Page 363

tween the 120th and the 117th, had repercussions out of all relation to the event. By noon garbled reports and rumors placed German tanks (erroneously as it proved) in villages northwest of Malmedy; the 117th Infantry was worried that the Germans were left free to strike their left flank at Stavelot; the staff of the 120th Infantry was trying desperately to find out exactly what had happened; two battalions of antiaircraft artillery with 90-mm. guns were hurriedly taking positions to build a defense in depth as far back as the division command post; the 120th Infantry reserve was rushed west to Burnenville-but found no Germans. The much-touted German penetration finally boiled down to one tank and a half-track which had driven up and down the road in the fog with an English-speaking soldier shouting out lurid promises of warm female companionship for the Americans if they only would surrender.

The German thrust along the boundary between the two American regiments, as the event showed, had become jammed in the narrow corridor and most of its armor destroyed by cross fire coming in from the flanks. Deprived of tank support and followed unrelentingly by the new variety of shellbursts, the enemy infantry had withdrawn. Skorzeny, by this time fully aware of the defending strength at Malmedy, ordered his brigade to pull back to the south Thus ended the first and the last attack on Malmedy. The lines of the 3d Battalion were restored and two of the abandoned tank destroyer guns recovered and placed in action. Nonetheless, the unexpected strength of the German attack on Malmedy had impacts all up and down the American chain of command. At Hodges' First Army headquarters there had been a continuing question as to whether the enemy would try to shake loose in the north and drive for Liege. Momentarily it looked as if this indeed was the German intention.

To the west at Stavelot, a detachment from the rearward march echelons of the 1st SS Panzer Division made an abortive attempt to cross to the north bank of the Ambleve preparatory to reopening the route leading to Kampfgruppe Peiper. The Americans holding the major section of the town had blown the last bridge, and the panzer grenadiers were forced to take to the icy stream. This crossing brought a hundred or so of the assault force in front of B Company, 117th Infantry, whose riflemen picked off most of the attackers while they still were in the stream. Beyond this one alarm the day passed quietly at Stavelot-although one major disaster occurred when a section of the 743d Tank Battalion fired high explosive into a building and set it afire, only to learn that it was filled with champagne and cognac.

The march echelons of the 1st SS Panzer Division en route to relieve Peiper were slow in assembling and their concentration area, southeast of Stavelot, was under constant interdiction by artillery fire. The 1st SS Panzer troops trapped to the west were closely engaged, and as yet Peiper had no orders which would permit a retrograde movement. On the American side the skirmish at Stavelot, coupled with German counterattacks in the La Gleize-Stoumont sector, made for bewilderment. General Hobbs dryly stated the prevailing opinion on the intentions of the trapped enemy, "They are trying to get out