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nes target date-25 November-passed into discard. On that day Hitler reviewed the situation with his household military staff. The enemy offensive, said he, had fulfilled the major prerequisites for a successful German attack. The Allies had taken heavy losses and had been forced to deploy their reserves close behind the attack front or feed them into the line. Now, more than ever, the Fuehrer was convinced of the Big Solution's feasibility. From somewhere in lower echelons the idea had been broached that the Meuse crossing sites should be seized on the first day. This brought hearty concurrence. Advance battalions should try for the Meuse bridges in the early morning (Hitler probably referred here to the end of the first 24-hour period). Again Hitler stressed the need for penetrations on narrow fronts, but once the breakthrough was accomplished he foresaw considerable maneuver as the two panzer armies hit the Meuse. To ensure flexibility in the choice of bridgeheads, he extended the Sixth Panzer Army zone (on the right) to include the crossings at Huy, while the Fifth Panzer Army southern boundary moved down to Givet. It may be that in this same briefing the Fuehrer set a new D-day. In any case Jodl visited Rundstedt on 26 November and delivered the news that Null Tag (D-day) would be 10 December. This date finally was scrapped because the fuel dumps were not full and a number of the assault divisions were still en route to the concentration zone. On the 11th Hitler approved further postponement until 0530 on 15 December, then on 19 December altered the attack order to read the 16th, with the Usual proviso that if good flying weather intervened the whole operation would stop dead in its tracks. [16]


The rail movement of the initial attack divisions had nearly ended by 11 December, although the transport of the second phase formations, belonging to the OKW reserve, still had a few days to go. [17] The Seventh Army, quondam caretaker on the Ardennes front, had most of its divisions in the line but in the nights just before the attack would have to shift some of these southward into the final assembly area designated for the Seventh on the attack left wing. The Fifth Panzer Army, slated to make the attack in the center, had begun its concentration in the Remagen-Mayen area of the Eifel as early as 26 November, but some of its armor was coming from as far north as MunchenGladbach-one attack division, the 116th Panzer, would not complete detraining until 16 December. The Sixth Panzer Army, which in Hitler's mind and in OKW plans represented the main effort and whose four SS panzer divisions were expected to pace the entire counteroffensive, by 6 December had closed its armor in a zone stretching from west of Cologne to southwest of Bonn. The question remained whether the Sixth infantry divisions, some of which were in the Roer battle line, could be pried loose and moved south in time for H-hour. The Fifteenth Army, once intended to cover the north flank of the Sixth Panzer


[16] The several postponements of the German D-day are described in ETHINT-20, Hitler's Conduct of the War (Rittmeister Dr. Wilhelm Scheidt).


[17] The timing at the end of the German concentration is given unit by unit in Luttichau's German Rail Communications and in his study entitled The Ardennes Offensive, Progressive Build-up and Operations, 9 December 1944. MS in OCMH files.