rugged plateau of the Hohes Venn by the close of the second day, with their leading elements along a north-south line through Spa and Stavelot. In 1940 a German armored column had covered this distance in nine hours, albeit with very slight resistance, and a second column, following the more circuitous route now taken by Peiper, consumed only a day and a half on the road. Despite all the delays on the 16th, Peiper did reach Stavelot on the night of 17 December, but at Stavelot he was forced to halt-a marked departure from the German experience of 1940. Recall as well that the second of the Sixth Panzer Army's breakthrough armored divisions, the 12th SS Panzer still was involved in a bitter fight back on the line of scrimmage at the end of this second day. The Fifth Panzer Army was in even worse case: no armored exploitation was yet in progress by the night of 17 December.
If Hitler and OKW expected the armored columns to reach the Meuse in forty-eight hours, as has been reported, the German offensive was seriously behind schedule at the close of the second day of combat. If, as the German Army commanders agree, Model's own plan called for the Meuse to be reached and crossed on the fourth day of the offensive, then it seems reasonable to assume-as the Army commanders did assume-that the lost time could be regained. The immediate problem was to get armored columns into the open and into the lead-thus Rundstedt's order on the late evening of 17 December that the armor must at least keep up with the foot elements.
On the third day of the attack the German armor began to acquire momen-