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ATTACK BY GERMAN LEFT WING


CHAPTER IX


The Attack by the German Left Wing 16-20 December


Hitler's hope of victory rode with his two panzer armies. He was confident that the Allies would not be able to react in a forceful way until these armies were across the Meuse and it would appear that he expected this reaction to take the form of a counterattack somewhere on the west bank of that river. Under no circumstances was he prepared to diminish the main striking force in order to build up strong protection for the German flanks during the advance east of the Meuse. The assignment of four infantry divisions to cover the southern flank of the assault armies was as far as he would go, nor could the numerous pleas advanced by his field commanders for additional strength in the south alter his decision one whit.


Despite the poverty of forces allotted Brandenberger's Seventh Army, the Fuehrer was prepared, as always, to expect the impossible. At one point in the planning period Hitler envisaged these four divisions as forming a blocking line all the way from the German frontier to Charleville on the Meuse. Both Jodl and Model resisted this idea, but when the counteroffensive began there were still rather vague plans afoot for employing the Seventh Army in a push west and south to form a position based on Luxembourg City, Arlon, and Neufchateau. Hitler likewise attempted to intervene in the initial assault plans of the Seventh Army by directing that the attack would start as a pincers move in which one prong shot west out of Trier and the other penetrated northwest of Echternach. Jodl and Model again acted as a team in killing this idea, pointing out that the Seventh Army had neither the troops nor the guns to support two separate attacks. It is clear that throughout the planning phase Jodl took a realistic view of the limited capability of Brandenberger's army. After the war he admitted that the Wehrmachtfuehrungsstab would have been satisfied to see the Seventh Army advance only half the distance between Echternach and Luxembourg City. [1]


When Brandenberger and his chief of staff, Generalmajor Rudolf Freiherr von Gersdorff, finally were allowed to map their own scheme of maneuver they settled on a containing mission for the two infantry divisions in the left corps (General der Infanterie Franz Beyer's LXXX Corps), and an advance by the two infantry divisions on the right which comprised General der Infanterie Baptist Kniess's LXXXV Corps. Beyer's troops, in this final plan, had the mission


[1] ETHINT-51, OKW, Ardennes Offensive (Generaloberst Alfred Jodl).