Page 279

Battalion, at the tail of the column, rolled through Stavelot about 0800 on the morning of 18 December, it found itself in the middle of a fire fight between the advance guard of the 1st SS Panzer Division and a small American force of armored infantry, engineers, and tank destroyers. The battery swung its quadruple machine guns around for ground laying and moved into the fight, firing at the enemy assembling along the banks of the Ambleve River, which here ran through the south edge of the town. After an hour or so the battery turned once again and, taking no chances, circled wide to the west. It finally arrived in the division assembly area east of Vielsalm late in the afternoon. The bulk of the artillery column closed at Vielsalm during the morning, although the last few miles had to be made against the flow of vehicles surging from the threatened area around St. Vith.

While the 7th Armored Division artillery was working its way onto the west road during the evening of 17 December, most of the division assembled in the St. Vith area along positions roughly indicative of an unconsciously forming perimeter defense. From Recht, five miles northwest of St. Vith, to Beho, seven miles to the southwest of the 106th Division headquarters, the clockwise disposition of the American units was as follows. At Recht were located the command post of CCR and the rear headquarters of CCB, with the 17th Tank Battalion assembled to the southeast. The disorganized 14th Cavalry Group was dispersed through the area between Recht and Poteau. East of Hunningen the 87th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (-) had formed roadblocks to bar the northern and northeastern approaches to St. Vith. To the right of the cavalry the most advanced units of CCB had reinforced the 168th Engineer Combat Battalion on the Schonberg road and pushed out to either side for some distance as flank protection. During the night, CCB, 9th Armored Division, and the 424th Infantry withdrew across the Our River and established a defensive line along the hill chain running from northeast of Steinebruck south to Burg Reuland; these troops eventually made contact with the advance elements of CCB, 7th Armored Division. Some six or seven miles west of Burg Reuland, CCA of the 7th Armored had assembled near Beho.

West of St. Vith, in position to give close support, were located the 275th Armored Field Artillery Battalion (Lt. Col. Roy Udell Clay) and the remainder of CCB. The 275th, reinforced by the 16th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, and three batteries of corps artillery, fired through the night to interdict the eastern approaches to St. Vith; this was all the artillery support remaining to the American troops in this sector. The 112th Infantry, now beginning to fold back to the north as the center of the 28th Division gave way, was no longer in contact with the 424th Infantry, its erstwhile left flank neighbor, but the axis of withdrawal ultimately would bring the 112th Infantry to piece out the southern sector of the defense slowly forming around St. Vith.

While it is true that an outline or trace of the subsequent St. Vith perimeter was unraveling on the night of 17-18 December, this was strictly fortuitous. General Jones and General Hasbrouck still expected that CCB would