Page 406

was left of his command to fall back to the high ground west of the city, planning to anchor the new line on those of his troops who were still intact in the Nieder-Emmels sector, northwest of St. Vith. The troops east of St. Vith simply had to be written off (at least 600 officers and men) although some later would be able to work their way back through the German lines.

The new defense ordered by Clarke began to form shortly before midnight. It was a ragged, piecemeal affair about two miles long, running south from Hunningen along the chain of hills a thousand yards west of St. Vith. Lt. Col. Robert C. Erlenbusch (Commanding Officer, 31st Tank Battalion) was charged with the organization of this new position. He and Lt. Col. Robert L. Rhea (Commanding Officer, 23d Armored Infantry Battalion), who had taken over from Colonel Fuller when the latter was evacuated because of exhaustion, were able to restore some measure of confidence and order. CCB, 7th Armored Division, be it remembered, was a battle-tested outfit of superior morale-as was the entire division-so credit also must go to the unnamed officers, noncoms, and men who withdrew in good order to the new line. Fortunately, the enemy, too, had to regroup before he resumed the battle.

CCB, 9th Armored, also made readjustments to meet the new situation. General Clarke had informed General Hoge, whose command post was close at hand, that his command was moving back to re-form west of St. Vith. Since the shift would leave Hoge's northern flank open, it was agreed that contact between the two combat commands would be re-established at Bauvenn, necessitating that Hoge's left be pulled back some two thousand yards. This was accomplished. The remainder of CCB, 9th Armored Division, remained in the positions on the ridge line west of the Braunlauf Creek and draw.

About 2200 General Clark reached General Hasbrouck with word of what had happened at St. Vith and the latter immediately informed the XVIII Airborne Corps. But this was not all that the 7th Armored Division commander had to report. Earlier, Task Force Jones (deployed on the southern flank of the salient) had captured a German engineer officer who, under questioning, said that his division, the 2d SS Panzer Division, was moving toward Gouvy. Thus far the 2d SS Panzer Division had not been located. Its presence on the weak southern flank (in case the captured officer was not a "plant") was disturbing. Apparently General Hasbrouck accepted the veracity of the report (he could hardly risk the chance that it was not true) and so recommended that General Ridgway send the 3d Armored Division east and south to meet this new enemy. Already Hasbrouck had ordered Task Force Jones to shorten its line because the last reserve available behind the southern wing (the 17th Tank Battalion) was en route to reinforce CCB. Without Wemple's tanks, or with them, Task Force Jones was no match for any large detachment of the 2d SS Panzer Division.

The First Army commander still expected, on the night of the 21st, that Ridgway's corps would shortly gain contact with the 7th Armored-but the situation was deteriorating at a fast clip. After a hasty meeting of his corps staff the XVIII Airborne commander sent