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Armies were already tagged for stiffening the First Army line of battle in the Ardennes. In these first critical days, then, the southern line of the Meuse would have to be guarded on a catch-as-catch-can basis by troops brought up from the depots, supply dumps, administrative installations, and headquarters in France and western Belgium. As late as the 22d there were bridges with no organized defense whatever.

The initial danger, or so it seemed, was posed by saboteurs, parachutists, or small motorized detachments masquerading as Americans or Belgian civilians. The bits of tactical intelligence accumulating as prisoners and documents came into the forward headquarters indicated clearly enough that the enemy had trained and committed special forces to seize the Meuse crossings. Parachutists captured behind the forward lines in the first hours of the battle told lurid tales of the plans to capture General Eisenhower, blow up ammunition dumps, and destroy radio and telephone installations and POL pipelines. When a few bona fide Germans were captured complete with American uniforms, dog tags, and jeeps, the word spread through the battle area and raced from mouth to mouth back into France.

Rumors, grossly elaborated from the few bits of fact, quickly jammed the