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OPERATION NORDWIND: Operational planning - late December 1944
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After the first week of the Ardennes campaign, the German advance began to slow and German High Command began to look for ‘operational alternatives’ (Clarke p493). After several days of discussions, the German commanders settled on Operation Nordwind, consisting of two main thrusts against the northern portion of ‘bulge’ of the US defensive positions in Alsace, and a mobile reserve of panzers ready to take advantage of any success. The overall goal of the plan was ambitious, which included the recapture of large portion of Alsace and the potential trapping of large portions of the US 7th Army.
Commencing around 1 January 1945, the proposed German offensive would be conducted by the First Army led by Gen von Obstfelder, with the first thrust targeting the Sarre Valley and, soon afterwards, the second thrust through the more mountainous area in the Low Vosges. A smaller attack would occur just north of Strasbourg against US 7th Army units guarding the east portion of the front line, if the initial thrust was successful.
In the week leading up to Nordwind, US intelligence revealed a build-up in German forces in front of the 7th Army. Additional, and highly accurate, intelligence was also gathered through ULTRA, the Allied capability against German military signals encoded through the Enigma machine. It would be unlikely the Allied forces would enjoy much respite after Christmas 1944.