Page 604

latter got rolling.

But there still were five German divisions in this sector under Hitzfeld's LXVII Corps, the corps maintaining a front whose boundaries coincided almost exactly with those of the American V Corps. These could be no further thought of a drive to Eupen and the establishment of a blocking cordon west of that point; this mission had been scrubbed when the last attacks at Monschau collapsed. Nor was there hope that the right wing of the Sixth Panzer Army could be set in motion at this date, the armor already having been shifted to beef up the advance on the left. Hitzfeld's task was to defend, to hold the shoulder; but his line, bent in a sharp right angle near Wirtzfeld, was expensive in manpower and tactically poor. On Model's order Hitzfeld and his division commanders ran a map exercise on 26 December whose solution was this; the angle at Wirtzfeld must be straightened and the line shortened. The powerful groupment of American artillery on Elsenborn Ridge constituted an ever-present threat; therefore this ground should be taken. Four divisions, it was planned, would attack to achieve this solution.

Meanwhile the main German advance was having trouble. The Bastogne road center continued in American hands, greatly hampering the development of the Fifth Panzer Army attack. The forward wing of the Sixth Panzer Army had collided with the American defenses along the line of the Ambleve and Salm Rivers but had failed to gain maneuver room and was proceeding on a dangerously narrow front. Every mobile or semimobile unit which could be found would have to be thrown into the main advance. The Army Group B commander, acting on Hitler's order, took the 3d Panzer Grenadier Division out of the LXVII Corps and told Hitzfeld to abandon his planned attack against the strong Elsenborn Ridge position. The corps was left a limited task, to iron out the Wirtzfeld angle.

Finally, on 28 December, Hitzfeld was ready, but his assault force now represented only parts of two divisions, the 12th Volks Grenadier Division and the 246th. Early that morning two battalions of the 352d Regiment (246th Volks Grenadier Division) moved out of the woods near Rocherath against the forward lines of the 99th Infantry Division on the Elsenborn Ridge. This attack was blown to pieces by accurate shelling from the batteries on the ridge. A battalion of the 48th Regiment (12th Volks Grenadier Division) met an identical fate when it started toward the 2d Infantry Division position northwest of Wirtzfeld. Two battalions from the 27th Regiment(12th Volks Grenadier Division) took a crack at the 1st Infantry Division front in the Butgenbach sector, but intense rocket fire and shellfire failed to shake the defenders and left their supporting artillery unscathed. The German assault battalions had not even deployed from approach march formation when a rain of bursting shells scattered them in every direction. A handful of riflemen and engineers reached a draw leading to the American foxhole line only to be captured or driven off. This was the last attack against the American forces arrayed on the north shoulder. Hitzfeld was left to hold what he could of his lengthy front with a force which by the close of December had dwindled to