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Troops and Terrain The Order of Battle

During the long-drawn debate over the extent of the counteroffensive, the objective, and the attack form to be employed, the order of battle for Wacht am Rhein took form. This also led to differences of opinion and interpretation. How should the armies be aligned? What forces, missions, and zones should be assigned to each particular army? How many divisions, armored and infantry, would be available for use in the attack? The answers to these and like questions turned on the "Solution" adopted and the maneuver employed but will be set forth independently in an attempt to bring some order out of the confused interplay between Hitler, Jodl, Rundstedt, and Model.

When the representatives of OB WEST and Army Group B first heard of the Defensive Battle in the West, the Fuehrer had given Model, as the commander directly charged with the operation, three armies: the Fifth and Sixth Panzer Armies and the Seventh Army. Subsequently Hitler added the Fifteenth Army for a special role, although it would appear that he did not intend to take the Fifteenth away from Army Group Student until after the battle was joined. At the time Westphal and Krebs rejoined their respective headquarters they were in possession of a rather general plan of maneuver and a list of divisions numbering 29. Hitler had personally promised 30 divisions, of which 12 were to be armored. From this point forward there would be a constant question posed in each draft plan: how many divisions and which divisions? By 1 November, as planning progressed, the Hitler-Jodl estimate of the divisions which could be employed rose to 39, of which 13 would be armored. On the other hand the estimates fed into the successive OB WEST planning papers revolved between 29 and 31 divisions, with 12 armored divisions as a constant. It is the one extra panzer unit found in the OKW order of battle which furnishes the key to the conundrum as to the number of divisions. This unit, the 21st Panzer Division, belonged to Army Group G and was committed as a roving halfback, stiffening those parts of the line where attacks by the Third and Seventh U.S. Armies threatened to penetrate. Rundstedt knew that the 21st simply could not be stripped from the German south flank, already precariously thin. His list of "available" divisions, therefore did not name those divisions already fully committed in sectors where the Allied threat loomed large. Be it noted, then, that the Hitler-Jodl listing of available divisions did not contain a single new formation (from the Eastern Front or Italy for example