The Germans "fueled" their horses with greater ease than their motor vehicles. Straw and hay were plentiful in the area, although an order had to be put out forbidding the use of straw as bedding material for the troops, and those units which came late into an area found foraging sparse. Potatoes and livestock were taken from the local population in large quantities, but the supply of breadstuff was barely adequate, chiefly because of troubles in transporting bulk flour to the field bakery units. It was necessary therefore to reduce the bread ration to all but front-line troops. The Americans, as usual, were well fed during this operation. The only notable change was the new demand for the compact K ration in place of the augmented ration, with its fresh meat and coffee beans, which had been issued during the slow-moving fighting in the autumn.
In transporting their wounded, the Germans experienced grave difficulty. By the close of December the Fifth Panzer Army was having to haul its casualties clear back to Andernach on the Rhine at the expense of those freshly wounded in the firing line. The Americans lost a number of hospitals, medics, and wounded to the German spearhead formations, but on the whole were able to maintain a high standard of medical care, even in this fluid battle. In accordance with accepted Army practice both the First and Third Armies were equipped with hospitals to take a peak casualty load. On 1 January 1945, there were a total of nearly 9,000 vacant beds in the hospitals of the two armies.
staff corps as masters of supply and logistics, a reputation which dated as far back as the Franco-Prussian War, the Ardennes Campaign showed little evidence of this earlier prowess except in the management of military rail transport and its rapid rehabilitation under attack. Perhaps the German staff work in the field was as good as ever, although there is evidence that it had deteriorated in the SS formations. But quite clearly the wishful thinking in which Hitler and the OKW staff indulged was no substitute for rigorous logistical analysis and planning, and these higher personalities, not the field commanders, dictated the control and management of the logistic support for the German armies in the Ardennes. One must conclude that the German offensive of December 1944 lacked the materiel and service support necessary to achieve any real measure of success and, furthermore, that Hitler and the OKW staff understood neither the importance of supply nor its effective organization.
The Turning Point in the Ardennes
When did the attacking German armies lose the initiative in their drive to cross the Meuse, and why? Surprise, the first element in successful offensive operations, had been attained by the attacker on 16 December. The defense had been surprised by the speed of the initial assault, by the weight of the attack, and, later protestations to the contrary, the American commands-both high and low-had been deceived as to the point of the attack. The German assault forces ruptured the American defenses on the first day of the advance.