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but not quite as planned. In the Sixth Panzer Army sector the German staffs had expected that the infantry assault would penetrate to a depth of three to five miles by noon, thus assuring a complete breakthrough within the first twenty-four hours of the offensive. This objective was not achieved. On the extreme north flank the LXVII Corps made no progress in its drive to reach the Vesdre River in front of Eupen, never succeeded in penetrating the Monschau position, and eventually gave over this attack to bring the German north flank infantry screen forward. The assault to punch a hole at Losheim went so slowly that the spearhead armor of the 1st SS Panzer Division was delayed at its line of departure for at least six hours longer than anticipated. [10]


The first-day attack by the German center had been predicated on minimal initial delays for bridge crossings within three or four hours; the minimum actual time of construction proved to be seven to eight hours. Furthermore, no account had been taken of delays which might be incurred on the west banks as the result of American demolitions, bomb cratering, and the like. On top of this the German motorized assault as it left the river line, was forced onto exit roads which brought the Germans squarely against organized American strongpoints. The adverse impact of this collection of terrain and tactical factors is best attested by the experience of the armored reconnaissance battalions leading the 26th Volks Grenadier assault: these formations were delayed at the river by ineffectual bridge builders, they were slowed on the Gemund-Hosingen road by bomb craters and abatis, and, when they reached the western ridge, the American defense of Hosingen forced a long halt and ultimate detour. This episode proved to be only one of numerous delays on the Fifth Panzer assault front, and that army, as a result, did not reach its first-day objectives until after midnight of 17 December.


On the German south wing the Seventh Army had even more trouble with its bridges than the northern neighbor. The green and ill-equipped 212th Volks Grenadier Division took forty-eight hours to throw a 16-ton bridge over the Sure, and along the entire army front the infantry elements were forced to carry the assault for the first three days without direct heavy weapon support. The LXXX Corps, fighting to bring the left wing of the Seventh Army into a favorable blocking position, did not reach its first-day objectives until the evening of 19 December, At the close of the first day, then, it can be said that the German attack had ruptured the American positions at a number of points but had not done much to widen the gaps so created and had failed signally to destroy the tactical continuity of the defensive positions at the shoulders of the assault zone.


The exploitation phase of the offensive may be timed from the hour at which Peiper's armor shook itself loose from the melee at Losheim and broke into the open, that is, 0400 on 17 December. Peiper's progress, therefore, is a good measure of the speed, planned and actual, of the German advance. The 1st SS Panzer Division and at least one other armored division of the Sixth Panzer Army were supposed to be across the


[10] For these plans, see the LXVII AK: KTB Anlagen, 12 Dec 44.