I know you worry when you don’t hear so I’m trying my darndest to get some kind of letter out to you each day, dear – but sometimes it’s difficult – not always because of the time element, but more often now because of the conditions, environment, weather – need I go on?
It snowed like all get out yesterday. As a matter of fact, counting today – it’s the third day of snow and it’s more than I’ve seen for 2 winters. Last winter in England – there was practically no snow at all, and the winter before that we were South on maneuvers. It looks as if we’ll get our fill of it this winter though. But we’re doing all right and heading back steadily, if slowly, in the right direction – so don’t be discouraged, darling, and don’t worry, because I’m taking good care of myself.
All for now, sweetheart, except to remind you that – snow, rain and ice – make no difference. I still love only you. My love to the folks – and so long
Near the end of the first week, on 8 January, Hitler at last authorized a withdrawal, not all the way back to a line anchored on Houffalize as General von Manteuffel had urged but only out of the extreme tip of the bulge to a line anchored on a great eastward loop of the Ourthe River some five miles west of Houffalize. Because of the point at which Hitler drew the withdrawal line, only a few troops of the Sixth Panzer Army, those on the extreme west wing near La Roche, were involved. Those authorized to withdraw were mainly contingents of the Fifth Panzer Army facing the British and the U.S. VIII Corps west of Bastogne.
While the units of the Sixth Panzer Army were to continue to hold, Dietrich's headquarters was to pull out, gradually relinquishing control to the Fifth Panzer Army. Thereupon, the two SS panzer corps headquarters and four SS panzer divisions that originally had belonged to the Sixth Panzer Army were to join Dietrich's headquarters in the rear near St. Vith, there to form a reserve to guard against attacks near the base of the bulge. This was, in effect, tacit admission - Hitler's first - that the Ardennes counteroffensive had failed utterly.
Reflecting the withdrawal, resistance on the right wing of the VII Corps gradually slackened. The fight was as dogged as ever on the other wing, where in deference to marshy ground and an impoverished roadnet leading to the final objectives on the southeastern slopes of the Plateau des Tailles, the 83d Division on 9 January 1945 assumed the assault role on the left wing of the VII Corps. It took the infantry two days to break into and clear a village south of the La Roche-Salmchâteau highway and another day to beat off counterattacks. Not until forcibly rooted out would the Germans budge from any position.
The 84th Infantry Division was given the right half of the zone. As far as the La Roche Road, the 333rd Infantry had advanced with relative ease. Once beyond the road, it ran into much more trouble. In Les Tailles and at the edge of the woods to the south, an estimated enemy battalion was dug in. On the other side of the Houffalize Road, an estimated reinforced company was holding Petites Tailles. The 2nd Battalion went out from the La Roche Road to Les Tailles, the 1st Battalion to Petites Tailles. The experiences of both were significantly similar.
84th Infantry Medics carry 333rd wounded,
some on litters over the hood
At the same time, the 82d Airborne Division had the job of protecting the left flank of the VII Corps. To do this, the airborne division was to press forward to the line of the Salm River. Assisted by an attached separate regiment, the 517th Parachute Infantry, the airborne division had jumped off along with the VII Corps on 3 January. Like the armored divisions, the paratroopers and glidermen had met resistance immediately from the weather, the terrain, and, to a lesser extent, the enemy. Close alongside the boundary with the VII Corps, the 517th Parachute Infantry had made only limited progress until it turned abruptly on 7 January to take the enemy in flank. The next day the paratroopers drove all Germans before them east of the Salm and sent patrols to range as far as two miles beyond the river. On the 9th they established a small bridgehead across the Salm to be used as a stepping stone when the offensive turned in the direction of St. Vith.