Page 247

a mystery. Possibly this failure is explained by the lack of heavy weapons needed to blast a way up from the gorge bottom. Possibly the American artillery and self-propelled guns had disorganized and disheartened the German infantry; prisoners later reported that shell fragments from the tree bursts in the bottom of the wooded gorge "sounded like falling apples" and caused heavy casualties. Whatever the reason, this enemy penetration went no further than Mullerthal. By early afternoon, however, a new threat was looming in the Consdorf area, this time from an enemy penetration on the right along the Scheidgen section of the main highroad to Echternach. This turned out to be only a patrol action and the enemy was quickly beaten off.

Early in the day Company B and ten tanks from the 70th Tank Battalion renewed the attack at Berdorf in an attempt to break through to Company F, still encircled at the opposite end of the village. This time the tanks deployed on the roads and trails south of Berdorf and moved in with five riflemen on each tank deck. The five medium tanks drove through to the northeastern edge and just before noon began shelling the Parc Hotel in the mistaken belief that it was held by the enemy. One of the Company F men had been rummaging about and had found an American flag. This was unfurled on the shattered roof. Contact thus established, an assault was launched to clear Berdorf. But the Germans defending the houses were heavily armed with bazookas and the tanks made little progress. At dark the Americans drew back to the hotel, while the Germans plastered the area with rockets, artillery, and mortar shells, lobbed in from across the river. [2]

In the central sector Companies A and G, with five light tanks, started from Lauterborn along the road to Echternach. The enemy here was in considerable strength and had established observation posts on the ridges ringing Lauterborn and bordering the road. Heavy and accurate shellfire followed each American move. When the day ended the relief force had accomplished no more than consolidating a defensive position in Lauterborn. In Echternach Company E, 12th Infantry, had occupied a two-block strongpoint from which it harassed the German troops trying to move through the town. No large-scale assault was attempted this day, apparently because the enemy was still waiting for guns to cross the river. Troops from the 320th Regiment and fusilier battalion circled around Echternach and Lauterborn meanwhile in an attempt to cut the main road at Scheidgen. The platoon from Company A, 12th Infantry, which had been posted on Hill 313 the day before, fell back to Scheidgen and there was overwhelmed after a last message pleading for tank destroyers. At the day's end only the regimental antitank company, numbering some sixty men, stood between the enemy and the 2d Battalion command post at Consdorf.

Although the German penetrations on the left and in the center of the 12th Infantry sector deepened during the day, the situation on the right was relatively encouraging. At the break of day on 17 December Company C, the 12th Infantry reserve, moved out of Herborn en route

[2] 1st Sgt. Gervis Willis later was awarded the DSC for his conduct in the defense of Berdorf.