Page 465

quired to support the Fifth Panzer Army at or over the Meuse. His order to Manteuffel made the seizure of Bastogne a must, but at the same time stressed the paramount necessity of retaining momentum in the drive west. Manteuffel had anticipated the OB WEST command and during the evening visited the XLVII Panzer Corps' command post to make certain that Luettwitz would start the squeeze on Bastogne the next day-but without involving the mobile armored columns of the Panzer Lehr.

Manteuffel, Luettwitz, and Kokott, who was now made directly responsible for the conduct of the Bastogne operation, were optimistic. For one thing the fight could be made without looking over the shoulder toward the south (where the Luftwaffe had reported heavy American traffic moving from Metz through Luxembourg City), because the right wing of the Seventh Army finally had shouldered its way west and seemed ready to take over the prearranged blocking line facing Neufchateau, Arlon, and the American reinforcements predicted from Patton's Third Army. The advance guard of the 5th Parachute Division already had crossed the Arlon road north of Martelange. General Brandenberger, the Seventh Army commander, himself came to Luettwitz' command post during the evening to promise that all three regiments of the division would take their allotted positions.

Kokott apparently was promised reinforcement for the attack a outrance on Bastogne but he had to begin the battle with those troops on the spot: his own 26th Volks Grenadier Division, the 901st Kampfgruppe (which had been detached from Panzer Lehr), an extra fifteen Panther tanks, and some artillery battalions. What the 5th Parachute Division could put into the pot depended, of course, on the Americans to the south.

It would take some time to relieve those troops pulling out and redress the alignment of the 26th Volks Grenadier Division's battalions. There was little point to attacking the 101st Airborne in the eastern sector where its strength had been demonstrated, but west of Bastogne the Panzer Lehr and Kokott's own reconnaissance troops had encountered only weak and disorganized opposition. The first blow of the new series designed to bore into Bastogne would be delivered here in the western sector, accompanied by systematic shelling to bring that town down around the defender's ears.

The battle on the 22d, therefore, largely centered along an arc rather roughly delimited by Villeroux and the Neufchateau highway at one end and Mande-St. Etienne, just north of the Marche highway, at the other. One cannot speak of battle lines in this sector: the two antagonists were mixed higgledy-piggledy and for much of the time with no certain knowledge of who was in what village or at what crossroads. It is indicative of the confusion prevailing that the 501st tried to evacuate its regimental baggage train-which had suffered from enemy shellingthrough Sibret after Kampfgruppe Kunkel had cut the road north of the town by the dash into Villeroux. (The 501st lost fifteen trucks and nearly all its bed rolls.)

The arena in question earlier had been the 101st service area and contained in addition a good deal of the