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Regiment to make any headway against the American right wing in the Heckhuscheid sector on 16 and 17 December was largely caused by the sharp tactics in progressive displacement and the excellent defensive fires of the 591st Field Artillery Battalion (Lt. Col. Phillip F. Hoover) and its reinforcing battalions from the corps artillery. The 8inch howitzers of the 578th Field Artillery Battalion, for example, fired 108 tons of shells between the beginning of the German attack and 1030 on 17 December against the enemy attack positions opposite the 424th Infantry. But only in the Heckhuscheid-Winterspelt sector had the prearranged and sizable groupment of VIII Corps artillery behind the corps left wing played any decisive role on 16 and 17 December.

Cannae in the Schnee Eifel

During a telephone conversation early in the evening of 16 December the corps commander had apprised General Jones of his concern over the security of the 422d and 423d Regiments. General Middleton stressed the importance of retaining the Schnee Eifel position but told Jones that it was untenable unless the north flank could be "heavily protected." Later, when reports coming into the corps headquarters at Bastogne indicated that enemy pressure along the corps front was not only continuing but increasing, Middleton got a call from Jones in which the 106th commander made a tentative suggestion to pull the two regiments back to less exposed positions. Middleton answered in the sense of the time-honored Army rule of decision by "the man on the round" and left the phone expecting Jones to withdraw. Perhaps General Jones's opinion was altered by the knowledge that armored support was on its way, perhaps by the VIII Corps order, received somewhat later, that no troops were to be withdrawn unless their positions became completely untenable. (However, the "hold at all costs" line drawn to accompany this order was fixed as the west bank of the Our and all nine rifle battalions of the 106th Division were east of that river.) Perhaps Jones felt that the corps commander was passing the buck and would leave him in the lurch if a withdrawal order was issued. In any case Jones decided not to withdraw the two regiments.

The fateful day for the 106th Division would be 17 December. On both sides of the battle line reinforcements were moving, the Germans to close the trap on the Schnee Eifel troops, the Americans to wedge its jaws apart. The battle had continued all through the night of 16-17 December, with results whose impact would be fully appreciated only after daylight on the 17th.

Colonel Devine, the 14th Cavalry group commander, left the 106th Division command post about o800 on the morning of 17 December, still, insofar as it can be ascertained, without instructions. The previous evening V Corps had asked VIII Corps to re-establish contact between the 99th Division and the 14th Cavalry. This call had been routed to Colonel Devine, at St. Vith, who spoke on the phone to the 99th Division headquarters and agreed to regain contact at Wereth. The conversation took place

[7] Combat Interv with Middleton and Evans; also Ltr, Middleton to Theater Historian ETO, 30 Jul 45.