Page 036


he accepted this as a fact and made his plans accordingly. This was true at the army level-and eventually even at the headquarters of Army Group B. Constant repetition would turn a hypothesis, mendacious by origin, into a military "fact." There is a lesson here for those who may be called upon to plan large-scale military operations in the future.


The Allies Return to the Attack


Rundstedt's immediate reaction to the outline Fuehrer plan brought back to the OB WEST headquarters by his chief of staff on 24 October had been a caveat: the entire project for a German counteroffensive would have to be abandoned if the Western Allies launched any large-scale attack. Rundstedt was not simply being cagey. He was worried by the general quiet which had fallen over the Western Front following the American penetration of the West Wall outworks at Aachen. He anticipated that the Allies would make new attacks in the Aachen and Metz sectors as soon as their divisions were refitted and resupplied. The C-in-C West especially feared a thrust from the Aachen salient to the Ruhr and had so advised Hitler, asking as was his wont for reserves. Rundstedt's request for nine fresh divisions lay unanswered in the files of OKW until Westphal finally brought the news that OB WEST would not be given the nine divisions requested but instead would have to take nine divisions out of the line in the west and prepare them for use in the great counteroffensive. To make matters very much worse, OB WEST would lose two-thirds of its armored and mechanized troops during the rehabilitation period. After the meeting with Model at Fichtenhain, Rundstedt once again asked for additional divisions to meet the impending Allied attack and repeated the warning that an Allied offensive would cancel the German plans. This time (3 November) he specified the areas where the attack would be made: it would be a double thrust, one arm advancing from the Aachen front in the direction of Cologne, the other striking from the Metz sector toward Saarbrucken. Hitler's reply, telegraphed two days later, was unsympathetic. Rundstedt must hold with those divisions he had in the line. Divisions listed for Wacht am Rhein could be committed only if they became involved in a fight while assembling in their future attack positions, although an exception could be made in the event of Allied airborne landings. Otherwise the commitment of any Wacht am Rhein formation must have the express permission of the Fuehrer.


Rundstedt's prediction of things to come was made good when the U.S. Third Army opened a two-corps attack on 8 November. Within twenty-four hours Hitler was in touch with OB WEST, reminding Rundstedt that he must keep his hands off the Wacht am Rhein divisions even if this meant giving ground all along the line. As a reassuring note OKW expressed the hope that the Allied attack would burn up divisions which might otherwise face the German counteroffensive.


Now the C-in-C West was responsible for two types of Wacht am Rhein divisions, those in the line which he must relieve for rest and refitting, and those which had been organized or rehabilitated in the Reserve Army and dispatched to Rundstedt's command. The weight of armor in the American attack