east of Metz and the possibility that this thrust would rupture the German south wing at the joint between the First and Nineteenth Armies, impelled Rundstedt to cling to those tanks which were on the Army Group G front. This he did in flat disobedience of direct orders from OKW. He went a step further on 21 November and ordered the Panzer Lehr Division out of its assembly area and into a counterattack designed to block the American XV Corps, whose drive toward the Saverne Gap threatened to separate the First and Nineteenth Armies. OKW ultimately agreed to this use of Panzer Lehr, but then called off the counterattack on 25 November. The responsible Western Front commanders simply stalled the relief of the Panzer Lehr until it was clear that the division had suffered too much damage to allow any further hope of success.
The upshot of the Allied offensive in Lorraine was that two panzer-type divisions scheduled for Wacht am Rhein became irretrievably embroiled in the losing battle being waged by Army Group G, while the elite Panzer Lehr Division limped back to its assembly area much reduced in strength and with badly shaken morale. None of the infantry divisions engaged in the battles east of Metz were scheduled for employment in the Ardennes, but the redeployment in the south of two divisions from the Eifel sector necessitated the premature commitment of two Volks Grenadier divisions from the Replacement Army as their relief. In addition the American attack in Lorraine would cost the Hitler offensive an entire Volks artillery corps, two panzer brigades, and two heavy antitank battalions.
The Third Battle of Aachen, begun on 16 November, was even more threatening in the eyes of OB WEST than the Allied drive in Lorraine. Within twenty-four hours the situation was so desperate that Model threw in his only tactical reserve, the XLVIII Panzer Corps. As the German casualties mounted on the Army Group B front, Rundstedt began to bleed his north wing, taking one division after another from Army Group Student. By 20 November the prospect of an Allied breakthrough loomed so large that the C-in-C West asked OKW for the four reserve SS panzer divisions which were being readied to carry the main Ardennes attack by the Sixth Panzer Army. His request was denied. There ensued a tactical merry-go-round catching up divisions all the way from the Netherlands to Strasbourg. Rundstedt would bring in one of the divisions which had been kept on ice for the coming offensive, relieve a battered division in the line, then in a few days shuffle the relieving division back to a reserve position close behind the line-sometimes with OKW approval, but more often without. Meanwhile the German artillery was working desperately to take the place of tactical air support-so marked by its absence. As early as the third day of the attack the light and medium howitzers bolstering the Army Group B positions were dipping into the special ammunition stocks which had been reserved by the Fuehrer for the Ardennes battle and which bore his imprint, Fuehrer Reserve. At the close of the first week of fighting in the Aachen area the German casualties there had risen to 12,000. Replacements who had been sent forward to reflesh the divisions being reorganized for Wacht am Rhein found themselves filling the gaping ranks