Page 295

of the Clerf, had appeared. The Allerborn block was only nine miles from Bastogne.

A little after midnight CCR had manned these two important positions, under orders to report to the VIII Corps command post the moment they were brought under assault. Off to the east, however, the 110th Infantry continued the unequal contest with an enemy whose strength was growing by the hour. The force in the hands of the CCR commander, Col. Joseph H. Gilbreth, was small. Now split into two task forces and the supporting CCR headquarters group, the whole was spread thin indeed. Task Force Rose (Capt. L. K. Rose), at the northern roadblock, consisted of a company of Sherman tanks, one armored infantry company, and a platoon of armored engineers. The southern roadblock was manned by Task Force Harper (Lt. Col. Ralph S. Harper), which consisted of the 2d Tank Battalion (-) and two companies of the 52d Armored Infantry Battalion.

In midmorning the troops peering out from the ridge where the northern roadblock had been set up saw figures in field gray entering a patch of woods to the east on the Clerf road, the first indication that the enemy had broken through the Clerf defenses. These Germans belonged to the Reconnaissance Battalion of Lauchert's 2d Panzer Division, whose infantry elements at the moment were eradicating the last American defenders in Clerf. Lauchert's two tank battalions, unaffected by the small arms fire sweeping the Clerf streets were close behind the armored cars and half-tracks of the advance guard.

Two attempts by the Reconnaissance Battalion to feel out Task Force Rose were beaten back with the help of a battery from the 73d Armored Field Artillery Battalion whose howitzers were close enough to give direct fire at both American roadblocks. About 1100 the first Mark IV's of the 2d Battalion, 3d Panzer Regiment, appeared and under cover of an effective smoke screen advanced to within 800 yards of the Shermans belonging to Company A, 2d Tank Battalion. The Germans dallied, probably waiting for the Panzer Battalion, which finally arrived in the early afternoon, then deployed on the left of the Mark IV's. Taken under direct fire by the enemy tank guns, the American infantry withdrew in the direction of the southern roadblock and Rose's tanks now were surrounded on three sides.

Colonel Gilbreth, whose combat command was directly attached to VIII Corps and who was charged with the defense of the entry to the Bastogne highway, could not commit his tiny reserve without the approval of the corps commander. A telephone message from Gilbreth to the VIII Corps command post, at 1405, shows the dilemma in all tactical decisions made during these hours when a few troops, tanks, and tank destroyers represented the only forces available to back up the splintering American line.

"TF Rose ... is as good as surrounded. ... have counted 16 German tanks there. ... TF is being hit from 3 sides. Recommend that they fight their way out. They could use 2 platoons of A/52d Armd Inf Bn [the last rifle reserve in CCR]-everything else is committed.... Did not commit any of the TDs, will wait until the over-all plan is known. Plan to push TF Rose toward the other road block. If the decision is to stay, some units will be sent there to help them out."