December 16th: The attack begins.
Just before 5.30 hrs on Saturday december 16th a large artillery bombardment started to rain down on the American troops. The forwarded
postions of the two 106thID regiments didn’t recieve to much damage, but
it destroyed most of the communication infrastructure. Because of German radio scrambling, radios didn’t work to well, causing major problems with the rear: they did not know what was going on with the 422nd and 423rd. Without communication, the two regiments got isolated of the rest the troops in the rear.
Things got worse when the two regiments of the 106th were completely surprised by troops of Von Manteuffel who showed up. Using an undefended gap between the villages of Kobscheid and Weckerath, where no artillery fell, the 18th Volksgrenadiers made a quick advance towards the town of Auw. On the other side, other units of the 18th VGD worked their way through Bleialf and Schonberg, surrounding the American positions on the Schnee Eifel Ridge.
Under the spooky lights of German searchlights, lighting up the cloudy skies, another german unit advanced. The 62nd VGD rushed over the border and met up with the 18th VGD, who went through Grosslangenfeld, at Winterspelt. The two units needed the bridge over the Our River at Steinebruck. Another bridge was needed: the one in Schonberg.
Meanwhile the 18th Cavalry Reconaissance Squadron held the town of Kobscheid for a day, which was circled with barbed wire and heavy machine guns, but finally had to give up their position. They retreated to St Vith, after destroying their vehicules. Other Calvalry troops also left the villages earlier this day, to avoid surrounding by German troops. New defensive positions were set up along the ridge from Andler to Manderfeld.
The Volksgrenadiers didn’t reach St. Vith by the end of the day. They even didn’t reach Steinebruck or Schonberg. It was not only the US strongholds and supporting artillery that was bothering them: the snow and icy, muddy roads kept slowing them down. The idea of Generalmajor Friedrich Kittle to set up a bycicle battalion, wich had to dash to St. Vith, did not work out, because of the weather.
Around noon, reinforcements were sent to Winterspelt and Schonberg. The US 168th Engineer Combat Battalion also was sent out. Both these desiscions were made, to support the defense of the 106thID.
The town of Bleialf was counterattacked and retaken by the 423rd regiment.
During all these events, the two regiments of the 106th stayed in their positions in the Schnee Eifel. The reason for it, was the lack of or interupted communication between General Alan Jones of the 106th and General Middleton of the 8th Corps. Middleton had told Jones about his concerns for the two regiments and approved that they were pulled back to the west side of the River Our, and thus on Belgian side of the River.
But for some reason that did not happen….