Early in the moring, the 62nd VGD took Winterspelt and made a dash for the Steinebruck bridge. They were thrown back after a counter attack from CCB of the 9th Armored Division. At the same time, Bleialf and Winterspelt were overrun by the 18thVGD.
At the north, side other elements of the 18th VGD, with help of the 6th Panzer Division, attacked Andler. The support of some Tiger II tanks (Schwere Panzerabteilung 506) made the 32nd Squadron/Troop B retreat fast. Although the Tigers were very effective in combat, they made the whole column slow and even stalled.
After taking the town, the 18thVGD went onward to Schonberg, leaving the Tigers in Andler. They created a massive traffic jam in the small streets. It was not the ony traffic jam in the area. The roads to Schonberg and the road west of St Vith to the west of Rodt were blocked, causing a delay for the German advance.
Around 8.45hrs the 18thVGD captured the Schonberg bridge, crossing the Our, and with that they cut off the withdrawl of the American Artillery units.
The progress on the South, against scattered US troops, was slown down, compared with the Northern side. It gave many American troops the chance to escape the area. General Jones of the 106thID gave the order to retreat to the other side of the Our River. But because of the lack of experience and equipment, like compasses and maps, they did not see that opportunity and the troops got more and more trapped.
Elements CCB of the 9thAD attacked Steinebruck and dug in German infantry at 9.30 hrs. They captured Elcherath, but were ordered by General Jones to withdrawl.
Meanwhile in the morning, General Bruce Cooper Clarke, commander of
CCB/ 7th Armored Division, had arrived at the 106th HQ in St. Vith where he met the 106th commanders. He could tell that his CCB was on its way, but had trouble with the many retreating US troops who caused traffic jams on the road, coming from St Vith and going in the direction of Vielsalm. The estimated time of arrival was around late afternoon. General Alan Jones did not like that news: he was hoping for quick reinforcements in the region. The situation got worse when Colonel Mark Devine of the 14th cavalry Group, came in with the news that he had seen German troops, with support of Tiger tanks. A bit later, German scouts were seen in the hills on the east side of St. Vith, only about 3000 yards from the town away.
Jones turned over his command to Clarke around 14.30 hrs.
One Artillery Battalion, the 275th AFAB (Armored Field Artillery Battalion) had stayed in positions near Oberemmels, without friendly troops in front of them. When their commander, Lt. Co. Clay, heard the 7th Armored Division was arriving in St. Vith, he directlr offered his help.
Major Donald Boyer , 38thAIB, arrived around 12.30hrs at the junction of Poteau on that 17th december, where he was flabbergasted by the constant stream of retreating troops. “We realized that this was not a convoy moving to the rear, it was a case of ‘every dog for himself…It wasn’t a pretty site, we were seing American soldiers running away.…”
Around the same time, around 12.00 hrs the situation in St. Vith was getting critical. The 14th Cavalry Group, who were on the North of the 106th, were driven back. The 422rd and 423th were cut off. More to the south, the 9thAD were attacking Winterspelt, trying to retake it. Next to them, to the south, the 424th was holding the line.
Two hours later, Boyer and Lt Colonel Fuller and Cpl Cox started to clear the roads by ordering the vehicules who were jamming the roads towards St. Vith, over to the sides. “It was already 15.15 hrs and from the looks of the road jam, neither the tanks nor anything else was going to reach St. Vith for a long time. “
Slowly a path was formed and the tanks started rolling slowly.
At 20.15 hrs, A company entererd the town of St. Vith. It had taken them two and half hours to get from that Poteau junction to the town: a 10,6 km ride, wich normally would have cost them a half our. Company B and HQ companies were just behind them.
Because of the retreating troops were blocking the roads and delaying the advancing US troops, the two regiments of the 106th were getting in serious trouble. The 7th came in too late, to create a corridor for the 423rd and 424th.
By midnight, Clarke had set up the beginings of a horse shoe shaped
defense, set up by units of the 7th, 9tArmored Division and 424th regiment troops, supported by artillery, tanks and tank destroyer battalions.
More troops found their way to St Vith and were placed into defensive positions right away. One of those troops were the men of the 31st Tank Battalion, company A, led by Lt. Colonel Robert C. Erlenbusch.
Erlenbusch and his men were ordered to set up a defensive position on the high ground, about two thousand yards east of St. Vith. On their way to their postion, the lead tank, led by Lt Dunn, spotted three german tanks and about one company of infantry, 800 yards in front of him, upon rounding in a bend of the road. After giving orders to the others, he led his platoon to the road bend and started a fire fight, wich was short. They knocked out all three tanks and killed/ wounded around fifty german soldiers. They took defensive positions and hold that position, although several small attacks took place, during the night.
At the same time, the German commanders had the same difficulties: traffic jams on the small roads delayed the advance. In the chaos, Model and Von Manteuffel met. Model ordered him to siege St. Vith the next day and handed over the Fuhrer Begleit Brigade.
An attack in the North from the 18thVGD with help of a unit of the 1st SS Panzer was blocked by the 7th and 9th Armored.
18th december >>>>>>