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Allied interest in the Fifth Panzer Army than in the Sixth. The former had been sorely handled in the fight on the Roer front and the appearance of the Fifteenth Army in this sector, identified in the second week of December, led to the assumption that the Fifth and its most badly battered divisions had been withdrawn for rest and necessary overhaul. On 12 December the 12th Army Group reported the Fifth as assembling its weary divisions between Cologne and Koblenz.


American intelligence summaries, periodic reports, and briefing precis, for the month prior to the 16 December assault, gave only fragmentary and skeletal information on the enemy opposite the VIII Corps. German planners had predicted that the American high commanders would accept the theory that the rugged terrain in this area, particularly in poor weather, effectively precluded large scale mechanized operations. Perhaps there was some subconscious assumption by American staffs that the Ardennes was so nearly impassable as to be ruled out of consideration. But there were more tangible reasons for the scant attention accorded this sector. It had been a quiet sector of the Western Front since the Allied dash across France had halted in September. The German divisions identified here as fairly permanent residents were battle weary, understrength, and obviously in need of rest and refitting. At various times fresh divisions had appeared opposite the VIII Corps, but their stay had been brief. By December it had become axiomatic, insofar as U.S. intelligence was concerned, that any new division identified on the VIII Corps front was no more than a bird of passage en route to the north or the south. As a result the Ardennes assumed a kind of neutral hue in American eyes. Important happenings, it seemed, transpired north of the Ardennes and south of the Ardennes, but never at the division point itself. This mental set offers a partial explanation of why the 99th Division in the V Corps zone identified only three of the twelve German divisions assembling to its front, while the VIII Corps identified only four out of ten divisions before 16 December.


Was there any warning note sounded for the VIII Corps and its troops in the line during the days just prior to the German onslaught? With the advantage of hindsight, seven items can be discerned in the corps reports for the period 13-15 December which might have given the alarm. Two divisions, the 28th and 106th, sent in reports of increased vehicular activity on the nights before the attack. The 28th discounted its own report by noting that this was the normal accompaniment of an enemy front-line relief and that the same thing had happened when a German unit had pulled out three weeks before. The 106th was a green division and unlikely to know what weight could be attached legitimately to such activity. In fact one regimental commander rebuked his S-2 for reporting this noise as "enemy movement." A third incident occurred on 14 December when a woman escapee reported to the 28th Infantry Division commander that the woods near Bitburg were jammed with German equipment. Her answers to questions posed by the division G-2 apparently were impressive enough to gain the attention of the VIII Corps G-2 who ordered that she be taken to the First Army headquarters.