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therefore hesitate to weaken their forces in these sectors by stripping away divisions to meet the German attack.


When did the German armies lose the initiative in the Ardennes? As early as 20 December there are indications that small clouds of niggling doubt were present in the minds of some of the German field commanders, this because of the Sixth Panzer Army's failure to adhere to the offensive timetable. By 24 December the crippling impact of Allied air attack, resumed the previous day as the weather broke, was clearly discernible. Then, too, the course of the ground battle on that date was equally adverse. The counterattack by the Third Army menaced the whole southern flank of the German salient, while the XLVII Panzer Corps, now leading the Fifth Panzer drive, was so lone and exposed that the corps commander recommended a withdrawal of his forward elements until such time as the German flanks at the tip of the salient could be covered. This combination of threats in the air and on the ground led the Fifth Panzer Army commander to conclude on 24 December that "the objective could no longer be attained." [11]


It is a truism that morale is a governing factor in war. Christmas in the Ardennes, 1944, very clearly is a case in point. Brig. Gen. S. L. A. Marshall has graphically described the mood of the American troops in Bastogne on the Holy Evening and shown the somber aspect of nostalgia on the part of men engaged in the grim business of war, far from home and loved ones. But in the German camp the sixth Christmas of the war seems to have made a truly indelible impression. The field postmaster for Luettwitz'' corps remarks on the decline in the amount of Christmas mail reaching the front-particularly gift parcels. The German Army newspaper bitterly features a story on the Christmas gift presented by a Spanish restaurateur to Goering-a large supply of caviar. And the commander of the 276th Volks Grenadier Division, whose unit fought its hardest battle on Christmas Day, expresses the hope that in the ultimate withdrawal to the cover of the West Wall his troops will be able to re capture the Christmas spirit.


The German Christmas traditionally was celebrated on two days, the 25th and 26th, and at this emotional nadir of war-weary soldiery the German armies in the Ardennes sustained a series of crushing reverses: the left wing of the Seventh Army was driven back to the Sauer River, over which it had crossed ten days before; the German ring around Bastogne was broken by Patton's troops; the 2d Panzer Division received orders to escape from the Celles pocket; and throughout the day of the 26th a developing "crisis" in supply and communications was noted in the journal at the headquarters of OB WEST. At 1915 on 26 December General Krebs, Model's chief of staff, made an appraisal of the German situation, "Today a certain culminating point [has been reached]." [12]


It may be concluded that by the evening of 26 December the initiative had


[11] Manteuffel in MS # B-151a, p. 160. It is significant that the OB WEST G-4, Colonel John, also picks this date as the turning point in the German offensive. See Headquarters 12th Army Group, Consolidated Interrogation Report 1, 12 June 1945.


[12] Contained in OB WEST: KTB, 26 Dec 44.