On the northern edge of the Ardennes Forest on 13 December 1944, the 2nd Infantry Division, supported by several battalions of the 99th Division, both of the US 1st Army, attacked into the Siegfried Line hoping to break through and seize the Roer River Dams. The dams were one of the objectives the Americans failed to seize during the Hurtgen Forest offensive the previous months.
As part of a British delegation to observe the attack, Hollywood actor-turned-British Army Lieutenant Colonel David Niven (He would be the last to lose to Sean Connery for the role of James Bond a decade later) visited an old friend in the Belgian resort town of Spa on 15 December 1944. Captain Bob Lowe was a former reporter for Time, and an intelligence officer and assistant G2 in the U.S. 1st Army’s Headquarters. After the normal chit chat, Niven asked his friend what was going on in the sector, Lowe pointed east out of the window and responded,
“See that hill with the trees on top? On the other side is a forest. In that forest is the entire Sixth SS Panzer Army. Any day now they’re going to roll right through this room, cross the Meuse, turn right and seize Antwerp.”
Niven laughed and asked if he told anyone. Lowe dejectedly replied, “Everyday. The generals know better though.”
Five miles away in that same forest, SS Panzer General Sepp Dietrich was dressed as a Wehrmacht infantry colonel debriefing returning patrols incognito. Dietrich was a former butcher, close friend of Hitler, and one of the original “Beer Hall Putsch” Nazis. But he was also the exception to the rule that politically appointed generals were incompetent. He was pleased to find out the “the Amis” still considered the Ardennes a rest area, and pulled their outposts in at night to keep warm. Dietrich and his Sixth Panzer Army, Erich Von Manteuffel’s 5th Panzer Army, and Erich Brandenburger’s 7th Army would make them pay for those mistakes the next morning