From the Normandy Beaches to the Baltic Sea: The Northwest Europe Campaign, 1944-1945

By Alan J. Levine | Go to book overview

5
The German Counteroffensives in the Ardennes and Alsace

However disappointing the progress of the campaign in Northwest Europe had been since September, the Allies were sure that the initiative was completely in their hands. It seemed inconceivable, to almost everyone, that the Germans would ever again take the offensive. To the surprise of the Allies, the Germans did exactly that, triggering one of the greatest battles of the war in the Ardennes, the so-called Battle of the Bulge. This was Adolf Hitler's Christmas present to the world, but one that only Josef Stalin would appreciate.

In retrospect, the fact that people were surprised by the very fact of an enemy offensive seems astonishing. It would have been completely out of character for Hitler not to take any chance, however illusory, to go over to the attack. He was the least likely leader in history to tamely accept slow decline and inevitable defeat. Indeed, preparations for the Ardennes offensive were critical in shaping German actions throughout the fall of 1944.

That any offensive action was possible arguably was surprising, for the German war effort was in terminal decline. War production had continued to rise through the summer of 1944. Despite the final measures of supermobilization of German workers and the maximum possible exploitation of slave laborers and the remaining occupied countries, it then dropped, as stocks of finished components were used up and the transportation system began to collapse under air attack. The last spate of war production had less effect than the numbers of weapons produced would indicate, because of the lack of fuel. The bombing of synthetic oil plants and refineries and the loss of Romania had reduced the German fuel supply to only a fraction of that of the

-145-

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From the Normandy Beaches to the Baltic Sea: The Northwest Europe Campaign, 1944-1945
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction ix
  • 1 - Prelude, Planning, Preparation 1
  • 2 - The Normandy Beachhead 51
  • 3 - The Liberation of Western Europe 77
  • 4 - The Fall Fighting on the German Frontier 103
  • 5 - The German Counteroffensives in the Ardennes and Alsace 145
  • 6 - The March to Victory, January-May 1945 169
  • Notes 205
  • Bibliography 207
  • Index 215
  • About the Author 225
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