Page 216

of the 14th, the Americans therefore found no enemy.

The night before the attack the 352d marched back to the new and narrow sector on the river from which the jump-off would be made: the 915th Regiment on the right, the 916th on the left, and the 914th, which had furnished the covering force, in reserve. Thus poised, the assault regiments would cross the Our on either side of Gentingen, with orders to bypass defended villages, seize the dominant heights in the Sauer-Our triangle, and drive as far as the Sauer bridges at Ettelbruck-all this on the first day of the attack. In total, then, two German divisions and the metal of the LXXXV Corps' artillery were to be thrown against the 109th Infantry and neighboring troops of the 110th Infantry in the first hours of the great counteroffensive.

There were nearly three hundred tubes and projectors in the LXXXV Corps groupment which opened fire at 0530 on 16 December. These pieces were laid on targets deep in the 109th Infantry zone: notably Diekirch, Bastendorf, the ridge road running north from Ettelbruck across the rear of the 28th Division, and the command posts of the two artillery battalions. It would seem that the German gunners were firing by the map (there had been numerous changes of position in this area which were unknown to German intelligence) and the opening barrage shortly dwindled away to occasional salvos without inflicting much damage or disrupting communications. With the first sound of gunfire the assault companies pushed their rubber boats into the Our, only some fifty feet wide, and the engineers began swinging the portable infantry bridges into position over the shallow but turbulent river.

The 109th outposts on the far bank of the Our could see little in the half-light of the foggy morning. Some were quietly bypassed as the German shock companies moved quickly inland. Others, closer to the crossing sites, were assaulted by small detachments. Thus the 5th Parachute Division engineers wiped out the 2d Battalion outpost in the chateau ruins at Vianden before any warning could be sent out. The Americans fired flares onto the east bank in an attempt to discover the purpose behind the heavy concentration of German artillery, but no certain word of enemy troops reached the 109Th command post at Ettelbruck until about 0900 when Company B reported that a 20-man patrol had assaulted the outpost near Hosdorf. This advance detachment of the 916th Regiment had hit head on into the continuous and strongly defended right flank position of the 109Th Infantry on the heights at the SauerOur triangle. By this time, however, the German advance parties farther north had passed through the weak outpost line and were gathering strength and momentum.

The situation in the 109th area developed as follows. The 14th Regiment, composing the right of the 5th Parachute Division advance, was moving along the boundary between the 110Th and the 109th without much opposition. In actual fact this regiment would "lean" on the neighboring XLVII Panzer Corps, which had struck into the center of the 28th Division, and through most of the day lagged while the Panzer Corps opened the way. To the south the 15th