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CHAPTER VIII


The Fifth Panzer Army Attacks the 28th Infantry Division


The battle plans and tactics of the Fifth Panzer Army, more than those of any other German army that took part in the Ardennes counteroffensive, bore the very strong personal imprint of its commander, General Manteuffel. As a junior officer in the prewar panzer troops, Manteuffel had made a mark as an armored specialist. His record in North Africa and Russia, where he achieved a reputation for energetic leadership and personal bravery, brought him to Hitler's attention and promotion directly from a division to an army command. Despite the failure of his Fifth Panzer Army in the Lorraine campaign against Patton's Third Army, Manteuffel was listed by Hitler for command in the Ardennes. His staff, carefully selected and personally devoted to the little general, was probably the best German staff on the Western Front.


Manteuffel had found himself in almost complete disagreement with the original operations plan handed down by Jodl in November. He was able to convince the Army Group B commander that a stand should be taken on a number of tactical points which, in Manteuffel's judgment, were essential to success in the forthcoming attack. In the last planning conference held at Hitler's headquarters, Model and Manteuffel combined forces in a forthright appeal that carried the day on a series of tactical decisions although it failed to sway the Fuehrer from his strategic decision for the Big Solution. The Fifth Panzer Army commander was bitterly opposed to that part of the plan which called for a tremendous opening barrage at 0800 and a two-hour artillery preparation before the attack jumped off. He argued that the enemy literally must not be awakened and that the assault forces should move forward the moment the guns sounded. This point was conceded when Hitler ruled that the artillery fires along the entire front would begin at 0530. Manteuffel also held strongly for infiltration tactics by small detachments, such as were conventionally employed by both opponents on the Eastern Front. Hitler himself seems to have favored this concept (it is found in the first Fuehrer operations order), but only in the Fifth Panzer attack would assault detachments be found inside the American positions when the initial barrage opened up.


Manteuffel likewise opposed the concept proposed by Jodl in which the attack would be carried by two panzer corps advancing in column. He wanted an attack on a broad front with both tank corps in the line at the opening gun-this point Hitler conceded. View-