Reich Autumn 239
that Second Panzer out of fuel faced two British armoured brigades. Or that Montgomery had gathered a reserve force behind the Meuse greater than the entire German attacking force. Or that Allied air power was proving as decisive as it had been at Normandy. The German spearheads were under constant attack from the air, they were receiving no supplies. The Luftwaffe had been outnumbered and outfought. Insufficient training, insufficient checking of machines, insufficient numbers – all took their toll. Bastogne refused to fall, despite a three-division attack on Christmas Day. The leading elements of Patton’s relief force arrived on the 26th to lift the seige. On the 27th, the 2nd US Army Division and the British Guards Armoured Division attacked 2nd Panzer in its advanced position west of Rochefort. By nightfall, unable to manouevre through lack of fuel, the point of Manteuffel’s spear had been blunted and torn apart. Somewhere far to the west Peiper’s troops, having abandoned their vehicles, were trudging morosely through the snow towards Germany.
On 28 December an unrepentant Führer told Runstedt that ‘in a military sense it is decisive that in the West we are moving from a sterile defence to the offensive. The offensive alone will enable us to give once more a successful turn to this war in the West.’ Rundstedt could not bring himself to agree that the entire strategic situation had been transformed, or that a ‘tremendous easing’ of Germany’s plight had taken place. But Hitler was on the crest of his dubious wave. ‘We shall yet master fate.’ (11)
Fate, in the form of the Red Army, was going to take some mastering. On the 24th, Guderian had journeyed West to beg for the transfer of forces to the Eastern front. He and the head of ‘Foreign Armies East’, General Gehlen, had been accumulating intelligence of the coming offensive.
We calculated that the attack would begin on 12 January. The Russians’ superiority to us was 11:1 in infantry, 7:1 in strength gave him a superiority of approximately 10:1 on the ground and 20:1 in the air, and this estimate did not err on the side of exaggeration. (12)