Page 445


The Battle of Bastogne

The Initial Deployment East of Bastogne

The one standing order that General Middleton gave General McAuliffe before leaving Bastogne on the morning of 19 December was: "Hold Bastogne." * Both generals felt that the enemy needed Bastogne and the entrance it afforded to a wider complex of roads leading west. (Map I) During the night of the 18th the two commanders met in the VIII Corps command post to confer on the uncertain tactical situation and to give Colonel Ewell, whose regiment would first be committed, his instructions. The map spread out before Ewell showed a few blue-penciled marks east of Bastogne where the American armored groups were believed to be fighting at their original roadblock positions. General Middleton told Ewell that his job would be to make contact with these endangered forward posts. Ewell, however, was interested in the red-penciled lines and circles which showed the enemy between Bastogne and the armored roadblocks. In view of the uncertain situation, he suggested that he be given "mission-type orders" which would permit his 501st Parachute Infantry some flexibility of action. McAuliffe agreed, as did Middleton, but the latter still hoped that the roadblock defenders at Allerborn, eight miles to the east on the Bastogne road, would somehow survive until the 501st reached them. McAuliffe's order, then, was for Ewell to move out at 0600, attack eastward, and develop the situation.

At the appointed hour on 19 December Ewell's 501st Parachute Infantry marched out of the assembly area in column of battalions. Ewell knew that this was no time to engage in the all-out, full-bodied assault tactics to which the paratroopers were accustomed. He told

* The most complete story of the siege of Bastogne is S. L. A. Marshall's Bastogne: The First Eight Days (Washington: The Infantry Journal Press, 1946). The then Colonel Marshall was on the scene, had complete access to the daily record entries, and was persona grata to the entire command, this happy circumstance resulting in the fine collection of combat interviews which formed the basis for this interesting and graphic account. It is worth noting that the authors of the official history of the 101st did not write a chapter on Bastogne but simply introduced an abridged version of Marshall's book. (The present author has borrowed extensively from Brigadier General Marshall, but the careful reader will notice quite different interpretations of the same actions based on the same source materials. Marshall, concerned with the heroic story of n encircled unit, focuses on that unit, in effect looking from Bastogne at the perimeter. The present author, engaged in presenting the over-all campaign, directs his attention from the periphery inward.) The G-3 journal of the 101st is rather cursory. The 501st Summary of Actions is reconstructed from memory since most of the regimental records were lost; the 502d AAR is slim; the 327th Narrative is terse but informative; the 506th AAR is the most complete and useful of any of the regimental reports. See also Scrapbook 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (Munich, 1945).