were positioned to support the untried 106th Division. The 99th Division, on the north flank, had only one battalion of corps artillery in support. And the records show only 2,500 rounds shot by American corps artillery in planned defensive and counterpreparation fires on the first day of the battle.
There are a number of reasons for the American failure to apply the full weight of the artillery arm on 16 December. The initial enemy shellfire did severe damage to the U.S. artillery communications net. Even after repairs were made, intelligence as to the German locations and intentions moved very slowly from command post to command post (the 559th Field Artillery Battalion, for example, received no warning of the German force to its front until 1215). The firing battalions supporting the 106th Division were hampered by "no-fire" lines earlier established by the division, and there seems to have been little or no attempt to lift these restrictions as the enemy assault waves swept forward to grapple the American infantry. Corps artillery proved quite as vulnerable to a fast-moving ground attack as the divisional gunners, and as early as 1035 the VIII Corps artillery was displacing rearward on orders. The towed battalions, particularly the 155-mm. and 8-in. artillery, took long to limber and even longer to find a place on the crowded roads leading west; it is not surprising that they fell prey quite as often to German infantry as to panzers. A large portion of the VIII Corps artillery was forced to displace so often that two to four days would elapse before the battalions finally settled long enough to engage the enemy. Other battalions simply were whittled away by enemy action every time they went into firing position (the 687th Field Artillery Battalion was overrun in front of Wiltz, in Wiltz, and west of Wiltz). Observation was very poor until midafternoon on the 16th, no artillery planes got up, and unobserved fire on the German West Wall positions pounded assembly areas long since left behind by the enemy moving west.
The artillery fire fight on the first day of the attack and for most of the second was carried by the divisional howitzer battalions, which began to engage observed targets two and a half to three hours after the start of the German preparation. Many of these battalions were firing with only one eye, since wire to a number of observations posts went out by o630, others were systematically engulfed during the morning by the German assault companies, all microphones for sound-ranging were out of operation by the evening of the 16th, and several of those batteries which were firing lost their ammunition trucks in the melee along the roads to the rear. Many of the forward batteries were put out of action as soon as the infantry line to their front broke; others fired until the evening of the 17th and still were able to withdraw successfully.
Did the American gunners blunt or delay the first German thrust? At Monschau the artillery stopped the attack cold, effectively narrowing the German assault front. In the 99th Division sector the division artillery held its ground until the close of the 17th when the V Corps artillery groupment at Elsenborn took over the fight with such a weight of metal that one infantry battalion was covered by a defensive barrage of 11,500 rounds during the night of 17 December. The Fifth Panzer Army, on the con-