Page 072


tanks and assault guns were all that remained to German divisions on the rest of the long Western Front. The hard-pressed armies on the Eastern Front likewise had been denied the armored materiel to replace their heavy autumn losses. At the beginning of December the Eastern Front total in operational tanks and assault guns was roughly 1,500 [21] Despite Hitler's personal emphasis on the power of the artillery arm and the very substantial number of tubes allocated for the offensive, the greatest portion of OB WEST artillery had to be left for corseting where armor and infantry had been pulled out, and, because of the scarcity of prime movers, a large number of batteries scheduled for the attack never got forward at all. The artillery flak and rocket projector support for the entire Western Front actually numbered 7,822 pieces on 16 December.


As proof that the Western Front's armored strength in December 1944 equaled that of the halcyon days at the beginning of the war, Hitler's personal staff compiled a special report which showed that 2,594 tanks had taken part in the victorious 1940 campaign in the west. Nobody, it would appear, cared to look at comparative figures of air strengths in previous campaigns. In the Polish campaign some 50 German divisions had been given direct support by 1,800 first-line aircraft. The Balkan campaign had seen 1,000 aircraft supporting 17 divisions. The victorious advance into the Soviet Union had brought 123 divisions into the line, with 2,500 first-line attack planes in the air. [22] Now, for the 25 divisions certain to be committed in the Ardennes, Goering could promise only a thousand planes. By this time Hitler was chary of Luftwaffe promises and watered down this figure to 800-900 planes when he presented it to OB WEST. Hitler's estimate would be met-but only for one day and that when the ground battle already had been decided.


In December 1944, Germany was fighting a "poor man's war" on the ground as in the air. [23] This must be remembered when assessing the actual military potential of the divisions arrayed for the western offensive. Motor transport was in sorry shape; the best-equipped divisions had about 80 percent of their vehicular tables of equipment, but many had only half the amount specified in the tables. One of the best mechanized divisions had sixty different types of automotive transport. Spare parts, a necessity in rough terrain and poor weather, hardly existed. There was only a handful of prime movers and heavy tank retrievers. Signal equipment was antiquated, worn-out, and sparse; the same held for engineer tools and vehicles. Antitank guns were scarce, the heavy losses in this weapon sustained in the summer and autumn disasters having never been made good. The German infantryman would have to defend himself against the enemy tank with bravery and the bazooka, or so the field service regulations read.


German military poverty was nowhere more apparent than in the stocks of ammunition and POL which had been


[21] See Luttichau's Armor in the Ardennes Offensive, Table II.


[22] These figures have been gleaned from various secondary sources and are estimates only. Joint Intelligence Survey, Some Weaknesses in German Strategy and Organization (1946).


[23] MS#P-031b.