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the line was running again on the 12th. Two Rhine rail bridges took hits in November and four were under repair as the result of attacks during October. In all cases at least one rail line per bridge remained operable. An Allied plane hit one bridge with one bomb during the first half of December. Supply shipments generally went unscathed in the actual concentration area. About five hundred trains were employed to effect this build-up, of which air attack in October and November destroyed only fifteen carloads.


In sum, the greatest menace to the German rail concentration came from attacks by bombers and fighter-bombers against railroad tracks, stations, and yards. Hardly a day passed without one or more breaks somewhere in the system at and west of the Rhine. During the first two weeks of December the Allied air attacks inflicted 125 breaks on the rails feeding the Western Front, 60 of which were in the concentration area. German engineers, still working on November cuts, repaired 150 breaks of which 100 were in the concentration area. There was, then, an uneasy equilibrium between Allied air attacks and the German rail repair capability. Be it remembered, however, that the Allied air campaign against the Reichsbahn thus far was dispersed and a matter of second priority.


If nuclear weapons do not succeed in entirely removing rail transport from the logistic systems of future war, the German handling of the Ardennes buildup will stand as a military model. As a part of military history, the story of this German success, achieved despite Allied dominance in the air, merits some attention. One of Hitler's first concerns, following the fateful decision to gamble everything on a single stroke in the west, was to assure himself that the Rhine bridges would be secure and that the Reichsbahn could bear the weight he intended to impose upon it. Sometime during September-an exact date is lacking-the OKH Chief of Transportation, General der Infanterie Rudolf Gercke, was admitted to the tiny circle of those entrusted with the Ardennes plans. His initial task was to deal with the Rhine River crossing sites; this was the priority through September and October. First the pillars and piers supporting the Rhine bridges were reinforced so that a lucky hit could not send an entire bridge into the Rhine waters. Next, a number of ferries were modified to carry trains and a few highway bridges were strengthened for tracklaying in the event that the regular railroad bridges failed. Special heavy spans of military bridging were floated into waiting positions along the banks. (At one time plans were made to expand two mining tunnels which ran under the Rhine so that troops could be marched from one side to the other.) Ruhr industry contributed large stocks of steel girders and plates; these stocks were then distributed for quick repair jobs at the main rail bridges. Early in October reinforcement was introduced on a number of bridges to permit the passage of trains carrying the 70-ton King Tiger tanks. By early December eight railway bridges were ready immediately behind the assembly area, plus an equal number of highway bridges and twelve Rhine ferries capable of handling locomotives. An additional four rail bridges, lower down on the Rhine, were scheduled for use if needed.