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were limited to a few rounds per day. Reconnaissance was confined to a handful of higher officers; combat patrolling on the Ardennes front was almost entirely limited to nighttime search for American patrols.


There were a few potential weaknesses in the screen thrown around and over the Eifel. At one time the Allies had flown night reconnaissance missions across the Eifel, using flares for photography. Even Rundstedt was worried lest a repetition of these missions disclose the German secret. Next was the problem of deserters. A quiet sector, particularly in an area as rugged as the Ardennes and Eifel, offered numerous chances for a malcontent to slip over to the enemy. The so-called Volksdeutsch (Alsatians, Transylvanians, and the like) had the worst record in this regard; these were combed out of all forward units and would not rejoin their outfits until the battle began. Hitler himself required a special daily report from OB WEST listing all known deserters for the 24-hour period. As it turned out the number of deserters was surprisingly small, only five on the Western Front during the first twelve days of December. [5]


There remained the problem of widening and improving miles of road in the Eifel without attracting undue enemy attention. Furthermore the roadblocks and barriers thrown up as part of the West Wall defenses had to be removed in those sectors where the initial armored penetration would be made. Such activity hardly could be concealed. The answer was to undertake road construction in both the northern and southern areas of concentration, tying this to the cover plan.


German discipline and experience, backed and enforced by all the security paraphernalia of a police state, might be able to divert enemy attention to the north and prepare a real strategic surprise in the Eifel. In the long run success or failure would turn on Allied activity in the air. Could the preparations for the counteroffensive be completed before enemy planes spotted the Eifel concentration of troops and vehicles?


The Western Front in Early December


The Allied attacks in November had as their objective the decisive defeat of the enemy west of the Rhine and the seizure of a foothold on the east bank of that river. By the end of November, the U.S. First and Ninth Armies, charged with the main effort, had made some gains in the direction of Bonn and Cologne. The 21 Army Group, in the north, had crossed the Waal River, the left arm of the lower Rhine. The U.S. Third Army had put troops on the Saar River. Farther to the south the U.S. Seventh Army had captured Strasbourg and reached the Rhine. The 1st French Army, on the extreme south flank, meanwhile had liberated Belfort and entrapped sizable German forces in the Colmar pocket. Although Allied losses had been high, those inflicted on the enemy had been even greater, probably on the order of two or three to one. But the Allies had failed to achieve their main strategic goals: they had not decisively defeated the German armies west of the Rhine, nor had they crossed the river. (Map I)


On 7 December General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Air Chief Marshal Sir [5] OB WEST KTB, 13 Dec 44.