History of the Second World War, Volume 6

Bastogne: ‘bastion of the battered bastards of the 101st’ ... E < c o 1 3 POWs dig mass graves, also makeshift US wounded in makeshift conditions A vital communications centre, Bastogne was the key to the A rdennes-and the target of an all-out German attack they had wanted instead a limited attack to take the American sup­ ply base of Liege and cut in behind the 1st and 9th US Armies around Aachen. Hitler long ago had scorned the ‘Small Solution'. Again he rejected it. ‘We have had unexpected setbacks,’ the Fuhrer acknowledged, but that was ‘because my plan was not followed to the letter'. So stretched had the Americans become in Alsace in order to release Patton for counterattack, Hitler believed, that the second counteroffensive he contemplated there would score such gains as to turn Patton away from the Ardennes. Given the code name Nordwind (‘North W ind’), the counteroffensive was to begin on New Year’s Day. Nor would Hitler accept the contention that Antwerp lay beyond reach. While agreeing that, once Bastogne was captured, the two Panzer armies might turn northward to clear the east and south banks of the Meuse, he saw this as no switch to the ‘Small Solu­ tion' but as a temporary diversion to trap the American units that had rushed to the north shoulder of the bulge. This would prepare the way for renewing the drive on Antwerp. On the Allied side, Bradley on Christmas Day and Eisenhower a few days later urged Field-Marshal Montgomery to turn the 1st Army quickly to the offensive in order to take some of the pres­ sure off Bastogne and Patton's efforts to carve a viable corridor into the town. Montgomery responded that he expected the Ger­ mans to hit the 1st Army one more blow; but if that failed to come he would attack on January 3. Montgomery’s reluctance to attack annoyed the American com­ manders. The British field-marshal, they knew, had an entire corps in reserve. Although neither Bradley, Hodges, nor Patton asked commitment of British troops, they believed that so long as Mont­ gomery had this reserve he need fear no further German thrust. Another German blow in the north never came, primarily because 2244 U S Army U S Army
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