Advance and Destroy: Patton as Commander in the Bulge

By John Nelson Rickard | Go to book overview

8
A Rendezvous with Eagles,
December 24–26

At the outside, we thought we could hold off 4 Armd Div until
25 Dec 44.

—Gersdorff, chief of staff, Fifth Panzer Armee

December 23 was not a productive day for Third Army. While CCB recoiled from the counterattack at Chaumont, the tanks of CCA sat virtually idle the whole day on the south bank of the Sûre River, after having cleared Martelange by 0300 that morning. Corps engineers, assisted by the 24th Engineer C Battalion, could not complete a ninety-foot-long Bailey bridge until approximately 1400.1 Meanwhile, Earnest ordered a company to take the high ground immediately across the river, and the infantry made its way across the blown bridge without opposition. Had the Fallschirmjäger vigorously defended the heights beyond, it is likely that CCA’s advance would have been delayed even longer.

With the Bailey bridge finished, TF Oden (35th Tank Battalion) passed through the bridgehead and took the lead. After rapidly overrunning dug-in infantry and antitank gun positions about one mile up the road, CCA was hit again, this time by automatic weapons and antitank fire from Warnach, to the right of the Arlon-Bastogne highway. Warnach was defended by II Abteilung/FJR 15. With the aid of artillery, CCA destroyed four German guns and drove the Fallschirmjäger into the woods, but the Germans infiltrated back into Warnach in the dark. Lieutenant Colonel Hal C. Pattison, CCA’s executive officer, later reflected, “The general impression was that we could just cut our way through” to Bastogne. That impression had proved false on December 23, when CCA and CCB were effectively stalled for the entire day. Prematurely elated by the completion of the bridge at Martelange, Millikin apparently radioed

-166-

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Advance and Destroy: Patton as Commander in the Bulge
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Key to the Maps xiii
  • Series Editor’s Foreword xv
  • Acknowledgments xvii
  • Abbreviations xix
  • Studying Patton 1
  • Part I- The Road to the Bulge 11
  • 1- Origin of the Ardennes Counteroffensive 13
  • 2- The Opposing Armies in December 1944 25
  • Part II- Panzers in the Ardennes 53
  • 3- Onslaught 55
  • 4- Enter Patton 73
  • 5- The Verdun Conference 94
  • Part III- Descent on Bastogne 111
  • 6- The Ninety-Degree Turn 113
  • 7- Third Army Attacks, December 22–23 137
  • 8- A Rendezvous with Eagles, December 24–26 166
  • Part IV- The Incomplete Victory 179
  • 9- Patton’s Alternative Lines of Action 181
  • 10- Path to Attrition, December 27–29 200
  • 11- Slugging Match, December 30–31 226
  • 12- Culmination, January 1–4 241
  • 13- The Harlange Pocket, January 5–8 261
  • 14- No Risk, No Reward, January 9–25 275
  • 15- Assessment 303
  • Appendixes 325
  • Notes 355
  • Selected Bibliography 427
  • Index of Military Units 447
  • General Index 472
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