Friday, April 10, 2015

Rundstedt’s Plan Martin

Plan Martin Map of Operations: 12/16/44 – 2/3/45.

“We can still lose this war… The Germans are colder and hungrier than we are, but they fight better.”

--Patton, December 1944

German Attack Plans Fall 1944
The following historical synopsis taken from The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge, by Hugh M. Cole:

“The weaknesses of the [Hitler’s] plan were diagnosed by Rundstedt and Westphal as follows: sufficient force was not available to attain the distant goal of Antwerp; the German situation on the Western Front was so precarious that it was questionable whether the divisions slated for the offensive could be kept out of the moil of battle prior to D-day; the Allies might launch an offensive of their own, "spoiling" the German attack; the northern and southern flanks of the offensive would be dangerously open, the exposure increasing with every mile gained in the advance; finally, there was a better than average chance that all the attack could produce would be a salient or bulge of the Great War variety, consuming too many German divisions in what would be ultimately only a holding operation. The solution, as seen by Rundstedt and Westphal, was to produce an operations order which would be less ambitious as to the terrain to be conquered and which would aim at maximum destruction of Allied forces with minimum risk.

After a meeting that lasted several hours, Model agreed to submit a new army group plan incorporating most of OB WEST's [i.e. Rundstedt’s] Martin study. Actually Model and Rundstedt found themselves in accord on only one point, that the Hitler scheme for seizing Antwerp was too ambitious and that there was no purpose to plans carrying beyond the Meuse River. Quite independently, or so it would appear, the two headquarters had arrived at the Small Solution, or the envelopment of the enemy east of the Meuse River. The fact that Model was violently opposed to the Fuehrer's solution and thus could expect no support from OKW may have made him more amenable to Rundstedt's exercise of the command decision. When the revised Model plan arrived at OB WEST headquarters on 28 October, it followed the general outline of the Martin plan. All of this work was preparatory to the receipt of further instructions promised by Jodl. These arrived at OB WEST headquarters by special courier during the night of 2 November.

Jodl seems to have had no hesitation about setting the two alternatives before Hitler. First, he could go ahead with the Big Solution, aiming at the seizure of Antwerp and the encirclement and destruction of the Allied forces north of the line Bastogne-Brussels-Antwerp. This would require a drastic revision of German strategy on all fronts. Combat divisions would have to be stripped from the Eastern Front in particular and given to OB WEST. Replacements and supplies for other fronts than the west would have to be reduced to a mere trickle. Obviously ground would have to be surrendered elsewhere if the great attack in the west were to be successful; therefore local commanders must be allowed to make their own decisions as to retrograde movement. (Surely Hitler must have gagged on this item.) This was not all. Jodl and Buttlar-Brandenfels recommended extreme measures to wring the extra divisions which the Big Solution required out of the German people. The Third Reich would have to be turned into a fortress under martial law, with total mobilization of men, women, and children-a step which was not taken in fact until the spring of 1945.

Closely linked with the Big Solution was the question of the form in which the attack should be delivered. The Hitler concept called for a single thrust on a wide front; this broad zone of action, so the argument ran, would make it difficult for the enemy to concentrate his forces for a riposte. When the Allies commenced to react, and only then, a secondary attack would be launched in the north from the Venlo area by two army corps under Army Group H (Student). Rundstedt, on the other hand, hoped to deny the enemy the ability to mass for a counterthrust by employing a double envelopment, the two prongs of the attack moving simultaneously from their jump-off positions. His reply, on 3 November, to the OKW instructions was phrased most carefully, but despite the protestation that the points of difference between the OKW and OB WEST plans were "unessential," Rundstedt made clear his opinion that a concentric manoeuvre was a must:

"It is a requisite that a powerful [secondary] attack be launched from the area Susteren-Geilenkirchen simultaneously with the [main attack] of Sixth SS Panzer, Fifth Panzer and Seventh Armies; otherwise the destruction of the strong [Allied] forces already concentrated in the Sittard-Liege-Monschau triangle cannot be achieved." [Ltr, Rundstedt to Jodl, 3 Nov 44, OB WEST, KTB Anlage 50, vol. I, pp. 47-50.]

Jodl visited OB WEST headquarters on 26 November, only to find that Rundstedt and Model were determined to cling to the Small Solution and the concept of concentric attack. Once again Hitler handed down his edict: "There will be absolutely no change in the present intentions." But Model was tenacious. Taking advantage of a conference which Hitler called in Berlin on 2 December, Model brought forward his heavy artillery: Sepp Dietrich, Hitler's old crony, and "Little" Manteuffel, the panzer general with the big reputation, both supporters of the Small Solution. Still Hitler refused to budge. One last attempt to win over the Fuehrer was made four days later when Rundstedt and Model submitted their final draft of the operations order for Wacht am Rhein. The accompanying map showed a second prong to the attack, this carried as in the first OB WEST plan by the XII SS Corps. Again Hitler rejected the suggestion.

Although Model and Army Group B were not consulted in the preparation of this answer from Rundstedt to Jodl, the army group planners made haste to repudiate any plan for a simultaneous two-pronged attack. The force making up the northern arm in Rundstedt's scheme, the XII SS Corps, was too weak to carry through a simultaneous secondary attack; nor would Model agree to further reduction of the main effort as a step in beefing up the northern thrust. The OB WEST chief of staff could do no more than note this disclaimer from the subordinate headquarters: "The simultaneous attack of the XII SS Corps is regarded as essential by Field Marshal von Rundstedt for the purpose of tying down [the enemy]. Considering the weakness of our forces, OKW is of the same opinion as you. We will have to await a decision." [ Ltr, Westphal to Krebs, 6 Nov 44, OB WEST, KTB Anlage 50, vol. I pp. 67-70.]

The OB WEST appraisal of Allied strength, as set forth in Martin, accorded the Allies a two to one superiority. Although the front was relatively quiet, the main Allied effort was recognized as being directed against the flanks of the German line (the Fifteenth Army in the north and the Nineteenth Army in the south). But the German long-range estimate of Allied intentions predicted that the Allies first would attempt to clear the Schelde estuary, as a preliminary to opening the port of Antwerp, and follow with a shift to the Venlo-Aachen sector as a base for operations against the Ruhr. Recognizing, therefore, that the Allied north wing with its four armies was heavily weighted, Plan Martin emphasized protection of the north flank of the attack, adding extra divisions for this purpose and feeding in a vital secondary attack by six divisions debouching from the salient south of Roermond.

The axis of the advance, as proposed in Martin, would be Butgenbach-Trois Ponts-Werbomont-Ourthe River-a Meuse crossing north of the line Huy-Antwerp. The Fifth and Sixth Panzer Armies, right and left, would attack on a narrow front, the main strength of the two armies driving between Simmerath and Bleialf on a front of only twenty-five miles. This was the salient feature of the Rundstedt plan: a heavy concentration for breakthrough on a narrow front. The area selected for the thrust of this sharp, narrow wedge offered the best tank going to be found; no rivers need be crossed by the main attack until the Ourthe was reached. Flank cover would be given by the advance of the Fifteenth Army in the north and the Seventh Army in the south. The secondary attack from the Roermond sector, heavy with armor, would effect a juncture with the main advance near Liege.

Plan Martin, then, exemplified Rundstedt's desire to design and cut a coat matching the amount of cloth he expected to have. He wanted immediate results, to be won by a quick breakthrough on a narrow front with the entire field of battle reduced considerably in size from the maneuver area envisaged in the original Hitler directive. The simultaneous secondary thrust from the Roermond salient was regarded by Rundstedt as essential to the OB WEST plan.

The Hitler-Jodl plan provided for an attack to be carried by the three armies of Army Group B advancing abreast. Plan Martin placed the Seventh Army to the left and rear of the two assault armies with its northern corps advancing behind the southern wing of the attack.

Correspondingly, the Hitler-Jodl attack issued from an attack front sixty-five miles wide; the Martin attack took off from a forty-mile-wide base. In the first case the southern terminus of the penetration would be Grevenmacher; in Martin this terminus was set at Dasburg. Where the Hitler-Jodl attack moved straight through the Belgian Ardennes, that outlined in Martin skimmed the northern edge of the Ardennes. Of the thirteen panzer divisions listed by Hitler and Jodl, only four would be thrown into the first wave with six following in the second wave. The remaining three were to be held out for later employment in the holding attacks planned for Army Group Student. In Martin, contrariwise, Rundstedt put all of the panzer divisions he counted as available (twelve in number) in the first attack wave. As to reserves, the Hitler-Jodl order of battle counted four divisions in this category but provided for their commitment as the third wave of the attack. Rundstedt, far more concerned than OKW with the potential weakness of the southern flank, would assemble the three divisions of his reserve along the southern boundary of the expanding salient.

The decision to let the Sixth Panzer Army gather the largest sheaf of laurel leaves, if any, was politically inspired. Its commander, Sepp Dietrich, was high in the party and the panzer divisions assigned for the attack were SS divisions. Hitler's letter on 1 November calls Dietrich's command the Sixth SS Panzer Army, a Freudian slip for this army did not officially bear the title SS and would not for some time to come. The question at issue, however, was the location of the Sixth Panzer Army. Rundstedt wanted the main effort to be launched in the center and so wished to reverse the position of the two panzer armies in the final deployment. But this was only one of several points at which the deployment outlined by OB WEST in the Martin plan (as finally agreed to by Model) differed from that given by Hitler's 1 November letter of instructions.”

Taken from The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge, Chaps. II & III by Hugh M. Cole.


Plan Martin Modifications to Wacht am Rhein


Field Marshall von Rundstedt, widely respected by many Allied generals, put forward the essential plan to be enacted here once it became clear that this offensive was inevitable, although he called for even more armored divisions in the first wave, to be employed upon a narrower front than engaged here, and breaking to the north-west. Rundstedt’s Plan Martin also saw 6th SS Panzer Army and 5th Panzer Army reversed in their starting positions, as they have been in this study. The aim was to effect an encirclement of US 1st and 9th Army forces in the Aachen area by linking with another German attack debouching from the Roermond salient to the north of Aachen. This was the “small solution”, scorned by Hitler, which would attempt to destroy Allied resistance east of the Meuse before crossing the river in force. Hitler’s “big solution”, with which he ignored and overruled the advice of all his generals, was to go straight at the Meuse before hooking right. It is assumed in this study that Hitler finally allowed Rundstedt and Model to proceed with Plan Martin with the proviso that, once across the Meuse at Liège, the attack force would strike directly towards Antwerp. Rundstedt, Model, et al., readily agree to this, knowing they had small hope of doing so, but feeling there were good odds that they could at least pull off the smaller solution envisioned by Plan Martin

For Germany at this late date in the war, Rundstedt's plan was the most rational alternative (that is if seeking peace terms is ruled out), even if the odds were slim: deliver a crushing envelopment to retake Aachen and seriously maim the Allies to prevent the Ruhr area from falling in the near future, and putting the Allied schedule back by months. Once accomplished, a focus on the eastern front is made possible with this breather created in the west. It is not emphasized in many histories, but the US and British were scraping the barrel for infantry replacements by the end of 1944, being forced to cannibalize other formations—the entire 50th & 59th Infantry divisions for the British, and many AA and rear service units etc. for the Americans. This deficit was especially highlighted for the US after the carnage of Hürtgenwald which resembles—in hindsight to be fair—the idiocy of Stalingrad as the High Command pushes good assets after bad, feeding troops into a meat grinder for a location that has no great strategic value, but somehow manages to attain a sort of mystical "symbolic" value. This set things up very well for a German counter-attack:.

“Over a period of ninety days, nine U.S. divisions were chewed up and spit out as the Allied High Command tried to push their way through the Hürtgen with one failed frontal attack after another. The cost to the attacking U.S. First Army was put at 33,000 casualties (24,000 dead & wounded in combat plus another 9,000 victims of trench foot, disease or combat exhaustion). It

compares with the casualties suffered by U.S. Marine Corps during their 36-day assault on the island of Iwo Jima, about 26,000.”
This scenario corrects the first two defects in the German plan, with respect to initial disposition and reinforcements, without stretching historical reality overly in the doing. All the forces used here were available, the majority of them actually on the West Front prior to the attack. The overall assumption, borne out by the stated intentions of Rundstedt’s plan, is that everything possible was put into this attack. The Germans simply didn’t have enough forces to engage in any other offensive activities on the entire front with this operation in effect.

This scenario also gives the US the possibility of an enhanced counter-attack under the historical rubric of Bradley taking over command of the entire front, with Montgomery denied command of the northern shoulder (see events below). Montgomery, as usual, was overly cautious in his response to the German attack.

Details of changes made to in [OPArt Wargame] Wacht am Rhein
The wonder about this “what if?” scenario is that it was not implemented at the time: if one is going to stake everything on one last blitzkrieg, then one should put everything possible into it. This conflict joins a long list of botched battles for the Wehrmacht from Stalingrad on, where the dead hand of Hitler moves above the planning maps, restlessly ensuring defeats with unerring consistency. Attacking Elsenborn ridge, throwing your best armored troops against this dug-in position, in two waves, was almost guaranteed to produce an inconclusive slug-fest. It was Pickett’s Charge for the Germans. This was realised too late, after Manteuffel had broken out further south, and the second SS wave and some, but not all, available reinforcements were routed down there accordingly, wasting precious time and resources. The second German failure had to do with the inexplicable holding back of reserves once a breakout was attained. Both SS divisions, and the two “Führer” brigades, were in fact right behind the front, ready and waiting; 9th Panzer & 15th Pz. Gr. divisions for example, were both fed into the campaign on the 23rd, far too late to affect the general course of events. Other key units, enhanced replacements and equipment, could have been made available but were not as Hitler adamantly refused to make sacrifices on other fronts in an all-out effort to make the Ardennes blow truly massive. One must give credit where it is due however, insofar as Hitler’s choice of attack was inspired, and his insistence that all orders pertaining to the offensive be limited to a small circle of generals sworn to secrecy, and that all unit commands pertaining to the build-up be conducted through land lines, not radio, equally so. His “intuition” correctly sensed an Allied penetration of High Command enigma messages, and these measures, along with the covering forests of the Schnee Eifel, allowed the Wehrmacht to pull off an amazing surprise attack in the West. Hitler was also correct in seeing that Wacht am Rhein—whatever the final odds against it succeeding, was in fact the Reich’s last chance. No attack on the Ostfront had even the remotest hope of inflicting the sort of blow that could be thrown in the West. And so Hitler’s offensive was correct in terms of form, but lacked the substance that his Field Marshals demanded.

It is ironic that this last major German offensive was to be called “The Rundstedt Offensive” by some, in as much as Rundstedt was only nominally in charge of all forces on the Western front. Rundstedt’s Plan Martin, submitted by OB West, had been rejected by OKH (Hitler) in all its premises and details. This then provided the genesis for this project, in essence a huge ‘what-if’ campaign, one that was entirely possible for the Germans to have put together had Hitler given the green light for various operations in the Fall of 1944 designed to reduce Army frontage in the east primarily, thereby freeing up more units for Wacht am Rhein/Plan Martin. These break down as follows:

The Grossdeutschland Korps commanded by von Saucken in the Fall of 1944 in Prussia was the nominal parent of both the Führer Begleit and Führer Grenadier brigades (each more a pocket panzer division), both historically used in the offensive. The Grossdeutschland Pz Division, and the GD Korps are added to the Wacht am Rhein order of battle. The Courland Front in the Baltic begins to transfer units to East Prussia, a final evacuation of units scheduled before the December 16th attack date in the Ardennes. The German player will have the option to have this overall OB West reserve Corps (including FB & FG Bdes) appear in its entirety D +4 days on either the north, center, or southern wing of the offensive.

Likewise the Hermann Göring Panzer Korps (in Prussia as well) under Schmalz joins 7th Armee in the southern attack zone, taking control of the already present 5th FSJ (parachute-infantry) division, along with the HG Panzer division. This was in response to Brandenberger’s (7.A) strong requests for added maneuver elements with which to deal with the inevitable counter-attack from Patton’s 3rd Army in Lorraine against the extending southern flank of the German salient.

Operation Nordwind in the Vosges aimed at Strassbourg (December 31st) is cancelled and the following units made available for the Ardennes attack:

17th SS Pz. Div. 25th Pz.Grenadier Div.

--17th SS & 25th Panzergrenadier division are largely built up to strength after the defensive battles in the Lorraine: 17th SS Panzer is added to 6th Panzer Army reserve; 25th Panzergrenadier is assigned to the HG Korps.

10th SS Pz. Div. 11th Pz. Div. 3rd Pz. Grenadier Div.

--10th SS Panzer, 11th Panzer, and 3rd Panzergrenadier divisions, all previously engaged in the Aachen defensive battles against US 9th Army, are retained in the Roermond salient under XII SS Panzer Korps and refitted with troops and equipment.

6th SS Gebirg Div.

--6th SS Gebirg (mountain) division, 7th FJ (para-inf), & 257th VGD are likewise withdrawn from the Vosges front, rebuilt, and sent into the Ardennes as Army reserves: 6th SS mountain assigned to 6th Panzer Army, 257th VGD to 5th Panzer Army, and 7th FJ Div to Brandenberg’s 7thth Army reserve in the south, on D +3. Other units from the former Army Group Kurland in the Baltic are assumed to have been sent to maintain defensive lines around Strasburg, and 126th ID (from Kurland) arrives turn 14 as 1st Army’s reserve.

269th Division is withdrawn from Norway (as was 560th VGD historically) and designated 15th Armee reserve for its attack out of the Roermond salient.

Units historically used in the attack, but were delayed in starting from their jump-off lines (e.g. 902nd StG Bde, parts of 3rd FJ division, & 15th PzGr Div., historically sent in piecemeal Dec. 23rd ) are assumed to have attained these positions before the assault.

The last assumption is that OKH radically diverted replacements and equipment to the Ardennes front from September through December, thus allowing almost all offensive formations to have 80-90% of their Theatre TO&E level by December 16th. Likewise, a more potent supply situation was created for the four attack armies.

Additional Forces Breakdown

Total additions to historical offensive armies: 11 divisions, of which:

Originally in area and retained: 3

From cancelled Operation Nordwind: 5

Divisions from Russian front: 2

From Norway: 1

South of offensive front:

From Kurland to 1st Army, south of offensive 2 divisions

Summary of improvements:
Most formations historically used in the offensive are now available, as stipulated in Plan Martin, rather than having a staggered reinforcement schedule (historical).

All formations are at 80-90% TOE levels, except units engaged in defensive battles against US 9th & 1st Army offensives aimed at capturing the Roer dams, as well as the US 102nd division’s attack and recent capture of Linnich, in an attempt to clear the Roermond salient from the east, all of the above ongoing operations when the Ardennes attack commences.

In addition to the division increase, an additional SS Tiger Abt is moved from the east front to the Roermond salient, as are two motorized artillery regiments, and Korps artillery attached to the Grossdeutchland and Herman Göring corps.

OKW failed to anticipate the supply difficulties involved in moving materiel forward with the advance without the usual rail assets assisting. It is assumed here that the Germans made somewhat better plans to move supplies forward, although their means were limited at this point of the war, especially in terrain as difficult as the Ardennes in winter.

A fifth factor, left to the German player, involves capturing St. Vith and Bastogne at the earliest possible date to avoid the supply bottleneck which historically occurred. The introduction of all these forces into a developing salient will create a severe overall supply constriction if these two towns are not captured early on, and this is precisely what happened historically. It is therefore assumed that Rundstedt, in getting the go-ahead for his plan, would have realized that the capture of Bastogne in the south was critical, both in terms of supply lines for the advance, but also as a critical area to hold before Patton’s 3rd Army arrives in force.

German 5th and 6th Panzer Armies have their positions reversed, with 5th Army now to the north, and 6th in the centre.

The Roermond salient area extends the campaign map to entirely include the northernmost US 9th Army, as well as the southern end of the British 2nd Army; likewise the southern front has been extended to entirely cover US 3rd Army dispositions. This primarily does away with the usual division X arrives at point Y on turn Z issue of Allied reinforcements, and instead presents the Ardennes campaign in full active context, allowing the Allied player (with some formation activation constraints) to free units and send them as desired. It also provides a broader scope for offensive actions, first and foremost the inclusion of the critical Roemond salient in the north, but also possible offensive actions by either side in the southern Lorraine area, although both sides are faced with extensive enemy fortification belts there: the Maginot Line once again for the Germans, and the Westwall extending south for the US.

In addition to 6 above, the Allied player also has Theatre Options to bring British and Canadian reinforcements onto the map (north), and two US divisions (south), in excess of the scheduled British XXX Corps, at a set victory point cost per group. As well, the US 8th strategic air force (heavies) based in England, has its presence extended.

Overview of the Plan Martin Campaign
The historical “Battle of the Bulge” ended (depending upon the historian) around January 15th 1945, when US forces had pushed the Wehrmacht back over its start lines. The Plan Martin campaign, while primarily focusing upon an enhanced German effort, also widens the scope of the campaign’s geography to allow for a full front dynamic as opposed to the usual discrete Ardennes treatment: this gives both sides advantages and disadvantages. For the same reason the campaign is extended to February 3rd 1945 (turn 100) and this is not primarily in place to give the Germans more time to accomplish their objectives. This enhanced German offensive is not a radical force alteration, and if the Germans are to attain a victory it is clear that it has to be grabbed early on at a rapid pace before the force and airpower disparity of the Allies inevitably stalls their advances, at least in the hands of a competent Allied player. Indeed, another 2-3 weeks in January and February will not give the Germans greater odds of winning, but will increase the chances of their losing, and more badly than historically was the case. The extended campaign will increase the chances for the Allies, in employing all their resources, and some from off the map north and south, of pulling off a strategic victory, not simply in halting the Germans and pushing them back over their start lines (which is an operational draw). They can seriously think about advancing to the Rhine earlier than the historical advance, and hand the German opponent in this model a decisive defeat.

Historical Note: there were in fact, a large number of small air activities at the beginning of this campaign.

Strategic Considerations
Historically, as the well-known story goes, Eisenhower, after some deliberation, and against the feelings of many of his generals who detested the British Field Marshall, agreed with Montgomery to subordinate 9th and part of 1st armies to Montgomery’s 21st Army Group. There were some compelling reasons for this at the time, some logistical, but the political was an equally important factor. As Bradley had placed his own Army Group HQ too far forward in Luxembourg, it would have been more expeditious, at least in the short term, to have Montgomery take over up north given the rapidly expanding German salient. Politically, and this weighed heavily on Eisenhower—giving Monty the authority there would almost certainly mean that his reserve XXX Corps would be brought south without having to be asked. In point of fact, direct orders from Eisenhower would have caused friction and political problems for US/British relations, but it was entirely within Eisenhower’s mandate to order any troops as needed.

Montgomery had been causing these sorts of problems in any case and would continue in his attempts to “punch above his weight” until the end of the war. As far as logistics go, I’ve never really understood why this issue is usually presented in rather black and white terms. What with the ever formidable American proficiency with logistics, engineering, and rapid establishment of communication networks, I do not see why Bradley could not have moved his HQ back to Liege or Brussels, causing some limited command control problems until the located HQ is in place and functioning to be sure; however, a few days of disrupted overall Army Group command while this was done, would likely have been short-term pain for long-term gain. Insofar as this model is giving the Germans far more strategic scope than was the case in the historical Ardennes campaign, it is only fair to give this option full consideration, as Eisenhower was obliged to. Bradley was not as radical as Patton in his ideas for campaigns certainly, but he was nowhere near the pedantic conservative “set piece” operations of Montgomery. This was borne out historically in the battle as Montgomery’s slow counter-attack developments were a major crimp in what the US might have accomplished if he had remained up in Holland.

Historical Note: the British 6th, US 82nd, 101st and the green 17th Airborne divisions, were all strategic reserves mid -December. Given the shortage of on-hand reserves, but equally the weather, terrain, and logistical drawbacks, all four airborne divisions were rushed in as regular infantry. Certainly committing these units in this manner was wasting their talents somewhat, but after Arnhem, and the onset of winter weather, it was clear that large airdrops would have to wait until the following Spring at least. Apart from that, given the serious nature of the German offensive, getting elite units in front of German spearheads overruled all other criteria.

German Paradrop: Operation Hohes Venn:
The Heydte battalion was formed by combing German parachute divisions for experienced jump-trained men, and Heydte was able to form a 1200 man battalion. This operation was remarkably inefficient for the Germans as transport planes were delayed, and many of the pilots non veteran, and ending up dropping the unit all over the place in what was the first German night air drop operation:

The paratroopers were to jump at dawn on D-day, first opening the roads in the Hohes Venn leading from the Elsenborn-Malmedy area toward Eupen for the armored spearhead units, then blocking Allied forces if these attempted to intervene. Colonel von der Heydte was told that the German armor would reach him within twenty-four hours.

The Ardennes: The Battle of the Bulge, p.271, by Hugh M. Cole.
In this enhanced German effort scenario it is assumed that the operation was better organized and, as the unit had been hastily formed with the Germans never having engaged in night drops (with the small-scale exception of saboteurs and agents etc.), the unit will now be operable (Dec. 16th PM) Historically, due to transport snags at Paderborn, the planned dawn drop on the 16th ended up being carried out that night.

Historical Note: a number of rivers in the Ardennes do not really qualify as major rivers per se; however, the terrain usually had even small rivers and streams with steep banks and fast moving water. The German tank units on the Our river part of the front were not able to cross until late day on the 16th, after heavy bridges were constructed by specialist units.

Enhanced Effort ‘what if’, for both sides
‘What-if’ scenarios try to work as close to historical “facts on the ground” as possible. The original Wacht am Rhein plan come nowhere close to fulfilling the radical changes put forward by Jodl with Rundstedt and Model backing him. This view proposed a ruthless stripping of units and equipment from other fronts, and a total mobilization of all Reich labour, industrial, and military resources. It is worth repeating here:

“This would require a drastic revision of German strategy on all fronts. Combat divisions would have to be stripped from the Eastern Front in particular and given to OB WEST. Replacements and supplies for other fronts than the west would have to be reduced to a mere trickle. Obviously ground would have to be surrendered elsewhere if the great attack in the west were to be successful; therefore local commanders must be allowed to make their own decisions as to retrograde movement. (Surely Hitler must have gagged on this item.) This was not all. Jodl and Buttlar-Brandenfels recommended extreme measures to wring the extra divisions which the Big Solution required out of the German people. The Third Reich would have to be turned into a fortress under martial law, with total mobilization of men, women, and children-a step which was not taken in fact until the spring of 1945.”

( from The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge, cited above, by Hugh M. Cole)

It is obvious from the revised German OB herein that I have aimed for a middle ground between the above Total War variant, and the historical Wacht am Rhein. I have not drastically affected other fronts in order to create an historically improbable Bulge ‘what if’. In fact, I have followed Rundstedt’s operational plan without putting into place massive troop arrivals from other fronts; what is assumed though, is a complete replacement & equipment priority for the attack armies, from September to mid-December of 1944. There is only one critical departure from the historical donnée and this is the necessary withdrawal from the Kurland area in the east, its only strategic purpose, as far as I can make out, was to retain a testing and training area for the new XXI and XXIII U-boats beyond Allied bomber range. The Kurland divisions go primarily to the Ostfront, with two going to the Saar front to take up the slack for 5 divisions historically used in the late-December German Nordwind offensive which is cancelled. A total of 2 divisions (elite divisions to be sure, along with their Korps HQs and assets) are brought from Prussia for Rundstedt’s Plan Martin. One infantry division is brought down from Norway which still leaves OKH with a formidable defensive force there. The Italian front makes no sacrifice. So, of a total of 11 extra German divisions, 8 were already on the western front.

But the point to be made here is that against an extra 11 German divisions, the British and Americans can make use of options to bring in the entire British XXX Corps, the 2nd Canadian Corps, and two US divisions from the south, for a total of 11 divisions themselves. I think a German advance to within the Antwerp area is highly unlikely against a reasonably competent Allied opponent; however, a rapidly developing envelopment of the Aachen area by German elite units, with Allied airpower very much muted, if not absent… this is quite possible, as both Rundstedt and Model realized.

Increasing the Geographical Scope of the campaign:
This model also provides a broader strategic scope as both wings of the historical “Battle of the Bulge” are covered from the British 2nd Army front lines in southern Holland, down to the US 7th Army in Lorraine. 3rd Army under Patton will likely respond to the German offensive much as they did historically; 3rd Army will, however, be facing a much tougher southern wing to the overall offensive with the HG Panzer Korps present. If the southern front in this model promises to be quite different for this reason, the north will radically diverge from the historical and this is precisely what Rundstedt and Model realized, while Hitler did not, dooming the entire offensive to its inevitable historical stasis as a large, but firmly contained, German salient. Rundstedt’s plan complicates things immensely for the Allies with its powerful northern simultaneous attack from the Roermond salient. Which reserves should go to block the Roermond attack, and which can be sent down to deal with the larger attack in the Ardennes? What other reserves off-map north and south should be brought on? Given the dynamic pace of the German thrusts on either side of Aachen, should control of this area go to Montgomery or to Bradley with his hastily relocated HQ? And finally, allocation of forces early on is critical as one cannot be certain where the German strategic reserve (The Grossdeutschland Korps) will appear—north, centre, or south? All of these issues are posed in this scenario.

The Strategic Dimensions of Plan Martin
The German attack, one of the most consummate surprise attacks in the annals of warfare, completely derailed Allied offensive plans, put the command structure in some disarray, created the potential for some major rifts between Montgomery and the Americans, and basically had Eisenhower scrambling, sending whatever units he had in the rear areas or England, to deal with what was a serious and powerful offensive. Plan Martin should, at least, demonstrate that the Allies were very fortunate Wacht am Rhein was entirely Hitler’s plan in all its details. In any case, the German offensive created a front-wide shock wave for the Allies. This was no local counter-attack, it was an attempted strategic blow. That being the case, it was mandatory to extend the map area to cover a fair part of the Western front, to give both sides a fuller operational context, and to provide other options that could be employed—the coverage of the Roermond salient to the north first and foremost, as this was the key precondition of Plan Martin. As I’ve noted elsewhere, the campaign has been lengthened to give the Germans time to shoot their offensive bolt, and to be driven back in the last half of the campaign far more than was historically the case. Their only powerful strategic reserve has the potential here to be mauled far more than was the case, and an Allied advance towards the Ruhr accomplished much earlier than the historical. The German attack, in my view (and in Patton’s I am sure) was a double or nothing venture which could have ended with a crippling defeat for the Germans. As it was, the far from inspired Allied grinding back of the German salient ended the campaign with no decisive victor. Certainly, in terms of the larger scope of the war this was a strategic defeat; but considered purely in front context this was a clear draw.

Hitler as “GROFAZ”
The conservative old-school Rundstedt had no great love for Nazism, and Hitler was well aware of this, using him as little more than a figurehead in nominal command of OB West. Rundstedt noted that his command authority was so etiolated that the only independent command he had was the detailing of guards for his HQ: Hitler demanded authority for any troop movement, right down to battalion level. Allied generals had a respect for Rundstedt as they sensed he was on a higher plane, both ethically and professionally, than any other German Field Marshal, at least since Rommel had been forced to commit suicide. They would not have been surprised to learn, before the end of the war and could talk to him, that he had seen German defeat as inevitable and had had the courage to advise Hitler to seek terms in 1944. For “GROFAZ” of course this was blasphemy, and it is a measure of Rundstedt’s considerable talents that he was still reinstated to command OB West after being dismissed earlier that summer following the Normandy breakout. His organizational expertise turned things around remarkably after the Falaise debacle, and the Allies were in for some very unpleasant surprises as they charged towards Germany to further scatter and rout what was seen as a completely defeated enemy. Not only was Rundstedt able to stabilize things and give the US some nasty combat experiences at Metz, Aachen, and Hürtgenwald, as well as the decisive defeat of the grand overall Montgomery Market Garden venture (this actually more Model’s doing to be fair), he was also able to create a powerful reserve force which saw highly experienced and veteran cadres which had escaped Falaise, rebuilt. Rundstedt put together the best offensive plan possible, and even found an unlikely ally in the ardent Nazi Fieldmarschall Model, commanding Army Group B on the West front. Like Rundstedt, Model felt Hitler’s plan did not have a leg to stand on. Their HQs repeated pushed the idea for an envelopment of Aachen, and the plan was adamantly rejected by Hitler—the rest, as they say, is history.

Allied Complacency
British major General Strong, intelligence officer at SHAEF, had specifically warned Bradley the Germans might use their reserves to break through the thinly held VIII Corps area in the Ardennes. The General was dismissed by Bradley on December 12th with the flippant remark: “Let them come!” This telling anecdote, along with the fact that his Army Group HQ was too far forward in Luxembourg, less than 20 kms from German lines, and well within range of German long-range artillery, indicates a background mindset on the Allied side that was complacent, one of many factors (that I won’t detail here) that allowed for the most unlikely and monumental Allied intelligence failure of the war. Plan Martin will likely prove that it could, even should, have been far more of a strategic blow than was historically the case. Eisenhower and Bradley were quick to see the defects in 12th Army Group’s dispositions, and set about correcting them in a hurry. By contrast, “GROFAZ” admitted no errors, ignored his best generals, and the Allies can be thankful they had the compulsively ignorant campaign directives of Hitler to deal with, and not the cool appraisals of a talented professional like Rundstedt.

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