Document Source: The 5.Panzer-Armee, Preparations of the Ardennes Offensive, December 16, 1944, February 25, 1945, by General d. Panzertruppen Hasso Eccard von Manteuffel.
(Corrected & Checked by Doc Snafu – while processing in September 2022)
(1) Authentic records, for instance, war diaries, orders, documents, etc. were not at my disposal. The reports of the commanding officers (the commanding generals and division commanders) cannot be looked upon as authoritative. As a body of evidence, they only count as statements concerning dates and troops, as the commanders emphasize what they themselves and the troops subordinate to them have personally met with, without discussing the cohesive chain of events. As a rule, the commanders did not know more than was necessary for the carrying out of their missions. In the first place, the reports can serve as a help to establish a true picture of the development of events. On the other hand, the work of Professor Percy Ernst Schramm, Ph.D., is valuable work – within the limits pointed out by himself in the forward.
(2) Concerning the direction of the artillery in the area of the Army I refer to the detailed report by Generalleutnant Metz, Higher Artillery Commander 309, who gives an exhaustive and pertinent description of the activity of this arm during the preparation and the carrying through of the offensive; I have only given the operational conduct of the battle of the artillery. The report of Genlt Metz is very valuable and is to be preferred to all otter reports written by artillery commanders, as he utilizes his own experiences gathered during his own service among the troops – a service in which he has taken a lively, personal part.
(3) An evaluation of my total experience in warfare has been set down in the work requested of me: Collected Thoughts on the Consequences of War Experience on Strength, Organization (Composition), Arming, and Equipment of Troops on the Battlefield. (Dated April 4, 1946, Plus Additions of September 1, 1946). It is to be read in conjunction with the subsequent work.
(4) With regard to the expressions used herein, such as fast mobile troops, armored troops, tank weapon the following is meant: Fast mobile troops comprised in Peacetime the tank divisions, the motorized infantry divisions, the armored reconnaissance battalions, and the cavalry regiments. After the war in Poland, the term fast mobile troops was changed to armored troops. Consequently, when the term tank weapon is used, only tank regiments and independent tank battalions and alluded to.
Hasso Eccard von Manteuffel
former General of the Armored Forces
Commander in Chief of the 5.Panzer-Armee
The staff of the 5.Panzer-Army received this designation on August 1, 1944. In its essence, (also with regard to its personnel left) it had its origin in the Panzer Group West, which was established as operations staff in charge of all counterattacks launched by the German Panzer Divisions under the Commander in Chief West during the invasion.
In this capacity, the Panzer Group West (General d. Panzertruppen Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg and Commander in Chief Panzer Group West) was sent in under the command of the 7.Army, after the start of the invasion; however was crippled by an air attack that destroyed its headquarters on June 9, 1944. The remnants of the staff were extracted, reconstituted, and again employed in the area of Le Havre-Paris on June 28, 1944. Its sector was located between those of the 15.Army and 1.Army, and again it was under the command of the 7.Army. The subordination to the 7.Army ceased at the end of July, the Panzer Group West was made independent. This is the reason for the change of name as mentioned above. At the beginning of July, Gen Geyr had been replaced by Gen Eberbach, who, in his turn, gave up his command of the 5.Panzer-Army to SS-Oberstgrüppenfuehrer Dietrich on August 8, owing to the formation of the Panzer Group Eberbach. On Aug 30, 1944, a part of the staff was taken Prisoner. The fragments left were brought up to strength by means of the staff of the 7.Army, which relieved the staff of the 5.Army of the chain of command in the northern France area on Sept 5, 1944.
The staff of the 5.Panzer-Army was transferred to Alsace, where it was subordinated to Army Group G, commanded by Gen Oberst Blasko-vvitz. On Sept 11, 1944n, in the afternoon, Gen von Manteuffel, the newly appointed Commander in Chief of the Army, arrived at the Army Staff Headquarters in Hochwald, 45 KM southwest of Strassbourg. Formerly, he had been Commander of the 7.Panzer-Division, and lately Commander of the Panzergrenadier Division Gross-Deutschland, the strongest Panzer Division of the German Army with regard to strength and aging. On Sept 5, and Sept 10, Hitler had Personally instructed him concerning the activity in the area west of the Vosges and especially as to the tasks assigned to the 5.Panzer-Army.
The tank attacks were planned at this date in conjunction with the engagement of the Army Group G, (cf. also 11, for which the staff of the Army had been withdrawn from northern France and transferred to Alsace, where for some days it had been ready for a new mission, could not be carried through, owing to the unfavorable development of the situation in the sector of this group. The tasks assigned to Gen von Manteuffel in the Fuehrer-Headquarters were therefore altered thus wise that he was to, push forward from the area south of Saarburg east of the Meuse River in the direction of Luneville, Nancy, and Montmedy so that in flexible conduct of battle with tank units we could relieve Metz, and prevent the American forces from advancing on Strasbourg through the Saarburg depression. At the same time, contact was to be re-established with the 1.Army, adjoining to the right, which had been pushed back with its southern wing on the elevated terrain in the vicinity of Château-Salins.
Before the concentration of the troops destined for the attack mentioned above was concluded, the development of the situation in the sector of Army Group G compelled us to throw in all forces to prevent the breakthrough threatening. Consequently, about Sept 15, the Staff of the High Command of the 5.Panzer-Army was inserted between the 1.Army (right flank) and the 19.Army (left flank) and took over a sector with the following lines of demarcation, to the right Dieuze-Nancy, and to the left, Bruyères (30 KM west of Epinal). Luneville was temporarily recaptured, and the possession of the Forêt de Parroy and the elevated terrain in the vicinity of Marsal, Xanrey, and Coincourt was maintained despite strong enemy pressure further the road Luneville-Dieuze was blocked for a long time by combat activity, and close communications with the 1. The army was established.
On Oct 15, the Staff of the Army was withdrawn from Army Group G and its former sector west of the Vosges was divided between the 1. and the 19.Armies. The Staff of the Army was subordinated to Army Group B, which was under the command of FM Walter Mödel. To the Army Commander in Chief in the Headquarters of the Army Group south of Krefeld, he disclosed that Hitler had ordered him to commit his forces in the sector in the vicinity of Aachen where the center of gravity of enemy attack was located despite a temporary lull in combat activity there it was with certainty to be expected that the enemy would continue his efforts to push through to the Rhine River across the Roer River. using the terrain between the Roer River and the Erft River, so suitable for massed tank attacks. Hitler wanted to feel sure that he had an experienced tank leader for the armored forces destined to intervene there.
After having read the work The Preparations for the German Offensive in the Ardennes (sent – Dec 15, 1944) written by Professor Percy Ernst Schramm, Ph.D., keeper of the War Journal of the Operations Staff of the Wehrmacht, I believe that the above-mentioned reason for the bringing up of the Army Staff to this sector of the western front was a contributory one but that the decisive one, however, was to keep the staff in the neighborhood of the base of attack envisaged for the offensive intended in the Ardennes and under the command of FM Mödel who was to lead the attack. So the two leaders were able to establish intimate contact with each other. As it was very usual in defense combat to throw in one staff in the center of gravity we were very successful in the veiling of our real intention.
Consequently, on Oct 22, the Staff of the 5.Panzer-Army was inserted between the 1.Fallschirmjaeger-Army (under Gen Obst Kurt Student) and the 7.Army (under Gen Erich Brandenberger) in the area between Maasbracht (30 KM southwest of Roermond) Düren, Stolberg, Aachen, and stayed there until Nov 23, 1944. The Army Headquarters was located at Koenigshoven, 15 KM east of Jülich.
After the fail of Aachen on Oct 21, the combat activity decreased in this sector, but from Nov 16 on, it increased violently between Geilenkirchen and the Hürtgen Forest along, almost, the entire front of the Army (cf. also II, 1). For this reason, the withdrawal of the Army Staff, foreseen to take place in the middle of November, was delayed. It took place finally on Nov 23. For reasons of camouflage, the withdrawal was carried out in sections. On that very day, the Operations Staff moved to Manscheid (Eifel) a place selected by the staff itself, in order to be able to devote all its energy to the preparations for the offensive planned. The G3, Obst Lt Neckelmann of the General Staff, had already been sent there two weeks before. The combat sector alongside and west of the Roer River was given up to the 15.Army (under Gen Gustav A. von Zangen), but for reasons of camouflage and deception, it was still called the Staff of the 5.Panzer-Army. Sometimes, it was also called Staff Manteuffel until the beginning of the offensive on Dec 16. (During the time of preparation the Staff of the 5.Panzer-Army was called Feldjaeger-Kommando z,b.V. Cf. also III 4).
(1). A Brief Survey of the Development of the Operative Situation in the West in 1944 after the Successful Breakthrough of British American Forces from Normandy through France, Belgium, and Luxembourg, to the East as far as the German Frontier.
When owing to the breakthrough at Avranches Jul 25, 1944, the Allies had succeeded in pushing forward from the narrow peninsula of Normandy into vast and thinly occupied France to the East, the highly developed mobility of the Allied leadership and troops first fully proved its efficiency in the open terrain. With this, the initiative was taken from the German military leadership: now it was up to the enemy freely to choose when and where he wished to attack in order to insure his superiority in men and material at any point of the front line, also on the ground. Everywhere he could launch feint attacks to have the few German reserves move into a false direction, through southern France, harassed by French Partisans and via railroads more or less destroyed.
On the German side, neither positions nor reserves were available to stop the motorized forces of the Allies for any length of time. Forced into mobile warfare, the few reserves – partly motorized but most of them almost non-mobile – tried to offer resistance, using delaying action fighting. They were overtaken, a thing made easy to the enemy because of the excellent road system and the enemy air force having complete command of the air. New breakthroughs and overtaking thrusts compelled us, again and again, to give way in order to renew our endeavors to establish resistance along an improvised line.
No armored or motorized divisions were available in reserve to the Commander in Chief in the West either, as the elite of his armored forces were encircled in the Falaise Pocket and almost annihilated. These losses could not be compensated for in a short spell of time. The remnants were not, numerous enough for counterattacks on an operative scale. On Aug 30, the Commander in Chief West reported that he still had 11 reinforced regimental groups left of the armored and motorized divisions stationed in the area of Army Group B. As each of them was equipped with 5 to 10 tanks the total sum was about 100. The few infantry divisions were newly activated units equipped with horse-drawn artillery; they almost completely lacked combat experience.
The withdrawal of the entire Army Group G (the 1. and the 19. Armies) from southwestern and southern France had again been consented to by Hitler at the last moment, and consequently too late. At this time American armored spearheads had already reached the Lower Loire and threatened the withdrawal of both armies. Suffering very heavy losses, the 1.Army (comprising only three weak divisions) fought its way back through southern France from the Bay of Biscay to Orléans, harassed all the time by partisans. At Orléans, the road across the Loire River was blocked, and therefore the Army moved in the direction of Bourges and the Plateau de Langres. The weak forces of the 19.Army fought their way back in the direction of Dijon, from the south and east hard pressed by American and Free French Forces. On both sides of the Rhône River, its flanks were attacked by partisans, and in the north, they were threatened in the rear by American units.
Although the Commander in Chief West already in August reported that the only thing left to do was to improve the positions of the West Wall at any price and to transfer all German forces to the same, Hitler rejected such suggestions, and at the end of August he ordered the Commander in Chief West to attack from the area Chaumont, Chatillon-sur-Seine, Langres to the northwest between the Marne River and the Seine River with the objective of thrusting into the deep flank of the American forces. In addition, the aim of the attack was to prevent a disturbance of the retreat movements of Army Group G fighting its way back from southern and southwestern France, as its forces were absolutely necessary to the newly activated Army Group G (Heeresgrupne) for the establishment of a line of defense resting on the Swiss Border. This attack could not be carried out as the British forces had passed through Amiens and the Americans had captured Verdun. With this, the Somme River, the Marne River, and the Saone River positions had been broken through. The forces envisaged for the thrust were now urgently needed for the defense.
On Sept 2, the Commander in Chief West was ordered to concentrate an attack group in the vicinity of Dijon, under the command of the Staff of the High Command of the 5.Panzer-Army with the objective of thrusting into the deep flank and rear of the American and French Forces advancing on Metz. But the attack depended on the 19.Army’s holding possession of this area. The bringing up, from Germany, of the three Panzer-Brigades of the reserves of the High Command of the Wehrmacht and the concentration of the Panzer and Panzergrenadier Divisions put at our disposal by the Commander in Chief West was considerably delayed owing to the disastrous situation on the railroads and in the air. The advance of the enemy alongside the Swiss Jura on Chalon-sur-Saône, Besancon, and Beaune compelled us to withdraw our forces to the line Langres – Gray. A very narrow bridgehead at Dijon was to render the covering of the last elements of Army Group G possible. Owing to the narrowing dawn of the area the concentration of the forces of the 5.Panzer-Army envisaged for the attack had to take place in the area around Epinal. The American crossing of the Moselle River southwest of Luneville, the fall of Charmes (situated halfway between Nancy and Epinal) and Vesoul (on Sept 12) in conjunction with the increasing pressure on Epinal compelled us to throw in portions of the forces destined for the attack. With the breakthrough at Château-Salins the Americans reached the Lorraine on Sept 13. After the withdrawal of the 19.Army to the line Charmes, Epinal, and Belfort, only the area east of the Moselle River could be taken into consideration as starting point for a thrust by the 5.Panzer-Army into the flank or the enemy. But the fall of Nancy and Luneville frustrated this plan too.
For the 5.Panzer-Army, the altered situation involved the necessity of attacking east of the Moselle River, the flank of the enemy advancing east. This attack and the battles for the elevated terrain at Moyenvic east of Nancy, it is true, brought local success and among other things closed the gap to the 1.Army, but it could not decisively alter the overall situation in the western theater of war. The right flank of the American spearhead had no weak points; on the contrary, it was so strong that the task of preventing a breakthrough eclipsed all other intentions, also those of the Armies Group G (Heeresgrue G). In order to save our forces, the attack of the 5.Panzer-Army was stopped, and the entire Armies Group G withdrew to the Vosges. The Americans had crossed the Moselle River south of Metz in the middle of September, and heavy engagements developed in the combat area of this Group of Armies at Nomeny and in the Farroy Forest, both east of Luneville. In November, Metz and Strasbourg fell; southern Alsace was lost.
In the area of the Heeressgruppe B (Group of Armies B), in the northern part of the front, British forces captured Antwerp on Sept 3. The 15.Army, put into a difficult position, was compelled to limit its efforts to the blocking of the Schelde Estuary, and thus render the use of the Port of Antwerp impossible, or at least difficult. According to the opinion of Hitler and the Operations Section of the Wehrmacht, the first usable Port had now fallen into the hands of the Allies. Now it would be possible for them to land new forces and bring up supplies, via the shortest way, to the combat area in the vicinity of the German Border, and this to such a degree that the immense numerical and material superiority would be fully brought to bear within a short spell of time.