Page 061


four prisoners seemed to be parroting wild and baseless rumors of a sort which was fairly common, and these three were bundled into prisoner of war cages without further ado. The incidents reported to the VIII Corps were forwarded to the First Army and duly noted by that headquarters on 14 and 15 December. Only one incident was deemed worthy of 12th Army Group attention. This, one of the reports of extraordinary traffic, was mentioned in the commanding general's briefing as confirmation of the predicted relief of the 326th Infantry Division. This briefing began at 0915 on 6 December. [10]


Perhaps the appearance of these seven indicators might have been treated in combination to uncover the German preparations and allow the VIII Corps at least a minimum tactical preparation for the attack. Whether any commander would have been justified in making major alterations in his troop disposition on the basis of this intelligence alone is highly questionable. One might more reasonably conclude that the American acquisition of only this limited and suspect information was a tribute to the security measures enacted by the enemy.


What of air intelligence, the source of Rundstedt's greatest worry? Bad weather during the first half of December did reduce the number of Allied reconnaissance sorties flown east of the First Army front but by no means produced the kind of blackout for which the enemy hoped. In the month prior to the Ardennes attack the 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Group (IX Tactical Air Command), supporting the First Army, flew 361 missions of which 242 were judged successful. From the 10th through the 15th of December the group flew 71 missions with varying degrees of success; for example, on 14 December planes flown over Trier by the 30th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron reported the weather clear, but two hours later a second mission ran into haze and was able to see very little. Only one day, 13 December, in the five critical days before the attack found all U.S. air reconnaissance grounded. [11]


The pilots belonging to the 67th Group and the 10th Photo Reconnaissance Group, the latter attached to the Third Army's old partner, the XIX TAC, actually constructed an imposing picture of German build-up west of the Rhine in the month preceding the Ardennes counteroffensive. In the last week of November the number of enemy columns on the roads showed a marked increase. On 30 November U.S. reconnaissance planes reported a drastic heightening of rail activity west of the Rhine and this was confirmed by the fighter-bombers flying "armed-recce." Special indications of forthcoming attack were numerous: a large number of hospital trains on the west bank of the Rhine, several groups of flatcars carrying Tiger tanks, and fifty searchlights in one location. Lights representing large-scale night movements were consistently reported, although the two available night fighter squadrons were


[10] The intelligence sources bearing on the Allied failure to appreciate the coming German counteroffensive have been gathered by Royce L. Thompson in a study entitled American Intelligence on the German Counteroffensive, 2 vols. (1949). MS in OCMH files.


[11] Royce L. Thompson has compiled a complete collection of excerpts from pertinent Air Force records bearing on the operations of the U.S. Army Air Forces during the Ardennes battle: Tactical Air Phase of the Ardennes Campaign, 2 vols. (1950). MS in OCMH files.