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his daily conference. When the conference was finished, Westphal and Krebs found themselves in a second and much smaller meeting, with Hitler himself conducting the briefing on an astounding plan for a counteroffensive to be undertaken in the army Group B area.


This attack, said Hitler, was designed to surround and destroy the British and American forces north of the line Bastogne-Brussels-Antwerp. It would be carried out in two phases: the first phase to close the attacking force along the Meuse River and seize bridgeheads; the second phase to culminate in the capture of Antwerp. (Neither here nor later is there evidence of any detailed planning as to what should be done once Antwerp fell.) Army Group B would have three armies for the attack: the Fifth and Sixth Panzer Armies would be in the van; the Seventh Army would be echeloned to the rear so as to cover the exposed southern flank of the attack wedge. Two target dates were fixed, 20 November for the end of all preparations, 25 November for the beginning of the offensive. The latter date had been selected by Dr. Schuster and his meteorologists in answer to the Fuehrer's demand for a period in which at least ten days of continuous bad weather and poor visibility might be expected. Such a stretch of poor flying weather would ground the superior Allied air forces. Furthermore, the target date coincided with the new moon, a help in reducing the effectiveness of Allied night raids.


Westphal and Krebs then heard that they could count on 18 infantry and 12 armored or mechanized divisions "for planning purposes." This windfall of reinforcements included 13 infantry divisions, 2 parachute divisions, and 6 panzer-type divisions from the OKW strategic reserve. But 3 infantry and 6 panzer divisions would have to be withdrawn by OB WEST from the already weakened Western Front and re-formed before taking their place in the coming offensive. (This was hardly pleasant news since OB WEST possessed only 9 panzer divisions in its entire theater of operations.) Hitler then recapitulated the additional reinforcements which had been listed in the morning: 5 motorized antiaircraft (flak) regiments from the Luftwaffe, 12 Volks artillery corps, 10 rocket projector (Werfer) brigades, plus a host of army troops.


It may be that Hitler sensed some skepticism on the part of the two visitors, and it is probable that he remembered past promises of reinforcements which had never arrived; whatever the reason, he added his personal assurance that these units would be forthcoming. Further, he gave his pledge that the Luftwaffe would support the operation with up to fifteen hundred fighters, of which a hundred would be the new jet planes, far superior to anything the Allies could put in the air. As a clincher, Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm Keitel then gave his word as an officer that 17,000 cubic meters (4,250,000 gallons) of motor fuel would be available for the attack, plus a special fifty-trainload ammunition reserve, all this in excess of current consumption. The two silent generals were dismissed with the injunction that OB WEST must hold its front, even at the cost of giving ground, without committing a single one of the formations earmarked for Wacht am Rhein, and told that OB WEST should submit a draft plan for the first phase of the attack forthwith.