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"Rundstedt Offensive," as this appellation was broadcast to the world by the Allies in December 1944.


The mechanics of German staff work seem to have deteriorated little during the years of war despite the disfavor into which the General Staff, as an institution, had fallen. Methodically, according to doctrine as old as Moltke the Elder, the young officers with Jodl studied variants to the scheme proposed by Hitler. Ultimately the staff settled on five possible courses of action:


Operation Holland: a single-thrust attack to be launched from the Venlo area, with Antwerp as the objective.


Operation Liege-Aachen: a two-pronged attack with the main effort driving from northern Luxembourg in a northwesterly direction, subsequently turning due north to meet the secondary attack which would be launched from the sector northwest of Aachen.


Operation Luxembourg: a two-pronged attack launched simultaneously from central Luxembourg and Metz to seize Longwy


Operation Lorraine: also a double envelopment, to be launched from Metz and Baccarat and to converge on Nancy.


Operation Alsace: an envelopment to be executed in two thrusts, one originating east of Epinal and the other east of Montbeliard, the juncture to be made in the Vesoul area.


Of these five possibilities the planning staff recommended the first two. Operation Holland was recognized as risky but, at the same time, the most promising strategically. Operation Liege-Aachen was deemed a good exercise of the forward double envelopment and the possible payoff very large-the destruction of the enemy in the Aachen salient. In conversation with Jodl on 9 October, Hitler plumped for a two-pronged envelopment, setting in chain what would become a bitter controversy between his views and those of his major field commanders. When, two days later, Jodl produced a draft plan and operation overlay for Hitler's inspection, the favored solution seems to have been contained in Operation Liege-Aachen with emphasis on a main effort to be made through the Ardennes and Eifel. As Schramm soberly puts it: "Systematic re-examination confirmed that the area selected by the Fuehrer actually was the most promising on the whole Western Front."


The scoffer may feel that such a solution by junior officers was predestined. And, although the planning staffs in 1940 had been able to introduce radical changes into the Hitler scheme of maneuver, perhaps such independent staff operation no longer was possible, or at least politic. There was no high-placed and unbiased professional testimony, however, to negate this decision by the colonels and lieutenant colonels who vetted the Hitler concept. Rundstedt, despite a deep-burning personal desire to detach his name from the final offensive and a professional contempt for the failure to recognize the paucity of means for the mission assigned him, would later say of the Ardennes Campaign and Hitler's share in its formulation: "The operational idea as such can almost be called a stroke of genius."


Hitler now accepted both of the recommended solutions and ordered preparation of a new draft synthesizing the two. This concept of a double envelopment with the two prongs of the attack originating far apart and casting a wide net as they moved to a meeting would be known to the German staffs as the "Grand Slam (the American command-