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Planning the Counteroffensive Details of the Plan

About 25 September Jodl was ordered to begin a detailed analysis of the Hitlerian concept, the only function now left to the great General Staff. Some latitude remained to the individual staff officers and those favored few in the high echelon of command who retained access to the Fuehrer in kneading and shaping the very general outline handed down by Hitler into an operations plan. The outline as it now had taken shape contained these major points: (a) the attack should be launched sometime between 20 and 30 November; (b) it should be made through the Ardennes in the Monschau-Echternach sector; (c) the initial object would be the seizure of bridgeheads over the Meuse River between Liege and Namur; (d) thereafter, Antwerp would be the objective; [1] e) a battle to annihilate the British and Canadians would ultimately be fought north of the line Antwerp-Liege-Bastogne; (f) a minimum of thirty divisions would be available, ten of which would be armored; (g) support would be given by an unprecedented concentration of artillery and rocket projector units; (h) operational control would be vested in four armies-two panzer armies abreast in the lead, two armies composed largely of infantry divisions to cover the flanks; (i) the Luftwaffe would be prepared to support the operation; (j) all planning would aim at securing tactical surprise and speed; (k) secrecy would be maintained at all costs and only a very limited number of individuals would be made privy to the plan. (Map I)

Theoretically, the chief of OKW, Keitel, should have been the central figure as preparations for the Ardennes counteroffensive unrolled. Actually he was charged with estimating the fuel and ammunition required. [2] Jodl and the Armed Forces Operations Staff would mastermind the great attack. Rundstedt, Commander in Chief West, was not informed of the impending operation; indeed at this stage he did not even know that Hitler envisaged a counteroffensive in the west. So much for the

[1] The precise reasons for the selection of Antwerp as the German objective are none too clear. The city represented the main supply base for British operations and it might be expected that the British public would react adversely to an Allied command responsible for the loss of an area so close to England which could be employed for V-2 attacks at short range. Later, at Nuremberg Rundstedt would say that the Meuse bridgeheads and Liege actually were the ultimate objectives. The Fifth Panzer Army commander, General der Panzertruppen Hasso-Eccard von Manteuffel gives his story in Seymour Freiden and William Richardson, eds., The Fatal Decisions (New York: William Sloane Associates, Inc., 1956), Part 6.

[2] The remaining records of the German High Command show clearly that Keitel no longer had a hand in the actual direction of the war or in strategic planning.