Page 591

General Bittrich had no intention of pushing the 2d SS Panzer north toward Liege. Although the time at which the II SS Panzer Corps commander received his orders is uncertain, it is known that by the small hours of 25 December Bittrich was embarked on a new mission assigned by General Kraemer, the Sixth Panzer Army chief of staff. The 2d SS Panzer now was to turn west from Manhay, drive along the lateral road to Erezee on the Aisne River, then pivot northwest to seize the Ourthe bridgehead at Durbuy, all this as a maneuver to strike the American VII Corps in the flank and break the deadly grasp Collins and Harmon had on the throat of the Fifth Panzer armored columns in the Celles-Marche sector.

For such a change of axis the Germans needed turning room, and they could best gain it by seizing the road center at Grandmenil just west of the Manhay crossroads. As a result, then, the major part of the 2d SS Panzer would turn away from the 7th Armored to engage General Hickey's troops from the 3d Armored. Richardson's task force, really little more than a light tank platoon, had fallen back from Manhay to Task Force Kane's roadblock at Grandmenil. Here Kane had his trains and a platoon of tank destroyers. The Panthers, followed by the German infantry, pursued the Americans into Grandmenil. The American tank destroyers attempted a fight from the high ground west of the village but had no infantry in support and, as the grenadiers close in, withdrew westward along the road to Erezee. By 0300 on 25 December then, the Germans held Grandmenil and were poised on the way west. It will be remembered that the new

289th Infantry (Col. Douglas B. Smith) had come into assembly areas west of Grandmenil on Christmas Eve in preparation for a dawn attack to drive the enemy off the wooded hills southwest of Grandmenil. [7] The lead battalion, the 3d, actually had started forward from its bivouac in Fanzel when it encountered some 3d Armored tanks (the latter supposed to be screening the 289th deployment) hurrying to the west. About this time the battalion received orders from Hickey that it should dig in to bar the two roads running west and northwest from Grandmenil. Deploying as rapidly as possible in the deep snow, the battalion outposted the main west road to Erezee. The Germans negotiated this forward roadblock without a fight, the ubiquitous and deceptive Sherman tank again providing the ticket. When the panzers, some eight of them, arrived at the main foxhole line the German tankers swiveled their gun turrets facing north and south to blast the battalion into two halves. One unknown soldier in Company K was undaunted by this fusillade: he held his ground and put a bazooka round into the spot but he had stopped the enemy column cold in its tracks, for here the road edged a high cliff and the remaining panzers could not pass their stricken mate. Apparently the Panther detach-

[7] Like nearly all green divisions the 75th Infantry Division failed to keep or transmit really complete and useful historical records during its first combat operations. The bulk of the detailed information on the regimental actions of this division comes from the 3d Armored units to which the formations of the 75th were attached and from the combat interviews with the former. For the 289th Infantry, however, there exists the written recollections of the regimental communications officer, Capt. Walter G. Runte's study in the Advanced Infantry Officers' Course, Class No. 1.