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CHAPTER XXI


The III Corps' Counterattack Toward Bastogne


The Verdun meeting on 19 December set in chain the first of a series of actions which the Allies would take to wrest the initiative from the enemy. Nonetheless a few momentous, nerve-shaking days had to elapse before the first gun of the counterattack could be fired. To gain time and save troops the Supreme Commander was willing to let the Allied forces fall back as far as necessary-although it was tacitly understood that the Meuse River must be the limit for any withdrawal. On the 20th General Strong, the SHAEF chief of intelligence, advised General Eisenhower that it looked as if the German command had committed everything it had to the offensive. Flying weather was poor and there was a chance that the Allies now could regroup for a concerted counterattack both north and south without these troop movements being discovered from the air. On this date, therefore, Eisenhower gave Bradley and Montgomery their orders for a counteroffensive against the German salient, to be undertaken as soon as possible.


Air Chief Marshal Tedder, the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander, and a number of others on the SHAEF staff feared that the impetuous Patton


would persuade Bradley to let him start the counterattack from the south with only a couple of divisions and that it then would develop piecemeal, as had the German counterattack in Normandy, without a solid tactical base or concrete result. The Supreme Commander himself was well aware of the Third Army commander's penchant for cut and thrust tactics and probably needed little urging to take some action calculated to hold Patton within the constraints of "the big picture." On the other hand Eisenhower recognized that the continued occupation of Bastogne, the key to the entire road net on the south side of the German Bulge, was essential to future offensive operations. Patton, as the SHAEF staff saw it, would make the narrow thrust on the Arlon-Bastogne axis, but any more ambitious plans would have to be subordinated to the larger strategy. [1] Eisenhower, therefore, told Bradley that the American counterattack via Bastogne should be held in check and not allowed to spread, that it was, after all, only a steppingstone for the "main counteroffensive."


Preparations for the Attack


Possibly the "lucky" commander needed some curb on his inherent opti[1] The Robb Notes are the source of the Supreme Commander's views.