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Dispositions of the 106th Infantry Division

From the Eifel plateau protrude three distinct ridges or ranges, the central being called the Schnee Eifel. This middle ridge, so important in the action that developed in the 106th Division sector, inclines northeast-southwest. At the western foot of the Schnee Eifel there runs a long narrow valley incised in the high plain, the so-called Losheim Gap. On the western side of the gap the Our River meanders along, and beyond the river to the west the plateau appears once more in heavily wooded form. The Losheim Gap is no pleasant, pastoral valley but is cluttered by abrupt hills, some bare, others covered by fir trees and thick undergrowth. Most of the little villages here are found in the draws and potholes which further scoop out the main valley. The Losheim Gap was occupied on 16 December by a reinforced squadron of the 14th Cavalry Group. (Map III)

The fate of the 106th Infantry Division and the 14th Cavalry Group was bound together on that day by official orders attaching the cavalry to the infantry, by circumstances of terrain, and by the German plan of attack. To the left of the cavalry group ran the boundary between the VIII Corps and V Corps, its northern neighbor being the 99th Infantry Division To the right of the 106th lay the 28th Division, constituting the center of General Middleton's corps. The 106th itself occupied the central and southern sections of the heavily forested Schnee Eifel.

American successes some weeks earlier had driven the enemy from a part of the West Wall positions along the Schnee Eifel, creating a salient which jutted deep into the German lines. Although such a salient was exposed, the possession of at least a wedge in the West Wall seemed to compensate for the risk involved. It should be noticed that the Schnee Eifel range is terminated in the south by a cross corridor, running against the usual north to south grain of the Eifel plateau. This is the valley of the Alf, a small creek which makes a long horse-shoe bend around the Schnee Eifel east to the village of Pronsfeld.

Three main roads run through this area. From the crossroads village of Hallschlag the northernmost descends into the Our valley, crossing and recrossing the river until it reaches St. Vith. The center road, secondary in construction, traverses the Loshen Gap from Roth southwestward. The southernmost road follows the valley of the Alf from Prum, but eventually turns through Winterspelt toward the northwest and St. Vith. Thus two main roads, of macadam construction and some twentytwo feet wide, ran through the American positions directly to St. Vith. These roads were characteristic of the eastern Ardennes, winding, with many blind turns, squeezing through narrow village streets, dipping abruptly, and rising suddenly across the ravines. But each of the roads to St. Vith circles around the Schnee Eifel at one of its termini.

The width of the sector held by the 106th Infantry Division and the attached 14th Cavalry Group was approximately eighteen air-line miles. When traced on the ground, the line these forces were responsible for defending was actually more than twenty-one miles in length. The 14th Cavalry Group (Col. Mark Devine) was charged with a 9,000-yard front in the 106th Division sector along