August taking place in the densely wooded but less rugged segment of the Ardennes (sometimes called the Forest of Ardennes) close to the BelgianFrench border in the neighborhood of Neufchateau and Virton.
In 1940 the Ardennes once again was invaded and crossed by German troops, the jangle of Richthofen's squadrons giving way to the roar and grind of Kleist's tanks. This time, at Hitler's insistence, the German maneuver departed from the classic concept of Schlieffen, the weight of the German attack being thrown south of Liege rather than north, while a narrow thrust replaced the bludgeon strokes of a massive wheeling movement. This main effort toward a decisive breakthrough was launched through a narrow corridor marked approximately by Bastogne in the north and Arlon in the south; but the bulk of three German armies debouched from the Eifel and marched across the Ardennes. As in 1914 the crossing of the Ardennes massif was little more than a route march, impeded ever so slightly by brave but tragic and futile attempts at resistance by the Belgian Chasseurs Ardennais. Without detracting from the courage of these few Belgians it is fair to say that the Germans did not have to fight before they reached the Meuse River, and even there they experienced little opposition. The German advance through southern Belgium and Luxembourg in 1914 had demonstrated that a huge modern force could be concentrated via rail in the abrupt, broken country of the Eifel, and from thence be moved afoot or ahorse through the worst of the Ardennes mass.
The events of 1940 proved that mechanized forces could move speedily through the Ardennes, and more, that not only was Hitler correct in his insistence on the use of large mechanized forces in the Ardennes, but that the professionals in OKH who had opposed him were wrong. In 1944, as a result, it was known that the terrain in the Eifel and Ardennes was not so bad but what it could be quickly negotiated by modern mechanized armies under conditions of good weather and little or no enemy resistance. What history could not demonstrate, for the lessons were lacking, was whether modern, mechanized armies could attack through the Ardennes and speedily overcome a combination of stubborn enemy defense, difficult ground, and poor weather. Terrain, then, would play a peculiarly important role in the development of the 1944 counteroffensive.
Although the Ardennes has given its name to the campaign under study, this area should be lumped with that of the Eifel, the composite of the tablelands to the east which sheltered the German concentration during the late autumn of 1944. These two areas are extensions of the Westerwald, blending almost insensibly into each other and sharing many of the same characteristics. The Eifel is the complex of hill rangesthey can hardly be called mountains-lying between the Rhine, the Moselle, and the Roer Rivers, mostly in Germany. Only the two westernmost of the Eifel highlands or ranges need be mentioned here. East of St. Vith and just inside the German border is the Schnee Eifel, a high tree-covered ridge or hogback. It extends from the northeast to the southwest, a characteristic thrust line in the entire area, and in 1944 was crested on much of its length by the West Wall fortifications. East of