Page 155

cannon company were at Bleialf, where they found most of the village held by the Germans. Later Company B, 81St Engineer Combat Battalion, and the headquarters company were thrown into the fight. By 1500 these units had ejected the enemy from Bleialf after a series of hand-to-hand fights in the streets and houses. The cavalry troop on the extreme regimental right remained cut off from the friendly troops to the north. Finally getting permission by radio to withdraw, the troopers pulled back in the early afternoon to Winterscheid, 2,500 yards southwest of Bleialf. While the enemy was attacking around Bleialf, a few small patrols tried to get into the positions of the 1st and 3d Battalions to the north-but no real attack was attempted during the 16th.

The 293d had failed to carry out its part as the southern jaw of the 18th Volks Grenadier Division pincers, for without Bleialf the road to Steinebruck was barred. The Americans had recovered their balance quickly after the initial shock at Bleialf. The battalions on the Schnee Eifel had brought the German flank under accurate and punishing fire at the first light of day, interdicting all reinforcement by the heavy weapons needed to reduce the village. On the whole the situation in the 423d sector seemed satisfactory, although two items remained for a final accounting. The southern flank of the regiment now was in the air, and its 2d Battalion, as division reserve, had been sent forward to aid the endangered 422d Infantry on the north.

High on the center of the Schnee Eifel the 422d Infantry missed the first rude shock of a predawn attack. Although it was no part of the German plan to engage the 422d by frontal assault, the enemy penetration between Roth and Weckerath, during the dark hours, quickly brought the assault troops of the 294th Regiment down the road to Auw and onto the American regiment's flank and rear. Company A of the 81St Engineer Combat Battalion was billeted at Auw, and despite the enemy shelling in the early morning the engineers had turned out as usual to work on the roads. As the enemy approached Auw the bulk of the company hurried back to the village, set up their machine guns, and engaged the German column. This column (at least a battalion of the 294th) was reinforced by self-propelled guns, which shelled the engineers out of their positions. When the 1st Platoon, the last to leave, finally essayed a dash from the village to the protection of a nearby wood lot, Cpl. Edward S. Withee remained behind to cover his comrades, with only his submachine gun as a weapon against the enemy armor. [6] By this time the American batteries southwest of the village were blasting the Germans there, for a time halting further advance. At daylight small groups began pressure against the forward battalions of the 422d, but this seems to have been no more than an attempt to fix American attention to the front. Company L, however, had to be rushed to the defense of the regimental command post at Schlausenbach.

About noon the enemy in Auw became active, moving south against the artillery groupment composed of the 589th Field Artillery Battalion (astride the Auw-Bleialf road) and the 592d, a

[6] Withee was captured after his lone fight. He was given the DSC.