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CHAPTER XX


The XII Corps Attacks the Southern Shoulder The End of the Defensive Battle, 22 December


Intercepted radio messages, a most fruitful source for German intelligence, had clearly indicated by 9 December that the Americans were moving reinforcements in large numbers toward the Bulge. The OB WEST staff reasoned that the bulk of these new divisions would be committed in the west in defense of the Meuse River or along the north side of the salient. Thus far there was no cause to be concerned about the southern flank. The weak Seventh Army had made progress, although not so much as Hitler wished, and there were no signs of change in the defensive attitude shown by the Americans in this sector. Late in the evening of the 19th, Army Group G reported that the U.S. Third Army was giving ground on the Saar front, but the American move was interpreted as a readjustment which could not bring Third Army reinforcements to the Ardennes before 22 December. The German intelligence staffs again agreed that there was no immediate threat to the Seventh Army, and that the westward advance by the Fifth Panzer Army would necessarily force the Americans to strengthen the battle line there and prohibit any thrust into the deep southern flank.


Although the Seventh Army was in the process of going over to the defensive, it had pushed its right wing forward, according to plan, and on 20 December re-established contact with its northern neighbor, the Fifth Panzer Army. In effect the right wing of the Seventh Army had wheeled to face south, while at the same time elongating the shoulder of the Fifth. This extension had widened the gap between the LXXX Corps, in the Ettelbruck sector, and the LXXX Corps, west of Echternach, but as yet the higher German headquarters were unconcerned about the thinning line. (See Map V.)


The division and corps commanders of the Seventh Army were less sanguine. By intuition, or through the natural apprehension induced by heavy losses, they already flinched mentally from the retaliatory blow. Concerned with their own weakness, rather than the strength and successes of the panzer armies, it seemed logical to them that the Americans would seek to exploit such weakness. [1] Across the lines, as it happened,


[1] The German sources of greatest use are: the OB WEST/ICTagesmeldungen for this period; MSS ETHINT-34 (Buecks); ETHINT-40, LXXXV Infantry Corps in the Ardennes Offensive (General der Infanterie Baptist Kniess); ETHINT-51 (Jodl); ETHINT-s4, Seventh Army, Ardennes (Generalmajor Rudolf Freiherr von Gersdorff); MSS # A-876 (Brandenberger); A-930 and A-931 (Sensfuss); B-029, LIII Corps, 8 December 1944-21 January 1945 (General der Kavallerie Edwin Graf Rothkirch); B-030 (Kniess); B-067 (Schmidt); B-073 (Sensfuss); B-081 (Beyer); P-032f (Dempwolff).