Page 145

near the dragon's teeth. On the left the two assault regiments of the 62d Volks Grenadier Division moved for the first time into the positions held earlier by the 26th Volks Grenadier Division. Also for the first time, the assault company commanders heard officially of the great counteroffensive and were given instructions as to their own particular roles.

With assembly completed, the juxtaposition of German and American formations on the morning of 16 December was as follows. The boundary between the Fifth and Sixth Panzer rmies bisected the 14th Cavalry Group area by an extension south of Krewinkel and Manderfeld. North of the line elements of the 3d Parachute Division, reinforced by tanks, faced two platoons of Troop C, 18th Cavalry Squadron, two reconnaissance platoons and one gun company of the 820th Tank Destroyer Battalion, plus the squadron and group headquarters at Manderfeld. South of the boundary the 2g4th and 2gsth Regiments of the I8th Volks Grenadier Division, forty assault guns, and a reinforced tank destroyer battalion faced Troop A and one platoon of Troop C, 18th Cavalry Squadron. On no other part of the American front would the enemy so outnumber the defenders at the start of the Ardennes counteroffensive.

On the Schnee Eifel the 422d Infantry, composing the left wing of the lo6th Division, had only minute screening elements opposite. The 423d Infantry, with one flank on the Schnee Eifel range and the other in the Bleialf depression, was in the path of the 2g3d Regiment (I8th Volks Grenadier Division). The 424th Infantry, in positions running to the southwest, stood opposite the 62d Volks Grenadier Division. In the event that the neighboring corps south of the LXVI made progress, one of its regiments, the 60th Regiment (II6th Panzer Division), would be brought against the right flank of the 424th Infantry.

The compilation of opposing forces, above, will show that the odds against the defender in the Schnee Eifel area were not inordinate-except in the cavalry sector. The Germans would have to make the utmost use of surprise, concentration of effort, and ground favorable to attack, if they were to achieve any large measure of success. Fully aware that the American line had numerous weak spots and that no substantial reserves were near, General Lucht and his division commanders saw three factors that might limit success: the weakness of the I8th Volks Grenadier Division center, enemy superiority in the artillery arm, and strong intervention by unfriendly air. All evidence of the play of these factors, particularly the last two, would be carefully observed as D-day came.

Although the LXVI advance on 16 December was planned and effected as the co-ordinated effort of two divisions, the story must begin with the I8th Volks Grenadier Division attack. This in turn will follow the German scheme of maneuver, the right wing first, then the left. The fight in the zone of the 424th Infantry quickly becomes an independent action and will be so considered. [3]

The Attack in the Losheim Gap

The shock companies of the r8th began to move toward the American cavalry positions about 0400 on 16

[3] See also ch. XVII