The 101st [Airborne Division] left Camp Mourmelon on the afternoon of 18 December, with the order of march the division artillery, division trains, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), 506th PIR, 502nd PIR, and 327th Glider Infantry. Much of the convoy was conducted at night in drizzle and sleet, using headlights despite threat of air attack to speed the movement, and at one point the combined column stretched from Bouillon, Belgium, back to Reims.
The 101st Airborne was originally supposed to go to Werbomont on the northern shoulder but was rerouted to Bastogne, located 107 mi (172 km) away on a 1,463 ft (446 m) high plateau, while the 82nd Airborne, because it was able to leave sooner, went to Werbomont to block the critical advance of Kampfgruppe Peiper. The 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion—in reserve 60 mi (97 km) to the north—was ordered to Bastogne to provide anti-tank support to the armor-less 101st Airborne on the 18th and arrived late the next evening. The first elements of the 501st PIR entered the division assembly area 4 mi (6.4 km) west of Bastogne shortly after midnight of 19 December, and by 09:00 the entire division had arrived.
Gen. McAuliffe sent the 501st PIR southeast through Bastogne at 06:00 to develop the situation. By 09:00, it had advanced and deployed on either side of the highway to Magéret and Longvilly, where the Panzer-Lehr-Division was engaged in an all-day action to destroy the armor-infantry combat teams assigned to slow the German advance. The 506th followed shortly thereafter, its 1st Battalion was sent to Noville to re-enforce Maj Desobry's team from the 10th Armored CCB while the other two battalions were ordered to act as reserves north of Bastogne. The 502nd PIR marched north and northwest to establish a line from Champs east to cogne, while the 327th GIR, newly arrived, protected the division service area southwest of Bastogne until German intentions could be deciphered.
On 19–20 December, the 1st Battalion of the 506th PIR was ordered to support Team Desobry (Maj. William R. Desobry), a battalion-sized tank-infantry task force of the 10th Armored Division assigned to defend Noville located north-northeast of both Foy and of Bastogne just 4.36 mi (7.02 km) away. With just four M18 tank destroyers of the 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion to assist, the paratroopers attacked units of the 2 Panzerdivision, whose mission was to proceed by secondary roads via Monaville (just northwest of Bastogne) to seize a key highway and capture, among other objectives, fuel dumps — for the lack of which the overall German counter-offensive faltered and failed. Worried about the threat to its left flank in Bastogne, it organized a major combined arms attack to seize Noville. Team Desobry's high speed highway journey to reach the blocking position is one of the few documented cases in which the top speed of the M18 Hellcat (55 mph (89 km/h)) was actually used to get ahead of an enemy force as envisioned by its specifications.
The attack of 1st Battalion and the M18 Hellcat tank destroyers of the 705th TD Battalion together destroyed at least 30 German tanks and inflicted 500-1,000 casualties on the attacking forces in what amounted to a spoiling attack. The 3rd Battalion was ordered forward from a reserve position north of Bastogne to ease the pressure on 1st Battalion by occupying a supporting position in Foy to the south.
The heavy losses inflicted by the tank-destroyers induced the German commander into believing the village was being held by a much stronger force and he recoiled from further attacks on the village, committing a strategic error while seeking tactical advantage — significantly delaying the German advance and setting the stage for the Siege of Bastogne just to the south. This delay also gave the 101st Airborne Division enough time to organize defenses around Bastogne. After two days, the 2nd Panzer Division finally continued on its original mission to the Meuse River. As a consequence of its involvement at Bastogne, and its failure to dislodge the airborne forces, the column ultimately ran out of fuel at Celles, where it was destroyed by the U.S. 2nd Armored Division and the British 29th Armoured Brigade.
By the time the 1st Battalion pulled out of Noville on the 20th, the village of Foy half-way to Bastogne center had been captured from the 3rd Battalion by a separate attack, forcing the 1st Battalion to then fight its way through Foy. By the time 1st Battalion made it to the safety of American lines, it had lost 13 officers and 199 enlisted men, out of about 600 troops, and was assigned as the division reserve. Team Desobry lost a quarter of its troops and was reduced to just four medium tanks when it passed through the lines of 3rd Battalion...