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THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE


Even the overwhelming superiority which the Western Allies possessed in the air had failed thus far to bring the Third Reich groveling to its knees as so many proponents of the air arm had predicted. In September the British and Americans could mount a daily bomber attack of over 5,000 planes, but the German will to resist and the means of resistance, so far as then could be measured, remained quite sufficient for a continuation of the war.


Great, gaping wounds, where the Allied bombers had struck, disfigured most of the larger German cities west of the Elbe, but German discipline and a reasonably efficient warning and shelter system had reduced the daily loss of life to what the German people themselves would reckon as "acceptable." If anything, the lesson of London was being repeated, the noncombatant will to resist hardening under the continuous blows from the air and forged still harder by the Allied announcements of an unconditional surrender policy.


The material means available to the armed forces of the Third Reich appeared relatively unaffected by the ceaseless hammering from the air. It is true that the German war economy was not geared to meet a longdrawn war of attrition. But Reich Minister Albert Speer and his cohorts had been given over two years to rationalize, reorganize, disperse, and expand the German economy before the intense Allied air efforts of 1944. So successful was Speer's program and so industrious were the labors of the home front that the race between Allied destruction and German construction (or reconstruction) was being run neck and neck in the third ing which Hitler instituted the far-reaching military plans eventuating in the Ardennes counteroffensive.


The ball-bearing and aircraft industries, major Allied air targets during the first half of 1944, had taken heavy punishment but had come back with amazing speed. By September bearing production was very nearly what it had been just before the dubious honor of nomination as toppriority target for the Allied bombing effort. The production of singleengine fighters had risen from 1,016 in February to a high point of 3,031 such aircraft in September. The Allied strategic attack leveled at the synthetic oil industry, however, showed more immediate results, as reflected in the charts which Speer put before Hitler. For aviation gasoline, motor gasoline, and diesel oil, the production curve dipped sharply downward and lingered far below monthly consumption figures despite the radical drop in fuel consumption in the summer of 1944. Ammunition production likewise had declined markedly under the air campaign against the synthetic oil industry, in this case the synthetic nitrogen procedures. In September the German armed forces were firing some 70,000 tons of explosives, while production amounted to only half that figure. Shells and casings were still unaffected except for special items which required the ferroalloys hitherto procured from the Soviet Union, France, and the Balkans.


Although in the later summer of 1944 the Allied air forces turned their bombs against German armored vehicle production (an appetizing target because of the limited number of final assembly plants), an average of 1,500 tanks and