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Off to the east, at Salmchateau, Troop D of the 87th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron also got orders sending it to Samree. Passing the friendly outpost at the Baraque de Fraiture the troop came within two and a half miles of Samree when it encountered a German roadblock, not well defended. Smashing it, the troop moved on. Shortly it struck a second block formed by abandoned American trucks and defended by a large force of German infantry (two companies of the 560th Volks Grenadier Division). Having felt out the enemy and with night drawing on, the cavalry commander pulled his troop back a little to the east to await the morning. Later in the evening radio orders came from the 7th Armored Division headquarters telling him to arrange a co-ordinated attack with the 3d Armored Division task force north of Dochamps.

The action at Samree had delayed Krueger's corps considerably. But the gasoline stores captured there had refueled all the vehicles of the 116th Panzer Division; despite assurances by American prisoners that sugar had been mixed with the gasoline the enemy drivers reported that it suited the German motors very well.

The Net Closes on Peiper

General Hobbs's division and CCB, 3d Armored Division, had a job to do before the XVIII Airborne Corps could be free to direct all its strength into a drive to re-establish contact with the VIII Corps and close the gap between Houffalize and Bastogne. Kampfgruppe Peiper, estimated as comprising at least half of the 1st SS Panzer Division, had to be eradicated north of the Ambleve River. This force, whose rapid drive to the west had caused such alarm only a few hours before, appeared to be pocketed in the Stoumont-La Gleize sector. Effectively blocked off on the west the trapped Germans would probably try to cut their way to the rear via Stavelot or at least establish a bridgehead there as a potential escape hatch. Probably, too, the troops in the pocket would receive some aid from new German units moving along the north flank of the St Vith salient through the gap between Malmedy and Recht.

The operations designed for 21 December left the 30th Division and its reinforcing armor to finish off Peiper by tightening the net spread the day before. Thereafter the 30th had orders to link up with the 82d Airborne at Trois Ponts and prepare to join in the XVIII Airborne Corps advance by pushing south. The varied indications that the Germans were moving in some force toward Malmedy, the pivot point for both the corps and division left wing, seemed to be no reason for reverting strictly to the defensive. Malmedy had been prepared for defense since the scare of 17 December, the reports of enemy forces thereabouts were rather vague, and six American artillery battalions were in position to give support where needed. In detail, then, the plans prepared by Hobbs and his staff were formulated against the Germans in the pocket.

On the morning of 21 December the American forces in and around Malmedy were substantial: the 120th Infantry (minus a battalion in division reserve); the "Norwegians," that is, the 99th Infantry Battalion; the 526th Armored Infantry Battalion; a company from the 291st Engineer Battalion; a tank com-