When it became hot under the Ardennes

23:35 13.05.2010 • Armen Oganesyan , Editor-in-Chief, International Affairs

In February 1945 at an airport in the Crimea, Churchill arrived at the Yalta conference and started to behave extravagantly. Passing by the guard of honor, instead of observing the usual protocol he started to closely scrutinize the faces of the officers and soldiers standing frozen "at attention," as if trying to read something in their faces. However, those greeting him and watching the scene did not find it offensive. To many it was obvious - Churchill wanted to understand and see the qualities that made these people capable of a victorious resistance against the most powerful military machine in history. I must say that the Premiere’s curiosity had been warmed up by the most recent developments on the Western Front.


After the opening of the Second Front, Hitler felt considerable pressure from his inner circle, to persuade him to make separate negotiations for peace with the West a priority. Himmler was particularly insistent on this issue. "I do not need to prove that I will not miss such an opportunity,” the Fuhrer answered in such cases. “But to hope for a favorable political moment during heavy defeats is naive. Such moments can occur in cases of success ... In the history of the world coalitions have always died. "


"Operation Watch on the Rhine" and "Nordvind" in the Ardennes and Alsace regions against the Anglo-American troops had to be not only "a necessary success" for the start of negotiations, but also lead to the collapse of the anti-Hitler coalition. Hitler put his generals to task: "Break through a good part of the enemy’s western front... Then we can argue with destiny." The plan called for the participation in the military actions of 45 divisions, including elite SS panzer units, which, according to the Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht, "the enemy will not be able to provide long-term resistance against."


On the eve of December 16, 1944 «all remained quiet on the Western front," and the enemy's actions caught the Allies by surprise. The Germans managed to quickly move 90 kilometers inside of the Anglo-American defenses. Despite a counter-attack and regrouping of forces, the pressure of the main effort did not falter.  A critical situation had arisen...


Already by 6th January 1945 a strictly private and confidential message from Mr. Churchill lay on Stalin’s desk, " very heavy fighting continues on the Western front ... General Eisenhower desires and needs to know in general terms what you plan to do ... I will be grateful if you could let me know if we can count on a major Russian offensive on the Vistula front, or somewhere else ...”


The fact that it was the British Prime Minister mediating between Eisenhower, the commander of the Western Front, and Moscow looks quite strange. By this time the relationship between Stalin and Roosevelt was clearly more trusting than that with Churchill, and the U.S. General appealed for assistance to the president in Washington, not in London.


Perhaps, on the eve of the meeting of the  "Big Three" Roosevelt did not want to look like a supplicant and, using the fact that the British forces were small and subject to the overall command of the United States, he decided to entrust the unpleasant mission to Churchill. Besides, he also knew that the Western Front was much closer to British shores than to the U.S., and that the ghost of Dunkirk still haunted the British prime minister.


On 7th January, Stalin replied: "We are getting ready to attack, but the weather is unfavorable for an offensive by us. However, given the position of our allies on the Western Front, the Supreme Command has decided to finish preparations as fast as possible and, regardless of the weather, open a wide area of offensive operations against the Germans throughout the Central Front ...”


Less than a week later, on 12th January, the Vistula-Oder operation against a powerful group of armies "Army Group A" began.


The recently published book by Russian historians Runov and Portuguese, with the intriguing title "Red Army Blitzkrieg”, offers a detailed analysis of the operation. According to the authors, the Vistula-Oder operation was unprecedented in nature. After defeating Army Group "A", in just three weeks the Soviet troops advanced five hundred kilometers to the West, surpassing the pace of the Wehrmacht model in 1941. It was a "counter blitzkrieg," revenge for the catastrophe of the initial period of the war. The only difference being that, unlike the Red Army then, the Wehrmacht stood fully combat ready and waiting for the enemy attack. What is also quite significant is the fact that the losses accounted for were fewer than in other offensive operations, including in Berlin.


Hitler was forced to urgently redeploy the 6th SS Panzer Army from the Western to the Eastern Front, which had an immediate impact on the situation in the Ardennes. Later, evaluating the situation on the Western Front from December 1944 - January 1945, U.S. President Truman said that Eisenhower "survived only thanks to the help of Soviet troops, for which he almost begged for on his knees."


<!--[if gte mso 9]> 96 800x600 <!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false RU JA X-NONE <!--[if gte mso 9]> <!--[if gte mso 10]> /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Обычная таблица"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:Calibri;} <!--StartFragment--> That is why a few days later Churchill was so intently staring at the faces of those who represented the army that saved the allies and defeated the Wehrmacht ... At the conference in Yalta both Roosevelt and Churchill did not stint on words of appreciation. However, paradoxically, the effects of the Vistula-Oder operation had far-reaching political implications, which largely determined the drift of the world to the Cold War, as if justifying the ominous prediction that "in the history of the world coalitions have always died…"<!--EndFragment-->


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