In 2004, we used our holidays to visit the Ardennes battlefields. In Belgium there are five routes which are the most important and raise the most curiosity. We followed these routes, but we also visited a few museums and places in Luxemburg. For instance, we visited the U.S. cemetery were General George S. Patton is buried. It is a great pity that those two countries donít work together and make routes that cross the border, after all it was one battle.
We would like to thank André Flener from the Poteau '44 Museum for his help and explanations of the different types of tanks and guns used during the battle.
As mentioned in Operation Market Garden, the allies had troubles with supplying the troops over the long distance. With this problem, Hitler wanted to turn back the liberation with Operation Herbstnebel.
Three armies participated in this offensive: The 6. SS-Panzerarmee (6th SS-Armoured Army) under command of Oberbefehlshaber (general) Sepp Dietrich, the 5. Panzerarmee (5th Armoured Army) under command of Oberbefehlshaber Hasso von Manteufel and the 7. Armee (7th Army) under command of General Erich Brandenberger. The German Command plans were to have the 5. and the 6. Panzerarmees arrive near the River Maas within 48 hours. And further should the 6. SS-Panzerarmee cross the river north of Liège and via Sint Truiden and Aarschot, then push on to Antwerp.
In the meantime, the 5. Panzerarmee would cross the same river on both sides of Namen and push on to Brussels. The 7. Armee would then group around Echternach to defend against a possible attack from allies, who were a threat from the south.
When this mission succeeded, the Germans could then attack the allies on two fronts and possibly destroy 37 of the 64 divisions.
Generalfeldmarschall (fieldmarshal) Gerd von Rundstedt and Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model realized that they couldn't achieve the goals of this plan, so they made a new plan. Hitler threw this plan immediately away and decided that his plan was the right one.
The only modification of his plan was the date of attack, 25 November became 16 December 1944. Hitler failed to take into consideration the possibility of bad weather and lack of supplies, thus the battle didnít go as planned.
The 6. SS-Panzerarmee didnít get through to Liège as they only reached the lines of Malmédy, Stavelot and Trois-Ponts. The 5. Panzerarmee made their own route instead of the going with the plan and went further into Belgium, until the line of Manhay, Hotton, Marche-en-Famenne and Celles. The 7. Armee defended the south front on the line of Echternach, Ettelbrück, Wiltz and Vaux-lez-Rosières. The 5. Panzerarmee did pass Bastogne on both sides instead of losing time by taking it, therefore the 101st Airborne Division, who came to help the tank divisions, was surrounded by German troops.
General George S. Patton saw the problems as soon as he heard of the German attack. He made a plan to move the 3rd Army from the north of France to the front and push on through Luxemburg and attack the Germans. In the meantime, fieldmarshal Sir Bernard Montgomery attacked the Germans from the north. General Patton discussed this plan on 19 December with General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower and was given permission to carry it out.
On the German side, Generalfeldmarschall Von Rundstedt wanted to pull back the tanks, but Hitler refused and the Germans were overthrown.