Page 123

was to be "a move to new positions"; all were to walk, not run. Col. Leland W. Skaggs' 741St Tank Battalion, tank destroyers from the 644th Tank Destroyer Battalion, and the 2d Division engineers would form a covering force in the villages, laying mines and beating off any attempt at "pursuit." Disengagement was made from left to right, "stripping" the 2d Division line from Rocherath to Wirtzfeld. First, the 2d Battalion of the 38th Infantry pulled out of the north edge of Rocherath; the 1st Battalion, deployed in both villages, followed; the 3d Battalion tacked on at Krinkelt. A half hour later, just as the Germans moved into Rocherath, Company C of the 644th and Company B of the 741st hauled out, the tanks carrying the engineers. The move through Wirtzfeld, now in flames, brought the 38th under German guns and resulted in some casualties and confusion, but at 0200 on 20 December the rear guard tank platoon left Wirtzfeld and half an hour later the 9th Infantry passed through the new lines occupied by the 38th Infantry a thousand yards west of the village.

The four-day battle which had pitted the 2d Infantry Division and the 99th Infantry Division against the spearheads of the Sixth Panzer Army had cost both sides heavily in men and materiel. But in the balance sheet for this desperate initial phase of the German counteroffensive, where lives weighed less than hours won or lost, the reckoning was favorable to the Americans. What the fruitless bid for a quick decision had cost the Germans in terms of dead and wounded has no accounting. The losses of the untried 99th Division, fighting its first major action under circumstances far more difficult than was the lot of most American infantry divisions in the European Theater of Operations, have been compiled only as a total for the whole month of December. A careful check shows that the 99th had few casualties prior to 16 December or after 19 December; nine-tenths or more of the following list, therefore, represents the cost of four days of battle: 14 officers and men killed in action; 53 officers and 1,341 men missing in action; 51 officers and 864 men wounded in action. About 600 officers and men passed through the division clearing station before 20 December as nonbattle casualties; half were trench foot cases.

The veteran 2d Division had taken considerable punishment from exposure and battle loss beginning on 13 December with the start of the Wahlerscheid operation. It is impossible to determine the ratio between the casualties suffered in the first four days of attack and those of the final three days of defense. Indeed no total is available for the 2d Division during these important seven days. The 23d Infantry, in reserve before 16 December and then committed by battalion, sustained these battle losses: 1st Battalion, 10 officers and 221 men; 2d Battalion, 1 officer and 100 men; 3d Battalion, 10 officers and 341 men. The 9th Infantry, which was engaged both at Wahlerscheid and the twin villages, lists 47 officers and men killed, 425 wounded, and 192 missing. The regiment likewise had lost nearly 600 officers and men as nonbattle casualties (trench foot, respiratory diseases induced by exposure, fatigue, and related causes), a figure which tells something of the cost of lengthy battle in snow, damp, and mud, but also reflects the