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gamble on one last great effort west of the Rhine, staking everything on a single throw of the dice, this idea disappeared in the aura of high professional military competence which attached to Rundstedt. In a way this may have been the field marshal's greatest personal contribution to the Ardennes counteroffensive.


It is impossible to determine the extent to which the Hitler cover plan deceived the Allies into accepting the area north of the Ardennes as the focal point for the anticipated German reaction. Here the Allies were making their greatest effort and it was natural to assume that the German reserves remaining would be committed to meet this effort. Even the U.S. Third Army, far to the south, relaxed its normally parochial view of the front and predicted that the Sixth Panzer Army would be employed in a spoiling attack in the Aachen-Duren sector. Here, too, lay the direct route to the Ruhr. It long had been an article of faith in Allied strategy that Germany would make its greatest efforts in defense of what Eisenhower had called the two hearts of Germany: the Ruhr, the industrial heart, and Berlin, the political heart. Furthermore, the area between the Roer and Rhine Rivers represented good tank-going for the Allied armored divisions. Duly impressed with their own armored successes, the Allies expected that the enemy would throw his reserve armor into battle here in an attempt to prevent a repetition of the August tank race across France. Perhaps German deception did make some confirmatory contribution, but regardless of this Allied eyes were fixed immovably on the front north of the Ardennes.


One item would cause Allied intelligence some concern, although it seems that this concern was more academic than real. Where was Rundstedt's armored counterattack reserve, the Sixth Panzer Army Allied situation maps of early December still carried the headquarters of this army in the vicinity of Cologne, and assigned four or five uncommitted panzer divisions as available to this command. But the actual location of the Sixth Panzer Army was a matter of debate. The 12th Army Group thought that it might be concentrated around Bielefeld, northeast of Cologne. The U.S. First Army placed it rather indefinitely between the Roer and the Rhine. The U.S. Third Army plumped for a location between Dusseldorf and Cologne. The U.S. Ninth Army apparently did not care to enter this guessing game. SHAEF intelligence summed up the matter nicely in the report of 10 December: "There is no further news of Sixth SS Panzer Army beyond vague rumours."


There was general agreement that Rundstedt's armored reserve would be thrown against the First and Ninth Armies in an effort to blunt their drive in the Roer area, although the severe German reverses sustained in the south during the second week of December led to some thought that divisions might be stripped from the Sixth Panzer reserve to shore up the defenses of the Palatinate. The two U.S. armies carrying the attack in the north were agreed that the Sixth Panzer Army would be committed after their attack had crossed the Roer River. The 12th Army Group expected the same timing and anticipated the German reaction would come as a coordinated counterattack. There was less