS Panzer brought into the field.


It is unfortunate that the historical reproduction of the Lutrebois fight in the von Rankian sense ("exactly as it was") is impossible, for the American use of the combined arms in this action was so outstanding as to merit careful analysis by the professional soldier and student. The 4th Armored Division artillery, for example, simultaneously engaged the 1st SS Panzer in the east and the 3d Panzer Grenadier in the west. Weyland's fighter-bombers from the XIX Tactical Air Command intervened at precisely the right time to blunt the main German armored thrust and set up better targets for engagement by the ground forces. American tanks and tank destroyers cooperated to whipsaw the enemy assault units. The infantry action, as will be seen, had a decisive effect at numerous points in the battle. Two circumstances in particular would color the events of 30 December: because of CCA's earlier interest in Lutrebois, radio and wire communications between the 4th Armored and the 35th Division were unusually good in this sector; although the 35th had started the drive north without the normal attachment of a separate tank battalion, the close proximity of the veteran 4th Armored more than compensated for this lack of an organic tank-killing capability.