infantry training. This division had seen its first combat in October and had lost almost 3,000 men during bitter fighting in Lorraine. Withdrawn in early December to take over the Third Army "reinforcement" training program at Metz, the 26th Division had just received 2,585 men as replacements and, on 18 December, was beginning its program (scheduled for thirty days) when the German counteroffensive canceled its role as a training division. The "trainees," men taken from headquarters, antitank sections, and the like, at once were preempted to fill the ranks left gaping by the Lorraine battles. Knowing only that an undefined combat mission lay ahead, the division rolled north to Arlon, completing its move shortly before midnight of the 20th. Not until the next day did General Paul learn that his division was to attack on the early morning of the 22d.
The 80th Division (General McBride) was in good condition. As one of the units being primed by the Third Army for the forthcoming attack against the West Wall, the 80th had been granted priority on replacements, had been rested at St. Avold, and on 18 December was on its way into the line near Zweibrucken when General Patton ordered the move to Luxembourg. There the 80th found itself under the control of the III Corps, its only orders to take up a reserve battle position in the 4th Infantry Division zone. On 21 December McBride first learned that his division would attack the following morning.
The 4th Armored Division (Maj. Gen. Hugh J. Gaffey) had come north under hurried and contradictory orders, the result of the usual time lag between a command decision reached in personal conferences by the top commanders and the receipt of this decision in the lower tactical units. CCB, for example, operated for two days under VIII Corps while the rest of the division was en route to III Corps-a fact that has bearing on the subsequent story of Bastogne. On the night of 18 December General Bradley had told Patton, "I understand from General Ike you are to take over the VIII Corps." That same night CCB, 4th Armored, started for Longwy and the road to Luxembourg. The next day the rest of the division followed, under verbal orders from Patton attaching the 4th Armored Division to the III Corps. These orders were countermanded, then reaffirmed by the 12th Army Group in the course of the 19th.
The advance party of CCB arrived meanwhile at Arlon, and found that the VIII Corps was the only corps operating in the area, the III Corps headquarters not yet having appeared on the scene. Brig. Gen. Holmes E. Dager reported to the commander of the VIII Corps, which was officially under the First Army and would be until noon on 20 December, although all concerned knew that it was to pass to the Third Army. General Middleton perforce had command of this Third Army unit before the anticipated change, whereas Third Army records continued to show the entire 4th Armored Division as assigned to the III Corps. At Dager's request the corps commander agreed to keep CCB together as a tactical unit instead of parceling it out along the front.
The 4th Armored Division had won a brilliant reputation during the autumn battles in Lorraine. It was a favorite of the Third Army commander; so, when its leader, Maj. Gen. John S. Wood, was