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River and its center regiment was almost in sight of the highway linking Wiltz and Bastogne (the next phase line). Both flanks of the division were uncovered, however, and German tanks were observed moving into the area on the 30th.


One thing the III Corps commander sought to impress on his infantry divisions as H-hour loomed-they must keep out of time-consuming and indecisive village fights. This, after all, was an order which had echoed up and down the chain of command on both sides of the line, but neither German nor American commanders could alter the tactical necessities imposed by the Ardennes geography or prevent freezing troops from gravitating toward the shelter, no matter how miserable, promised by some wrecked crossroads hamlet.


Admittedly the battle which had flared up on the left wing of the III Corps was serious, but General Millikin expected (or at least hoped) that the 6th Armored Division attack would improve the situation. [15] While deployed on the Ettelbruck front with the XII Corps, General Grow's troops had not been closely engaged, and the division would enter the Bastogne fight with only a single tank less than prescribed by the T/O&E. Its orders to move west were given the division at 0230 on the 29th.


Although the distance involved was not too great, the movement would be complicated by the necessity of using a road net already saturated in the support of two corps. The push planned for 31 December turned on the employment of two combat commands abreast and for this reason the march north to Bastogne was organized so that CCA, ordered to attack on the right, would use the Arlon-Bastogne highway while CCB, ticketed for the left wing, would pass through the VIII Corps zone by way of the Neufchateau-Bastogne road.


During the night of 30 December CCA (Col. John L. Hines, Jr.) rolled along the icy highway, where the 4th Armored had accorded running rights to the newcomers, and through the city; the advance guard, however, took the secondary road through Assenois because of the German threat to the main route. By daylight CCA was in forward assembly positions behind the 101st Airborne line southeast of Bastogne.


CCB failed to make its appearance as scheduled. What had happened was a fouling of the military machine which is common in all large-scale operations and which may leave bitterness and recrimination long after the event. The 6th Armored commander believed he had cleared CCB's use of the Neufchateau road with both the VIII Corps and the 11th Armored, but when Col. George Read moved out with his column he found the highway not only treacherously iced but encumbered with 11th Armored tanks and vehicles. What Read had encountered was the switch bringing the 11th Armored force from the west around to the right wing. The 11th Armored had not expected the 6th Armored column to appear before midnight of the 31st. An attempt to run the two columns abreast failed because the tanks were slipping all over the road.


[15] The battle fought by the 6th Armored Division east of Bastogne received very detailed treatment in the combat interviews. The journals of the division were collected after the war and published under the title, Combat Record of the Sixth Armored Division (Aschaffenburg, n.d.) General Grow has provided excerpts from his personal diary for the author's use.