Page 520

contain the enemy in the Ettelbruck and Bourscheid sectors. Orders from General Millikin, received at the 80th Division command post early on the 24th, underlined the shift of gravity westward: McBride was to send two battalions of the 318th Infantry from Ettelbruck to assist the 4th Armored Division, and at once.

The 26th Infantry Division Attack

The 26th Division advance in the center of the III Corps zone began under circumstances similar to those in the sector of the 80th Division. [8] Before dawn on 22 December the 104th Infantry and the 328th Infantry moved from their assembly areas east of Arlon to the line of departure at the Attert River. A very large number of men in the rifle companies had yet to see their first German, many of them were replacements whose only recent experience with a rifle consisted of a day or two at the Metz training ground. All had heard the current rumors of atrocities perpetrated by the German SS troops and paratroopers; all were steeled, according to the capacity of the individual, to meet a ruthless enemy.

The general axis of advance was Arlon-Wiltz; but there was no main road from the Attert north to Wiltz-indeed the advance would have to reach Eschdorf, seven air miles away, before it could follow a main thoroughfare. There were numerous secondary roads and trails going north, and, the attack would fan out over these. But this network became increasingly difficult to traverse as it descended into the ravines and through the forests leading to the gorges of the Sure River. The ground between the Sure trench and the valley of the Wiltz was equally rugged. Since little was known of the enemy, the division plan simply called for the troops to expand over roads and trails, eliminating German resistance wherever found.

While the 26th Reconnaissance Troop rolled out as a screen several thousand yards to the fore, the 104th Infantry (Lt. Col. Ralph A. Palladino) on the right and the 328th Infantry (Col. Ben R. Jacobs) on the left marched through dense woods and over slushy, muddy trails, finally coming out onto open, rolling fields near the village of Pratz, about three miles by road from the Attert. Unaware of the fact, the Americans were nearing the advance guard of the 915th Regiment, marching out from Ettelbruck. (It was this column of the 352d Volks Grenadier Division whose tail the 80th Division pinched near Merzig.)

The 104th Infantry continued north, assailed only by scattered small arms fire and machine gun bursts fired at long range. A mile farther on a small detachment of enemy tanks and infantry essayed an attack but were repelled by mortar fire.

The first real test of strength came when the leading company was a couple of miles southeast of Grosbous, from which town a road led north to Eschdorf. Here the advance battalion of the 915th Regiment struck so suddenly and

[8] The combat interviews are fragmentary for the 26th Division and the historian must rely on the regimental records. The 26th Division AAR is fairly complete, but the account of the action is very terse. The only publications of value are S/Sgt. Jerome J. Theise, ed., History of the Three Hundred Twenty-Eight Infantry Regiment, From Reactivation, 12 February 1943, to VE Day, 9 May (Wels: Verlagsdruckerei, 1945; and The History of the 26th Yankee Division (Salem, 1955).