Page 650


December, came clouds and overcast followed, a day later, by arctic air from Scandinavia, heavy snows, blizzards, and greatly reduced visibility at ground level. Vehicular movement was slow, the riflemen exhausted themselves wading through the drifts, and the wounded-those in a state of shock-died if left in the snow for more than half an hour or more. This was the state of the weather when, on 3 January, the Allies began their final counterattack.


The Opposing Troop Strengths


On the morning of 16 December the American forces in the path of the German counteroffensive comprised four and two-thirds divisions with an effective strength of about 83,000 men. The heavy weapons then available numbered 242 Sherman tanks, 182 tank destroyers, and 394 pieces of corps and divisional artillery. These troops and weapons were deployed on a meandering front of 104 miles.


The enemy assault divisions posed to the east had concentrated behind some ninety miles of the front manned by Army Group B, and during the night of 16 December over 200,000 combat troops gathered in the forward assembly area, about three miles in depth. The German attack, as it developed during the course of 16 December, was made on an assault front of sixty miles and included 5 armored divisions, 12 2/3 infantry divisions, and about 500 medium tanks, the whole supported by the fire of 1,900 guns and Werfers.


Although it is impossible to measure the exact number of rifle battalions and tank battalions committed by the Germans during the initial breakthrough attack, it is probable that the over-all ratio of German infantry to American was three to one, with a ratio of six to one at points of concentration. German armored superiority was somewhat less pronounced during the first-day assault, only about two to one in medium tanks. If the self-propelled guns employed in a tank role are considered, the superiority enjoyed by the attacker was about four to one.


By 2 January 1945, the eve of the Allied attack to destroy the Ardennes salient, the Germans had thrown 8 armored divisions, 20 infantry divisions, and 2 mechanized brigades into the Battle of the Bulge. During these eighteen days the Americans had employed 8 armored, 16 infantry, and 2 airborne division in the line. [2] This tabulation of the opposing divisions, however, does not give a true measure of the relative combat strength deployed in what may be called the German phase of the winter battle in the Ardennes.


The American rifle division in 1944 was organized at a strength of 14,032 men, and most of the divisions engaged in this operation entered the fray at full complement. The personnel strength of the German infantry divisions varied, at the time of their com-


[2] The German order of battle for the period of 16 December-2 January was as follows: 1st SS, 2d SS, 9th SS, 12th SS Panzer Divisions; Panzer Lehr and 2d, 9th, 116th Panzer Divisions; 3d and 5th Parachute Divisions; 3d and 15th Panzer Grenadier Divisions; 9th, 12th, 18th, 26th, 62d, 79th, 167th, 212th, 246th, 272d, 276th, 277th, 326th, 340th, 352d, 560 Volks Grenadier Divisions; and the Fuehrer-Grenadier and Fuehrer Begleit Brigades. The American order of battle for the same period included: the 2d, 3d, 4th, 6th, 7th, 9th, 10th, and 11th Armored Divisions; the 82d and 101st Airborne Divisions; the 1st, 2d, 4th, 5th, 9th, 26th, 28th, 30th, 35th, 75th, 80th, 83d, 84th, 87th, 99th, and 106th Infantry Divisions.