Page 495

and would end it in the same status. Replacements, artillery, armor, and supplies by this stage of the German counteroffensive went first to the two panzer armies. Since there was inadequate transport for resupply in the main battle area, Brandenberger could hardly expect that additional trucks and critical items would reach the tactical backwater where his army was stranded. The German commanders on the Sauer front had recognized as early as the 21st and 22d that the bolt had been shot; they and their weary troops knew that the coming battle already was lost. The ground to be held, however, generally favored the defense, just as it had favored the Americans in the first phase.

There was one notable exception-the natural corridor of the Schwarz Erntz. This corridor could be used to split the two German divisions. Moreover, it led directly to the main corps' bridge at Bollendorf and this bridge, if lost, would leave the bulk of the 276th Volks Grenadier Division stranded on the west bank of the Sauer. So seriously was this threat regarded that on 22 December the Seventh Army started work on a heavy bridge at Dillingen to the rear of the 276th.

The morning of the 24th broke clear and cold, bringing a mixed blessing. The thermometer stood below 20 degrees F, and the American foot sloggers would suffer (trench foot was commencing to appear), but the gunners and fighter-bomber pilots could rejoice. With two fire direction centers handling the corps artillery and with perfect visibility at the observation posts, the battalions fired salvo after salvo for interdiction and destruction. A few woods and villages got special treatment-TOT's with white phosphorus, a killing device for which General Patton had built up some attachment among troops of the Third Army. It seemed to the Americans that the good shooting by enemy gunners in the forty-eight hours past required an answer; so counterbattery work began the moment the infantry jumped off in the attack. During the day and night the XII Corps artillery would fire 21,173 shells to support the attack on a ten-mile front. The 5th Division artillery fired 5,813 rounds, exceeding the daily expenditure during the bitter September battle in the Arnaville bridgehead. General Weyland's XIX Tactical Air Command, old friend of the 5th Division, made good use of beautiful flying weather, but there were many targets to divert the fighterbombers beyond the XII Corps zone. The 405th Fighter Group flew eight missions during the day, dropping fragmentation and napalm bombs at points along the Sauer, then strafing and bombing the roads east of the river.

At 1100 the ground attack commenced. There must have been an uneasy feeling that the enemy had plenty of fight left because the corps commander told Irwin that should he feel the attack was proving too costly it would be called off. Caution, it may be said, had become less opprobrious in the Third Army since 16 December. The XII Corps G-2, who like many other intelligence officers had miscalculated the German ability to resist during the optimistic days of early September, now estimated that the enemy reserves in front of the corps equaled one infantry and one armored division. At the same time the American staffs had an uncertain feeling that the extremely tenuous connection between