Page 094

Through the morning the 1st Battalion watched through breaks in the fog as tanks and vehicles rolled toward Bullingen. Visibility, poor as it was, made artillery adjustment on the road difficult and ineffective. Shortly after noon about 120 men who had been cut off from the 2d and 254th Engineer Battalions arrived at Hightower's command post and were dispatched to form a roadblock against a possible attack from Bullingen. Somewhat earlier twelve Mark IV tanks had appeared south of Hunningen-perhaps by design, perhaps by accident. Assembled at the wood's edge some 800 yards from the American foxhole line, the panzers may have been seeking haven from the American fighter-bombers then working over the road. In any case they were shooting-gallery targets. One of the towed 3-inch guns which the 801st Tank Destroyer Battalion had withdrawn during the early morning debacle at Honsfeld knocked out four of the panzers in six shots. The rest withdrew in haste.

At 1600 the enemy made his first definite assault, preceded by six minutes of furious shelling. When the artillery ceased, German infantry were seen coming forward through a neck of woods pointing toward the southeastern edge of Hunningen. A forward observer with Company B, facing the woods, climbed into the church steeple and brought down shellfire which kept pace with the attackers until they were within a hundred yards of the American foxholes. A number of the enemy did break through, but the assault evaporated when nearly fifty were killed by four men manning automatic weapons from a platoon command post just in the rear of the firing line. The commander of the 27th Regiment sent forward seven "distinct attacking waves" in the course of the afternoon and early evening. In one assault the Germans captured two heavy machine guns and turned them on Company A, but a light machine gun section wiped out the German crews. At no time, despite numerous penetrations in the 1st Battalion line, was the enemy able to get Hunningen into his hands. [10] Late in the afternoon an indistinct radio message was picked up by the 1st Battalion, 23d Infantry. It appeared that the battalion now was attached to the 9th Infantry (2d Division), to the north, and that orders were to pull out of Hun- [10] Colonel Hightower was awarded the DSC for his conduct of the defense. Page 95 ningen. Up to this point, the 394th Infantry was still in Murringen, gathering its companies and platoons as they straggled in. Furthermore the 1st Battalion was in a fire fight with an enemy only a few score yards distant in the darkness. Colonel Hightower, therefore, tried by radio to apprise the 9th Infantry of his predicament and the importance of holding until the 394th could reorganize. At 2330 Colonel Hirschfelder, the 9th Infantry commander, reached Hightower by radio, told him that Hightower's battalion and the 394th Infantry were almost surrounded and that, if the battalion expected to withdraw, it must move at once. Colonel Hightower again explained his situation, said that in his opinion he could not pull out unless and until the 394th withdrew, but that he would discuss the situation with the commander of the 394th. Hirschfelder agreed and told Hightower to use his own judgment.

At Murringen Colonel Riley's 394th had not been hard pressed although the German artillery had shown no favoritism and hammered Murringen and Hunningen equally. The groups filtering back to Murringen, however, generally had very little ammunition left, even though many detachments came back with all their heavy weapons. If the 394th was to make a stand at Murringen it would have to be resupplied. At first Colonel Riley hoped to get ammunition by air, for it appeared that the German drive in the Krinkelt area to the north shortly would cut the last remaining supply road. This was a vain hope for aerial supply missions in December were far too chancy. The alternative solution was for the 394th to withdraw north to Krinkelt, using the one route still open.