Bastogne: ‘bastion of
the battered bastards
of the 101st’ ...
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
U S Army U S Army