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CHAPTER IV


Preparations


Deception and Camouflage


Hitler's selection of the Ardennes as the sector in which the western counteroffensive would be launched was based in the main on the obvious advantage of attacking the Allies where they were weakest. Even so, although the Western Allies could not be strong everywhere along the line from Switzerland to the North Sea, they did outnumber the Germans in men, tanks, guns, and planes, they were possessed of greater facility for rapid movement of large forces, and they-not the Germans-had the strategic initiative. At the first word of German preparations in the Eifel and Ardennes the Allies could terminate one or both of their major offensives and divert large forces into the threatened area.


The accepted strategic gambit, practiced with great success by German commanders in the west during World War I, would be to deliver a series of large-scale attacks in sectors well removed from the area from which the main counteroffensive was to be launched. But the divisions and the logistic support for such diversionary attacks did not exist. The German armies in the west could not uncover the enemy's jaw by a blow in Holland or a kidney punch in Alsace; instead they had to rely on the adroit misdirection practiced by the conjurer, turning Allied eyes away from the Eifel long enough to complete the massive preparations therein.


The German military profession had a record of some notable achievements in the attainment of strategic surprise. The Ludendorff March offensive in 1918 had been a brilliant example-indeed a model-of a great offensive whose preparation had completely escaped detection. The meticulous detail employed by Ludendorff's planners had achieved such success that the 1918 plans for the cover and movement of artillery simply were copied in the artillery build-up for the Ardennes. The German offensive in 1940 likewise had been a marked example of strategic surprise, despite the forced landing on Belgian soil of a German plane carrying two liaison officers who had been entrusted with the attack plan. The chief security tenets adopted in preparation for the 1940 attack had been personally dictated by Hitler, and the first formal security order issued by OKW in preparation for the Ardennes counteroffensive was a restatement of the Fuehrer Directive of 11 January 1940. (This time, however, liaison officers party to the plan were expressly forbidden to travel by plane.) Subsequent security measures would reflect or rephrase those which had been so successful in l940. [1]


Probably the Fuehrer's personal influ-


[1] Bauer, Planning for German Ardennes Offensive 1944 ... and l440, app. 8.