Page 023


Back at the Ziegenberg headquarters of OB WEST, Westphal recited the instructions he had received, then hastened on to give Rundstedt his own appraisal of the plan and the "politics" involved. The plan to seize Antwerp was far too ambitious for the forces available; the time for preparation was far too short. Since it was apparent that the whole theme was inspired by Hitler, OB WEST probably would have no voice in determining plans or in directing the operation unless it could team up with Jodl who, in Westphal's opinion, was wary of the Big Solution proposed by Hitler. Rundstedt had to act quickly if OB WEST was to make its views known. With the penalty for a security failure so immediate, only the operations officer, Generalleutnant Bodo Zimmermann, the chief of Supply and Administration, Generalleutnant Friedrich John, and one aide were let in on the secret. The next step was to call a conference for 27 October (it now was late on the 24th) at the Army Group B headquarters near Krefeld. In the three nights and two days remaining, the little group at OB WEST would prepare an operations plan; to this the code name Martin was assigned.


The part played by Rundstedt during the prelude to the Ardennes Campaign and in its denouement needs some explanation. An aloof, nonpolitical officer of the old Prussian school, Rundstedt by reason of age and prestige stood at the apex of the German officer caste system. He had survived Hitler's disfavor, incurred during his first tour as Commander in Chief West, then had been brought back from semiretirement to take over his old post at a time when the German armies in the west were everywhere in retreat. Rundstedt's position in the autumn of 1944 was exceedingly difficult. He was treated correctly by Hitler, Keitel, Jodl, and the others in the OKW, but was regarded as too old and too lukewarm toward National Socialism to merit anything more than the outer forms of respect. Advice from Rundstedt was consistently pigeonholed by Jodl or brushed aside by Hitler, except in those rare cases when Jodl found it expedient to quote Rundstedt, the field commander, in support of a position being developed by the WFSt.


The relations between Rundstedt and his chief subordinate, Model, commander of Army Group B, were correct but