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angle past the Elsenborn ridge line. This corps front coincided almost exactly with that of the American V Corps. The I SS Panzer Corps continued the German line west along the Ambleve River where it faced the reinforced 30th Infantry Division, but at the juncture of the Ambleve and the Salm the line bent south at a sharp angle, following the east bank of the latter river as far as Vielsalm. This section of the German line opposite the 82d Airborne Division was poorly manned. The 1st SS Panzer Division (the only division available to the corps) had put troops across both the Ambleve and Salm, but by the 24th the 1st SS, already badly beaten, was able to do little more than patrol its corner position.

The fall of St. Vith had opened the way for the westernmost corps of the Sixth Panzer Army to form a base of attack running generally west from Vielsalm and the Salm River to the crossroads at Baraque de Fraiture (Parker's Crossroads). This corps, the II SS Panzer, had relieved the 560th Volks Grenadier Division of its attack against the south front of the 82d Airborne and 3d Armored Divisions, the 560th sideslipping further west to take over the front, facing elements of the 3d Armored Division between the Aisne and Ourthe Rivers. The diagonal course of the Ourthe valley and the broken nature of the ground lying east of it posed an organization and command problem for both Germans and Americans. Those elements of the 3d Armored east of the Ourthe, though belonging to Collins' VII Corps, were actors in the story of the XVIII Airborne Corps. The same lack of neat accord between battle roles and order of battle listings was reflected on the German side of the line. There the LVIII Panzer Corps, forming the right wing tip of the Fifth Panzer Army, lay astride the Ourthe with its armor (the 116th Panzer) on the west bank and the bulk of its infantry (the 560th Volks Grenadier Division) on the east bank, echeloned in front of the incoming II SS Panzer Corps.

When, on the night of 22 December, the advance guard of Bittrich's II SS Panzer Corps first descended on the American-held crossroads at Baraque de Fraiture, General Bittrich had only one regiment of the 2d SS Panzer Division available for mounting this new Sixth Panzer Army attack. On 23 December, when the Americans at the crossroads finally succumbed to superior numbers, Bittrich had nearly all of the 2d SS at his disposal and the advance guard of his 9th SS Panzer Division was nearing the east bank of the Salm. Field Marshal Model had just wheeled the two infantry divisions of the LXVI Corps northward with orders to attack astride the Salm valley, thus bolstering Bittrich's right flank, now insecurely held by the decimated 1st SS Panzer Division.

General Bittrich had been promised still more forces for his attack to the northwest. The Fuehrer Begleit Brigade, re-forming after its battles in the St. Vith sector, was en route to join the 2d SS Panzer at the Baraque de Fraiture crossroads. The 12th SS Panzer Division, so Bittrich was told, would be relieved in the Elsenborn sector and hurried to the new Sixth Panzer front. Finally, Hitler himself would order the 3d Panzer Grenadier Division moved from the Elsenborn battle to the fight looming between the Salm and the Ourthe. Bittrich has not recorded any gloomy suspicion of