Page 401

this: pivoting on Malmedy, to continue the advance to the southeast and east with "utmost vigor," driving back the German forces found west of the line Malmedy-Pont-Vielsalm-Hebronval-Houffalize.

That the enemy was prepared to contest this move all intelligence reports affirmed. True, Kampfgruppe Peiper had been pretty well bottled up on the corps left wing; but this effort had been made by thinning the line between Malmedy and Trois Ponts. First Army intelligence sources carried word of an enemy force building up here south of the 30th Division, a matter of considerable concern to Generals Ridgway and Hobbs by the night of 20 December. Furthermore, it was recognized that Peiper might try to break out through Stavelot. German documents, taken in the fight at Gouvy, showed clearly the intention of the LVIII Panzer Corps to drive on Hotton, at the moment the location of the 3d Armored Division command post. Already the advance guard of this force had pushed beyond Samree. The St. Vith salient, where the 7th Armored Division was to remain on the defensive during the XVIII Airborne advance, was confronted with growing German forces on three sides. Prisoners had reported that the Grossdeutschland Panzer Division, previously identified on the Eastern Front, had joined the LXVI Corps before St. Vith. Even though the new armored outfit did not prove to be the famous division but Remer's much weaker panzer brigade, the report was of particular concern.

The Enemy Closes on the St. Vith Salient

The St. Vith salient looked like this by the morning of the 21st: on the north and east the line was as well organized as the forces available would permit; the southern flank had been somewhat reinforced and prolonged by a covering screen extending westward; the 82d Airborne Division was in position to give some support in the northwestern segment of the gap to the rear of the 7th Armored and 106th Infantry Division; and there was a fair number of light batteries supporting the front and flanks of the salient. Although rationing had begun, there was no immediate threat that food, gasoline, or ammunition would fail. The piecemeal German attacks on the 20th had been turned back with little loss or difficulty. Command relations under the XVIII Airborne Corps had been clarified (the 106th was no longer attached to the 7th Armored) and communications established. For the first time the two divisions holding the salient had some clear picture of the dispositions and plans of neighboring friendly units. No one could say with certainty, of course, what strength the enemy was preparing for the final assault to gain St. Vith. (See Map VII.)

The Fifth Panzer Army, constantly prodded by the higher staffs and acutely aware that the St. Vith road net must be opened to allow forward movement of the reinforcements needed to maintain the momentum of the advance toward the Meuse, was in no mood for further delay. General Manteuffel was anxious to free the LXVI Corps and hurry it forward to the Salm River sector as right wing cover for the two panzer corps. General Model hoped to shake the corps free and use Remer's armor to help the Sixth Panzer Army get moving in the north. Lucht, therefore, was or-