Page 632

On the afternoon of New Year's Day Priess had just finished briefing his three subordinate commanders for a counter-attack to be started in the next few hours when a message arrived from Manteuffel: the 12th SS Panzer was detached from his command and Priess himself was to report to the army headquarters pronto. The two generals met about 1800. By this hour the full account of the 6th Armored attack was available and the threat to the weakened 26th Volks Grenadier Division could be assessed. Manteuffel ordered Priess to take over the fight in the 26th sector at noon on 2 January, and told him that his corps would be given the 12th SS Panzer, the 26th Volks Grenadier Division, and the 340th Volks Grenadier Division, which was en route from Aachen.

The 6th Armored Division would be given some respite, however. When Field Marshal Model arrived to look over the plans for the counterattack, on the afternoon of the 2d, only a small tank force had come in from the 12th SS Panzer, and the main body of the 340th was progressing so slowly that Model set the attack date as 4 January. He promised also to give Priess the 9th SS Panzer Division for added punch. It must be said that Manteuffel's part in these optimistic plans was much against his own professional judgment.

Faced with a front normally considered too wide for a linear advance by armor, General Grow put five task forces into the attack on 2 January, holding only one in reserve. The boundary between CCA and CCB was defined by the railroad line which once had linked Bastogne, Benonchamps, and Wiltz. CCB now had two tank battalions (the 68th and 69th) plus the 50th Armored Infantry Battalion to throw in on the north wing; CCA got the two fresh battalions from CCR.

About one o'clock on the morning of the 2d the Luftwaffe began bombing the 6th Armored area. Although the German planes had been more conspicuous by their absence than their presence during the past days, it seemed that a few could always be gotten up as a token gesture when a large German ground attack was forming. (For example, on 30 December the Luftwaffe had supported the eastern and western attacks with great impartiality by dropping its bombs on Bastogne, the most concentrated air punishment the town received during the entire battle. CCB, 10th Armored, was bombed out of its headquarters, and a large portion of the Belgian population sought safety in flight.) While the German planes were droning overhead, dark shapes, increasing in number, were observed against the snow near Wardin. These were a battalion of the 167th Volks Grenadier forming for a counter-attack. Nine battalions of field artillery began TOT fire over Wardin, and the enemy force melted away. Just to the north, but in the CCB sector, the advance guard of the 340th Volks Grenadier Division made its initial appearance about 0200 on the 2d, penetrated the American outpost line, and broke into Mageret. The skirmish lasted for a couple of hours, but the Luftwaffe gave the defenders a hand by bombing its own German troops.

In midmorning the 68th Tank Battalion sortied from Mageret to climb the road toward Arloncourt, the objective of the previous day. The paving was covered with ice and the slopes were too slippery and steep for the steel tank