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military knowledge or as footnotes proving the soundness of a decision. In a very human way he selected those historical examples which seemed to support his own views. Napoleon, before the invasion of Russia, had forbidden any reference to the ill-fated campaign of Charles XII of Sweden because "the circumstances were altered." Hitler in turn had brushed aside the fate of both these predecessors, in planning his Russian campaign, because they had lacked tanks and planes. In 1944, however, Hitler's mind turned to his example, Frederick II, and found encouragement and support. Frederick, at the commencement of the Seven Years War, had faced superior forces converging on his kingdom from all points of the compass. At Rossbach and Leuthen he had taken great risk but had defeated armies twice the strength of his own. By defeating his enemies in detail, Frederick had been able to hang on until the great alliance formed against Prussia had split as the result of an unpredictable historical accident.


Three things seemed crystal clear to Hitler as explanation for Frederick's final victory over his great enemies: victory on the battlefield, and not defeat, was the necessary preliminary to successful diplomatic negotiations and a peace settlement; the enemy coalition had failed to present a solid front when single members had suffered defeat; finally, Prussia had held on until, as Hitler paraphrased Frederick's own words, "one of [the] damned enemies gets too tired to fight any more." If Hitler needed moral support in his decision to prepare for the counteroffensive at a time when Germany still was reeling from enemy blows, it is very probable that he found this in the experience and ultimate triumph of Frederick called the Great.


Although the first announcement of the projected counteroffensive in the Ardennes was made by Hitler in the meeting on 16 September, the idea had been forming for some weeks in the Fuehrer's mind. Many of the details in this development can never be known. The initial thought processes were buried with Hitler; his closest associates soon followed him to the grave, leaving only the barest information. The general outlines of the manner in which the plan took form can be discerned, however, of course with a gap here and there and a necessary slurring over exact dates. [6]


The first and very faint glimmerings of the idea that a counteroffensive must be launched in the west are found in a long tirade made by Hitler before Generaloberst Alfred Jodl and a few other officers on 31 July 1944. At this moment Hitler's eyes are fixed on the Western Front where the Allies, held fast for several weeks in the Normandy hedgerows, have finally broken through the containing German forces in the neighborhood of Avranches. Still physically shaken by the bomb blast which so nearly had cut short his career, the Fuehrer raves and rambles, boasts, threatens, and complains. As he meanders through the "conference," really a solo performance, one idea reappears


[6] Exact dating for the various phases of the Ardennes plan, as these evolved in Hitler's mind, now is impossible. Magna E. Bauer has attempted to develop a chronology in MS # R-9, The Idea for the German Ardennes Offensive, 1944. See also MSS # P-069 (Kreipe) and A-862 The Preparations for the German Offensive in the Ardennes, September to 16 December 1944 (Maj. Percy E. Schramm).