the Ardennes Strike
As planning for the Ardennes Offensive continued, several changes that would change the face of the war took place. First, General Erich Brandenburger’s Seventh Army had been boosted with the inclusion of the 6th SS Gebirgs Division ‘Nord’, the 11th Panzer and the 15th Panzergrenadier divisions. Alongside these was the Führer Grenadier Brigade, made up of tough troops pulled from the defence of Berlin. Seventh army’s job was to strike through Luxembourg and hold up Patton’s First army, keeping them away from the more important fighting in the North.
Watch on the Rhine
On the 16th of December, 1944, at 5:30 Am, Wacht am Rhein went ahead. In the north, under the light of artificial moonlight, two Panzer Armies rolled forwards. In the south, the 212th, 276th and 352nd Volksgrenadier Divisions launched their assault, smashing into the 1st Army. As this was happening, the 101st Paratroop division was ordered towards Bastogne.
Skorzeny's Grief commandos spread confusion wherever they went, destroying bridges, diverting troops, and even attacking Oscar Koch's HQ, killing him and most of his staff.
the Luftwaffe launched a huge attack, codenamed Unternehmen Bodenplatte, a massed attack by the luftwaffe on every airfield in Belgium and Northern France. 69 Luftwaffe aircraft were shot down, but 345 Allied Aircraft were destroyed on the Ground.
Confusion in the Ranks
in the middle of its march to the front, the 101st was unexpectedly diverted north, to Werbomont, to deal with the expected German attack in that Area. when they arrived, two days late due to traffic jams, they found the 82nd Airborne deployed there instead, and received the order to move south, to Bastogne.
it was dawn on the 19th of December when the 101st finally reached Bastogne. they could see the city shrouded in smoke and dust. Mcauliffe stood there as what had happened sank in. "Nuts!" he Spat out. the Americans had lost the race to Bastogne.
The city took less than an hour to fall, with elements of three divisions (two of them Panzer divisions, the 2nd and Panzer Lehr) striking the city. with its fall, the supply situation was eased, and another route of communication was opened to the front.
to the south, Luxembourg city now found itself under artillery fire from Seventh army. soon Troops were clashing in the city itself. the battle would be compared to Stalingrad.
the 2nd Panzer division reached the Meuse at Dinant,
The Holland Pocket
The entire 21st Army Group had now been cut off in a huge pocket dubbed the 'Holland Pocket'. Air resupply flights continued without pause, but they were sitting ducks for the new jet fighters of the Luftwaffe.
Reactions at the Top
On the 20th January 1945, American Chief of Staff George Marshall arrived to replace Eisenhower as Supreme Commander. Bradley and Hodges followed Ike back to the US in disgrace. Montgomery had been captured outside Namur by elements of Panzer Lehr. Marshall's briefing with Allied leaders in Paris was grim.
"Trapped in the Holland Pocket is the Entire British 21st Army Group. Eleven British, two Canadian and one Polish divisions, plus most of the 9th Army. All in all, over 700,000 British, 100,000 Canadians, 30,000 Other Allied troops; Poles, Czechs, Belgians, Dutch, and 300,000 Americans."
Churchill was ousted in a vote of no confidence and Halifax took over as Prime Minister. In the US, Roosevelt died of a stroke on the 3rd January 1945, and Henry Wallace became President. That split the Democrats into Truman and Wallace camps.
The Western Alliance was in tatters, its two strong leaders, Churchill and Roosevelt gone.
The View in the East
Stalin saw the victory as a grand opportunity. He ordered Zhukov to delay his offensive until the 4th February 1945. The reason was to let Hitler reinforce the west, and delude the Eastern Front.
The German's Move West
Hitler was ecstatic over the victory in the west. Some of his old fire had returned. He ordered General Raus and his Third Panzer Army west. Most, including Heinz Guderian, chief of staff, saw this as a mistake, however Hitler wouldn't be swayed. Division after division of German troops entrained for action in the West, and Stalin bided his time.
New Players Enter
On the 22nd January 1945 Marshall's aircraft was intercepted by an Me 262 and shot down over France. Someone else was needed to replace him. The name on every tongue was MacArthur, victor of the Philippines. And so MacArthur was recalled and sent to Europe. e swiftly appointed Patton as Supreme Commander of all Allied ground forces. this was very unpopular with British officers, many of whom refused to follow Patton's orders.
In the West, General Raus and his Army arrived. Hitler now planned a massive offensive to smash the Holland pocket, and destroy the Western Alliance. Hitler hinted at employing poison gas in the offensive.
on the 28th February 1945, the massed guns of the red army were unleashed on the German forces in the east. with all the German mobile forces off in the west, the front collapsed. soon Russian guns were within range of Berlin, and part of Hungary was overrun.
Patton's great push to relieve the Holland pocket began on the 7th March, 1945.