Page 255

to widen the avenues of penetration behind the panzers. Reports that two new German divisions were en route to attack the 109th Infantry and 9th Armored Division had reached General Morris, coming by way of the 12th Army Group intelligence agencies. If this additional weight should be thrown against the thin American line immediately to the north of the 4th Infantry Division, there was every likelihood that the line would break.

It was imperative that the line be held. Troops of the Third Army were already on the move north, there to form the cutting edge of a powerful thrust into the southern flank of the German advance. The 109th Infantry, the 9th Armored Division, the 4th Infantry Division, and CCA, 10th Armored Division, had to win both the time and the space required for the assembly of the American counterattack forces. General Patton, commanding the Third Army, to which the VIII Corps was now assigned, gave General Morris a provisional corps on 19 December, composed of the 10th Armored Division (-), the 9th Armored, the 109th Infantry, and the 4th Infantry Division. Morris, now charged with unifying defensive measures while the Third Army counterattack forces gathered behind this cover, alerted CCA, 10th Armored Division, early on the morning of 20 December, for employment as a mobile reserve. Morris had already dispatched one of his armored infantry battalions to help the 9th Armored in an attack intended to retake Waldbillig. Task Force Chamberlain had been placed in reserve the previous day, but it was not immediately feasible to withdraw the two task forces that were still engaged alongside the 4th Division for it would take General Barton's division a few hours to reorganize on a new line and plug the gaps left by the outgoing armored units.

While General Morris made plans to hold the ground needed as a springboard for the projected counterattack, General Beyer, commanding the German LXXX Corps, prepared to meet an American riposte. Higher German headquarters had anticipated the appearance of some American reinforcements opposite the LXXX Corps as early as the third day of the operation. Intervention by elements of the 10th Armored Division on 18 December, as a result, was viewed only as the prelude to a sustained and forceful American attempt to regain the initiative. It cannot now be determined whether the German agents (V-Leute), who undoubtedly were operating behind American lines, had correctly diagnosed the beginning of the Third Army shift toward Luxembourg and Belgium, or, if so, whether they had been able to communicate with the German field headquarters.

In any event the LXXX Corps commander decided on the night of 19 December to place his corps on the defensive, his estimate of the situation being as follows. His two divisions generally had reached the line designated as the LXXX Corps objective. The force available was insufficient to continue the attack. On the north flank there was a dangerous and widening gap between the LXXX Corps and the LXXXV Corps. The supply situation was poor and could become critical, in part because of the Allied air attacks at the Rhine crossings, in part because of the Allied success-even during poor flying weather-in knocking out transportation