I am posting the information below to dispel the notion that Patton's tactics were incomplete and that the advance three divisions of Third Army did not incur tough fighting.
The selected information below is from the United States Army Official History of the Battle of the Bulge. The portions included below include only the first couple of days of action. In actuality all these elements of Third Army would be engaged in continuous fighting for many, many days, as the Germans began moving in to engage Third Army with more German fighting units, including the elite 1SS Panzer Division.
UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II
The European Theater of Operations
THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE by Hugh M. Cole
OFFICE OF THE CHIEF OF MILITARY HISTORY
DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
WASHINGTON, D.C., 1965
"This volume represents the most exhaustive collection of personal memoirs by leading participants ever attempted for a general staff history of a major campaign. The memoirs take two forms: interviews with American participants shortly after the action described, and written accounts prepared immediately after the end of World War II by the German officers who took part in the Ardennes Campaign. The use of the combat interview in the European Theater of Operations was organized by Col. William A. Ganoe, theater historian, but the specific initiation of an intensive effort to cover the Ardennes story while the battle itself was in progress must be credited to Col. S. L. A. Marshall. The enlistment of the German participants in the Ardennes, first as involuntary then as voluntary historians, was begun by Colonel Marshall and Capt. Kenneth Hechler, then developed into a fully organized research program by Col. Harold Potter, who was assisted by a very able group of young officers, notably Captains Howard Hudson, Frank Mahin, and James Scoggins."
The III Corps' Counterattack Toward Bastogne
The Supreme Commander himself was well aware of the Third Army commander's penchant for cut and thrust tactics and probably needed little urging to take some action calculated to hold Patton within the constraints of "the big picture." On the other hand Eisenhower recognized that the continued occupation of Bastogne, the key to the entire road net on the south side of the German Bulge, was essential to future offensive operations. Patton, as the SHAEF staff saw it, would make the narrow thrust on the Arlon-Bastogne axis, but any more ambitious plans would have to be subordinated to the larger strategy.  Eisenhower, therefore, told Bradley that the American counterattack via Bastogne should be held in check and not allowed to spread, that it was, after all, only a steppingstone for the "main counteroffensive."
Preparations for the Attack
Possibly the "lucky" commander needed some curb on his inherent optimism, but regardless of any pose which Patton may have assumed in the war council at Verdun he and his staff went about the business of mounting this first counterattack coolly and methodically.  The direction of attack already had been set by General Eisenhower, that is, north from an assembly area around Arlon. The immediate mission, assigned by the higher command after the Verdun meeting, was the "relief" of Bastogne and the use of its road net as a sally port for a drive by the Third Army to St. Vith in the larger Allied offensive. Dday for the counterattack was 22 December.
The 26th Division (Maj. Gen. Willard S. Paul) was full of rifle replacements, mostly inexperienced and lacking recent infantry training. This division had seen its first combat in October and had lost almost 3,000 men during bitter fighting in Lorraine. Withdrawn in early December to take over the Third Army "reinforcement" training program at Metz, the 26th Division had just received 2,585 men as replacements and, on 18 December, was beginning its program (scheduled for thirty days) when the German counteroffensive canceled its role as a training division. The "trainees," men taken from headquarters, antitank sections, and the like, at once were preempted to fill the ranks left gaping by the Lorraine battles. Knowing only that an undefined combat mission lay ahead, the division rolled north to Arlon, completing its move shortly before midnight of the 20th. Not until the next day did General Paul learn that his division was to attack on the early morning of the 22d.
The 80th Division (General McBride) was in good condition. As one of the units being primed by the Third Army for the forthcoming attack against the West Wall, the 80th had been granted priority on replacements, had been rested at St. Avold, and on 18 December was on its way into the line near Zweibrucken when General Patton ordered the move to Luxembourg. There the 80th found itself under the control of the III Corps, its only orders to take up a reserve battle position in the 4th Infantry Division zone. On 21 December McBride first learned that his division would attack the following morning.
The 4th Armored Division (Maj. Gen. Hugh J. Gaffey) had come north under hurried and contradictory orders, the result of the usual time lag between a command decision reached in personal conferences by the top commanders and the receipt of this decision in the lower tactical units. CCB, for example, operated for two days under VIII Corps while the rest of the division was en route to III Corps-a fact that has bearing on the subsequent story of Bastogne. On the night of 18 December General Bradley had told Patton, "I understand from General Ike you are to take over the VIII Corps." That same night CCB, 4th Armored, started for Longwy and the road to Luxembourg. The next day the rest of the division followed, under verbal orders from Patton attaching the 4th Armored Division to the III Corps. These orders were countermanded, then reaffirmed by the 12th Army Group in the course of the 19th.
The 4th Armored Division had won a brilliant reputation during the autumn battles in Lorraine. It was a favorite of the Third Army commander; so, when its leader, Maj. Gen. John S. Wood, was returned to the United States for rest and recuperation, General Patton named his own chief of staff as Wood's successor. On 10 December the 4th Armored Division came out of the line after five months of incessant fighting. The last phase of combat, the attack in the Saar mud, had been particularly trying and costly. Replacements, both men and materiel, were not to be had; trained tank crews could not be found in the conventional replacement centers-in fact these specialists no longer were trained in any number in the United States. When the division started for Luxembourg it was short 713 men and 19 officers in the tank and infantry battalions and the cavalry squadron.
The state of materiel was much poorer, for there was a shortage of medium tanks throughout the European theater. The division could replace only a few of its actual losses and was short twenty-one Shermans when ordered north; worse, ordnance could not exchange worn and battledamaged tanks for new. Tanks issued in the United Kingdom in the spring of 1944 were still operating, many of them after several major repair jobs, and all with mileage records beyond named life expectancy. Some could be run only at medium speed. Others had turrets whose electrical traverse no longer functioned and had to be cranked around by hand. Tracks and motors were worn badly: the 8th Tank Battalion alone had thirty-three tanks drop out because of mechanical failure in the l60mile rush to the Ardennes. But even with battle-weary tanks and a large admixture of green tankers and armored infantry the 4th Armored Division, on its record, could be counted an asset in any operation requiring initiative and battle know-how.
The [initial] night battles had shown clearly that the 80th Infantry Division faced hard going as the 24th dawned. The advance had carried north to a point where it impinged on the Seventh Army communications leading to the Bastogne battleground.
The first real test of strength came when the leading company was a couple of miles southeast of Grosbous, from which town a road led north to Eschdorf. Here the advance battalion of the 915th Regiment [of the 352nd VGD] struck so suddenly and with such force that the lead company fell back for at least half a mile. The guns supporting the 104th Infantry were in position, however, and finally bent back the counterattack. In the meantime a handful of riflemen from the 109th Infantry, 28th Division, who had been waging a long battle in Grosbous until driven out by four German tanks, made their way back to the 104th. As it turned out the body of the 352d Volks Grenadier Division was not present here but was in the 80th Division zone. The 915th Regiment consisting of troops now split off from their trains, artillery, and the bulk of the division by the wedge which the 80th had thrust forward west of Ettelbruck, withdrew to make a stand in the neighborhood of Grosbous. Colonel Palladino left Company E to hold in check some Germans who had taken to the nearby woods, while the rest of the 104th Infantry continued tramping north along the road to Grosbous. The village itself was taken a couple of hours after midnight in a surprise attack by a combat patrol from Company G.
The series of blocks thrown against the 352d Volks Grenadier Division by the 80th Division and the 104th Infantry gave the western wing of the 26th Division a clear field. By the middle of the afternoon the 328th had covered nearly six miles without firing or receiving a shot. The advance guard was nearing the village of Arsdorf, from which a series of small roads and trails radiated through ravines and along ridges to the Sure, when a few rounds came in from self-propelled guns firing from a hill to the north. Concurrently reports arrived from the 26th Reconnaissance Troop that there was a strong German force in Rambrouch on the left flank. Night was near and the true strength of the enemy unknown; so the regiment halted while scouts worked their way to the front and flanks.
Who were these German troops? Since it was known that the 352d Volks Grenadier Division could not have reached this point the first guess was that the 5th Parachute Division, believed to be farther north, had pushed down into the area. Actually the 328th Infantry had run into the Fuehrer Grenadier Brigade, which the Seventh Army had borrowed from the OKW reserve, rushing it across the front to bolster this south flank. At first the brigade had been sent in to hold the Sure River line, but the Seventh Army then decided to expand its blocking position well to the south of the river, and so turned the brigade through Bourscheid and Eschdorf to the neighborhood of Arsdorf. This unit contained a battalion of forty Mark IV and Panther tanks, one battalion of mobile infantry, and one of foot, but thus far only a few tanks and the rifle battalion in personnel carriers were on the scene.
While the 104th moved forward to hit the enemy congregated at Grosbous, the 328th Infantry reorganized to keep the drive going, under somewhat optimistic orders to seize crossings on the Wiltz River. At midnight the 1st and 3d Battalions jumped off to take Grevils-Bresil, from which a fairly good ridge road ran north to Eschdorf. The village was garrisoned by two companies of the Fuehrer Grenadier Brigade, reinforced by several Panthers from the Seventh Army reserve. Unshaken by a half-hour shelling, the Germans held tenaciously to the village all night long.
When daylight came on 23 December the 26th Division had little to show for its night attack. The 104th Infantry held Grosbous, but the 328th was checked at Grevils-Bresil by a company of stubborn German infantry backed up with a few tanks. In the woods south of Grosbous the men of Company E, 104th Infantry, had taken on more than they had bargained for: a couple of hundred riflemen from the 915th Regiment [of the 352nd VGD] led in person by the regimental commander. (The American regimental commander had to throw in Company I, but even so this pocket was not wiped out until Christmas Eve.)
The Third Army commander [Patton], veteran tanker, himself prescribed the tactics to be used by Gaffey and the 4th Armored. The attack should lead off with the tanks, artillery, tank destroyers, and armored engineers in the van. The main body of armored infantry should be kept back. When stiff resistance was encountered, envelopment tactics should be used: no close-in envelopment should be attempted; all envelopments should be started a mile or a mile and a half mile back and be made at right angles. Patton, whose experience against the Panther tank during the Lorraine campaign had made him keenly aware of its superiority over the American Sherman in gun and armor, ordered that the new, modified Sherman with heavier armor (the so-called Jumbo) should be put in the lead when available. But there were very few of the Jumbos in the Third Army.
In any case General Kokott, commanding the 26th Volks Grenadier Division responsible for the Chaumont-Martelange sector, had taken steps to reply to the attack on Chaumont. This village lies at the bottom of a bowl whose sides are formed by hills and connecting ridges. The rim to the northeast is densely wooded but is tapped by a trail leading on to the north. Along this trail, screened by the woods, the Germans brought up the 11th Assault Gun Brigade, numbering ten to fifteen remodeled Mark III carriages, bearing 75-mm. guns and with riflemen clinging to their decks and sides. Rolling down the slope behind an artillery smoke screen, the German assault guns knocked out those American tanks they could sight and discharged their gray-clad passengers into the village.
The American riflemen (Lt. Col. Harold Cohen's 10th Armored Infantry Battalion) battled beside the crippled and mired tanks in what Maj. Albin Irzyk, the veteran commander of the 9th Tank Battalion, called the bitterest fighting his battalion ever had encountered. The forward artillery observer was dead and there was no quick means of bringing fire on the enemy assault guns, which simply stood off and blasted a road for the German infantry. Company A, 10th Armored Infantry Battalion, which had led the original assault against Chaumont, lost some sixty-five men. The battle soon ended.  In small groups the Americans fell back through the dusk to their original positions, leaving eleven Shermans as victims of the assault guns and the mud.
It was daylight when tanks and infantry resumed the assault at Warnach, driving in from three sides with the riflemen clinging to the tanks. The battle which ensued was the most bitter fought by CCA during the whole Bastogne operation. Heilmann, commanding the 5th Parachute Division, had reasoned that the sector he held south of Bastogne was far too wide for a connected linear defense, and so had concentrated the 15th Parachute Regiment along the Martelange-Bastogne road. Warnach was the regimental command post and there was at least one rifle battalion in the village, reinforced by a battery of self-propelled tank destroyers. Two American artillery battalions kept this enemy force down, firing with speed and accuracy as the Shermans swept in, but once the artillery lifted, a house-to-house battle royal commenced in earnest. Four Shermans were destroyed by tank destroyer fire at close range. The enemy infantry fought desperately, filtering back into houses which had been cleared, organizing short, savage rushes to retake lost buildings, and showing little taste for surrender. But try as they might the German paratroopers could not get past the American armored infantry and at the tanks-only one was knocked out by German bazooka fire. The result was slow to be seen but none the less certain. At noon, when the battle ended, the Americans had killed one hundred and thirty-five Germans and taken an equal number of prisoners. The little village cost them sixtyeight officers and men, dead and wounded.
Chaumont, on the 23d, and Warnach, on the 24th, are tabbed in the journals of the 4th Armored as "hot spots" on the march to Bastogne. Quite unexpectedly, however, a third developed at Bigonville, a village some two and a half miles east of the Bastogne highway close to the boundary between the 4th Armored and the 26th Infantry Division. The gap between these divisions, only partially screened by light forces, suddenly became a matter of more than normal concern on the night of 22 December with reports that a large body of German armor was moving in (actually the advance guard of the Fuehrer Grenadier Brigade which had appeared in front of the left wing of the 26th Division). To protect CCA's open right flank, Gaffey ordered Col. Wendell Blanchard to form the Reserve Combat Command as a balanced task force (using the 53d Armored Infantry Battalion and 37th Tank Battalion) and advance toward Bigonville. Early on 23 December CCR left Quatre-Vents, followed the main road nearly to Martelange, then turned right onto a secondary road which angled northeast. This road was "sheer ice" and much time was consumed moving the column forward.
[In Bigonville]. . . the German infantry held their fire until the Americans were in the streets, then cut loose with their bazookas, light mortars, and small arms. While the two assault companies of the 53d advanced from house to house the tanks of the 37th blasted the buildings ahead, machine-gunned the Germans when they broke into the open, and set barns and out-buildings afire with tracer bullets.
Perhaps a few of the armored officers still believed that a hell-forleather tank attack could cleave a way to Bastogne. But by the evening of 24 December it seemed to both Gaffey and Millikin that tanks were bound to meet tough going in frontal attack on the hard-surfaced roads to which they were confined and that the operation would demand more use of the foot-slogger, particularly since the German infantry showed a marked proclivity for stealing back into the villages nominally "taken" by the tankers. . .
Thus far the Third Army counterattack had tended to be a slugging match with frontal assault and little maneuver. General Patton's insistence on bypassing centers of resistance had been negated by the terrain, the weather, and the wide-reaching impact of the earlier VIII Corps demolitions scheme.
For the next three days the [80th] division would wage a lone battle to reach and cross the Sure River, the scene of action being limited to the wedge formed on the north by the Sure and on the east by the Sauer River with a base represented by the Ettelbruck-Heiderscheidergrund road. This area the 80th came to know as the Bourscheid triangle. Within this frame lay thick forests, deep ravines, and masked ridges, the whole a checkerboard of little terrain compartments. Control of a force larger than the battalion would be most difficult, artillery support-except at clearings and villages-would be ineffective, and the maintenance of an interlocking, impervious front nigh impossible. Once a battalion cleared a compartment and advanced to the next the enemy could be counted on to seep back to his original position. Unobserved fire and loss of direction in the deep woods, down the blind draws, and along the twisting ridges made each American unit a potential threat to its neighbors, often forcing the use of a single battalion at a time. The infantryman would be duly thankful when tanks, tank destroyers, or artillery could give a hand or at least encourage by their presence, but the battle in woods and ravines was his own.
The initial fire plan had called for the battery of 155's to plaster the center of the town, and these shells still were coming in when the infantry half-tracks entered the streets. Far more vulnerable to the rain of shell fragments than the tankers, the armored infantrymen leaped from their vehicles for the nearest doorway or wall. In the smoke and confusion the German garrison, a mixed group from the 5th Parachute and 26th Volks Grenadier Divisions, poured out of the cellars. The ensuing shooting, clubbing, stabbing melee was all that the armored infantry could handle and the C Team tanks rolled on to glory alone.
The "relief column" heading out of Assenois for the Bastogne perimeter now consisted of the three Sherman tanks commanded by Lieutenant Boggess, the one half-track which had blundered into the tank column, and two more Shermans bringing up the rear. Boggess moved fast, liberally spraying the tree line beside the highway with machine gun fire. But a 300-yard gap developed between the first three vehicles and the last three, giving the enemy just time to throw a few Teller mines out on the road before the half-track appeared. The half-track rolled over the first mine and exploded. Captain Dwight then ran his tow tanks onto the shoulder, the crews removed the mines, and the tanks rushed on to catch up with Boggess. At 1650 (the time is indelibly recorded in the 4th Armored Division record) Boggess saw some engineers in friendly uniform preparing to assault a pillbox near the highway. These were men from the 326th Airborne Engineer Battalion-contact with the Bastogne garrison had been made. Twenty minutes later Colonel Abrams (subsequently awarded the DSC for the action at Assenois) shook hands with General McAuliffe, who had come to the outpost line to welcome the relieving force.
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