For future operations, Eisenhower retained plans developed before OVERLORD. He resolved to make his main effort against the Nazi's vital Ruhr industrial region, with a secondary attack to the south of the Ardennes toward the Saar. He believed that this broad-front strategy would deny the enemy the opportunity to concentrate against a single axis of advance, while simultaneously affording opportunities to maneuver and shift the main weight of the Allied attack. This plan had its detractors, most notably Montgomery, although Bradley and Patton had their reservations as well. Montgomery, Bradley, and Patton agreed that the enemy was in disarray and that the time was ripe to exploit his confusion with bold action. Montgomery argued for 'one really powerful and full-blooded thrust toward Berlin,' by his army group, as a quick, sure way to end the war. To support his coup de grace, the British commander wanted Eisenhower to halt operations in the south and concentrate all available resources in the 21 Army Group. Bradley and Patton, equally anxious to make the main Allied effort, wanted to rush three corps across the Rhine near Wiesbaden, Mannheim, and Karlsruhe to force a rapid conclusion to the conflict. Eisenhower, in personal command of the forces on the European continent since 1 September, remained unconvinced that victory would be so simple. Worried that Germany still had substantial reserves, he believed that a single 'pencil like thrust' into the German heartland would certainly be destroyed; instead, Eisenhower favored stretching the enemy everywhere. Enemy resistance, he pointed out, had clearly stiffened as the Allies approached the German frontier, and Allied logistical difficulties had become steadily more critical.
Although the Germans had taken nearly a million casualties on all fronts during the Allies' summer offensives, the Third Reich still had millions of men in uniform. The Wehrmacht hastily organized nearly 230,000 of these soldiers into 'fortress battalions' to defend the West Wall, a defensive barrier commonly called the Siegfried Line by the Allies, which extended from the Netherlands to Switzerland. Although Nazi propagandists touted the invincibility of these defenses to the German people, their construction had languished following the fall of France in 1940. Only with the setbacks in the West in the summer of 1944 had the Germans again begun work on the line. Still, if not impenetrable, the Siegfried Line was formidable. It consisted of hundreds of pillboxes with interlocking fields of fire, supported by an extensive system of command posts, observation posts, and troop shelters. Furthermore, the Germans had carefully integrated their man-made obstacles, such as 'dragon's teeth,' with the terrain. In early September, Hitler placed the venerable Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt in command of the German armies in the West and charged him with the defense of the West Wall. Hitler planned to stop the Allies at the Siegfried Line long enough for the Wehrmacht to regroup and mount a major counteroffensive.
8 Increasing enemy resistance was not Eisenhower's only problem. Maintenance and support of his vast forces also gravely concerned him. The rapid advance had taken its toll on both men and materiel, while the absence of a major port in the north created severe shortages, particularly in fuel. Indeed, the drive toward Germany was clearly stalling for want of adequate logistical support. Most of the supplies and reinforcements for Eisenhower's forces were still coming ashore across the invasion beaches, a precarious situation given the vulnerability of these unsheltered facilities to bad weather in the English Channel. Although the excellent port of Antwerp had been captured virtually intact on 4 September, it remained unusable because the Germans still controlled the Schelde estuary, the sixty-mile-long waterway that linked Antwerp with the sea, and thus blocked access to the harbor. The Mediterranean French ports had also fallen into Allied hands, but would take time to rehabilitate, as would the entire French rail and road system. With fuel and ammunition running critically short, Allied offensive power was limited.
increasingly, Eisenhower realized that the war in Europe simply could not be won in 1944. In a 14 September letter to General George C. Marshall, U.S. Army Chief of Staff, Eisenhower noted that although the unexpectedly rapid advances in northern France had caused him to opt for one all-out advance to the German border and possibly the Rhine River before pausing to regroup, he remained convinced that a 'rush right on to Berlin' was impossible and 'wishful thinking.' He then laid out his general strategy for the future, a plan that he had given the Combined Chiefs of Staff, Montgomery, and Bradley in detail earlier. Eisenhower directed that Montgomery, recently promoted to field marshal, take his 21 Army Group, along with part of the U.S. 12th Army Group and the First Allied Airborne Army, and push over the Rhine in the north. He charged the 12th Army Group with capturing Brest (in western France) and executing a limited attack to divert German forces southward until Montgomery had established his bridgehead over the Rhine. After the northern bridgehead was secured, the Third Army would advance through the Saar and establish its own crossing sites. Eisenhower also tasked Montgomery to clear the approaches to Antwerp, thereby opening that vital port for Allied use. After securing the bridgeheads across the Rhine, the Allies would seize the Ruhr and concentrate forces for the final drive into Germany.
The Combined Chiefs of Staff approved Eisenhower's plan. They also noted their preference for the northern advance to the Ruhr, over the southern route through the Saar, and echoed Eisenhower's views of the absolute necessity of opening Antwerp before the onset of inclement weather. Eisenhower's plan authorized Montgomery to make an attempt to force the Rhine and outflank the Siegfried Line. The objective, however, was clearly limited--to secure a bridgehead over the Rhine to facilitate future offensives against the German heartland, rather than Montgomery's preferred 'full-blooded thrust' to Berlin. The Allies dubbed this operation, the first in the Rhineland Campaign, MARKET-GARDEN.