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December 21, 2006

December 21, 1944

SC270947. U.S. troops of the 28th Infantry Division, who have been regrouped in security platoons for defense of Bastogne, Belgium, march down a street. Some of these soldiers lost their weapons during the German advance in this area. Bastogne, Belgium (12-20-44) Signal Corps Photo #ETO-HQ-44-30380 (Tec 5 Wesley B. Carolan).

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One Threat Subsides; Another Emerges

The Attempt To Relieve Peiper's Kampfgruppe

The quick and cheaply won victories which had taken Peiper's armored kampfgruppe so close to the Meuse bridges in so short a time may have blinded the higher German staffs for a while to the fact that Peiper was in danger. By the 21st, however, the most strenuous efforts were being made to save the ground he had won north of the Amblève and to rescue the men and matériel in his command. What happened to leave the kampfgruppe stranded and alone?

The 1st SS Panzer Division had begun its drive west in four march groups moving independently. The bulk of the 1st Panzer Regiment, a motorized battalion of armored infantry, a mobile company of engineers, and a battery of self-propelled artillery (as well as most of the gasoline available) had gone to Peiper with the expectation that the armored weight and the mobile character of this spearhead detachment would permit a quick breakthrough and exploitation even to the Meuse River. The balance of the division was to follow hard on Peiper's heels, provide reinforcement as required, and keep the line of communications open until such time as following divisions could take over and be prepared to re-form as a unit at the Meuse. By noon of 17 December Peiper's kampfgruppe was out of touch with the second and third march columns of the division and was racing alone toward the west. The strongest of the rearward columns, the fourth, which amounted to a reinforced armored infantry regiment, had been held up by mines at the entrance to its designated route' and in fact never made a start until 18 December. The student of first causes may wish to speculate on the fateful role of the unknown cavalry, engineers, and foot soldiers who laid the mines between Lanzerath and Manderfeld, thus delaying most of the 1st SS Panzer Division armored infantry for a critical twenty-four hours.

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One of the interesting thing about this photo of Tank Destroyers being used as artillery is they are firing two different types of ammo.  The one on the left is firing standard ammunition, with the associated bright flash.  The one on the right is firing a specially-developed low-flash ammo.

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