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Maj. Gen. John B. Millikin’s newly arrived III Corps headquarters took command of the 4th Armored and 26th and 80th Infantry Divisions, in a move quickly discovered and monitored by the Germans’ effective radio intercept units. In response, Brandenberger’s Seventh Army, charged with the crucial flank guard mission in Hitler’s offensive, rushed its lagging infantry divisions forward to block the expected American counterattack. Jumping off as promised on 22 December some 12 to 15 miles south of Bastogne, III Corps divisions achieved neither the surprise nor momentum that Bradley and Patton had hoped.

But how long Bastogne’s defenders could hold out was a question mark. To the east, as Millikin’s III Corps moved against hardening enemy resistance along the Sure River, Maj. Gen. Manton S. Eddy’s XII Cor ps attacked northward on a front almost as wide as the III Corps’. Taking control of the 4th Infantry and 10th Armored Divisions and elements of the 9th Armored Division, all units of Middleton’s former southern wing, Eddy met greater difficulties in clearing the ridges southeast of Bastogne. Meanwhile, the 35th and 5th Infantry Lt.

Bastogne had become an armed camp with four airborne regiments, seven battalions of artillery, a self-propelled tank destroyer battalion, and the surviving tanks, infantry, and engineers from two armored combat commands—all under the 101st Airborne Division’s command. Manteuffel had ordered the Panzer Lehr and the 2d Panzer Divisions to bypass Bastogne and speed toward the Meuse, thus isolating the defenders. As the 26th Volksgrenadier Division and the XLVII Panzer Corps’ artillery closed in for the kill on 22 December, the corps commander’s emissary arrived at the 101st Division’s command post, demanding surrender or threatening annihilation.

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