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The tough going of Allied operations from September-December clearly showed that the Germans had recovered from their defeats of the past summer. Nevertheless, Eisenhower determined to keep pressure on the enemy throughout the winter and deny the Wehrmacht the freedom to further strengthen its defenses. On 7 December Eisenhower met in Maastricht with Montgomery and Bradley to plan an all-out offensive for the early weeks of 1945. Eisenhower decided that the main effort would again shift to the 21 Army Group, with secondary attacks in the south. Montgomery was perplexed and argued that the past few months had shown that only one attack could be adequately supported. He argued again for a concentrated thrust across the Rhine north of the Ruhr by his army group, while other Allied forces reverted to containing actions. Eisenhower disagreed and, having control of the ever increasing American resources critical to Montgomery's plan, made his views prevail. Before the Allies could fully implement the decisions reached at Maastricht, the Germans attacked in the Ardennes. In the mist-shrouded early morning of 16 December, Hitler launched the Fifth Panzer Army, the Sixth Panzer Army, and the Seventh Army in a vain attempt to cross the Meuse River, seize Antwerp, and split the Allied front. Soldiers soon called it the Battle of the Bulge, after the salient the Germans made in the Allied lines. Although surprised, the Allies contained the German offensive, but only after much bitter fighting in freezing temperatures (the story of which is related in a companion campaign brochure).

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