16 December 1944–25 January 1945
In his political testament
”) Adolf Hitler wrote, “Strength lies not in defense but in attack.” ThroughoutWorld War II, attempts to gain or regain the initiative had character-ized Hitler’s inﬂuence on military operations. Thus, when the militarysituation in late 1944 looked darkest on the Western Front, an enemyoffensive to redress the balance on the battleﬁeld—and thereby crippleor delay the Allied advance—should have come as no surprise.Hitler’s great gamble began during the nights of 13, 14, and 15December, when the initial assault force of German armor, artillery,and infantry gradually staged forward to attack positions along theBelgian-German-Luxembourg border. This mustered force, with morethan 200,000 men in thirteen infantry and seven
divisions and with nearly 1,000 tanks and almost 2,000 guns, deployed along a frontof 60 miles—its operational armor holdings equaling that on the entireEastern Front. Five more divisions moved forward in a second wave,while still others, equipped with at least 450 more tanks, followed inreserve.On the Allied side the threatened American sector appeared quiet.The 15 December daily situation report for the VIII Corps, which layin the path of two of Hitler’s armies, noted: “There is nothing toreport.” This illusion would soon be shattered.
In August 1944, while his armies were being destroyed in Normandy, Hitler secretly put in motion actions to build a largereserve force, forbidding its use to bolster Germany’s beleaguered defenses. To provide the needed manpower, he trimmed existing mili-tary forces and conscripted youths, the unﬁt, and old men previouslyuntouched for military service.
divisions were rebuilt with thecadre of survivors from units in Normandy or on the Eastern Front,while newly created
(“people’s infantry”) divisionswere staffed with veteran commanders and noncommissioned ofﬁcersand the new conscripts. By increasing the number of automaticweapons and the number of supporting assault gun and rocket battal-ions in each division, Hitler hoped to make up for hurried training and the lack of ﬁghting ﬁtness. Despite the massive Allied air bombard-