The two field marshals met in for a hurried conference on the Platform of the Brussels central train station.
“The situation in France ” asks Von Rundstedt. “I think it’s becoming desperate. As you know Dunkerque fell to the Americans yesterday. That man, General Muller assured me the defenses were in good order. Less than 48 hours later his men have fled across.the Belgium frontier and the Amis are snapping at their heels.”
“You know Hitler is going to have that man shot..”The Field Marshall nods. “That one probably deserves it. But it gets worse. The tommies smashed the 3rd Third Panzer Corps. Two of my best panzer divisions reduced to a rump, their supporting units are just gone. The line north of Paris is almost gone. First SS is almost surrounded. If they can’t pull back in the next day or two they’ll be wiped out. I’m going to present it to Hitler like I’m just redeploying them a little further south, but it’s a retreat.
“Don’t worry, I’ll support that presentation.”
“Can you supply me with the men and panzers to rebuild the two Panzer divisions?”
“Maybe one, but there’s not enough for two, not this month.”
“Then there was that corps that was holding the southern end of the line. Just low quality reservists and eastern troops, but the Tommies captured the lot of them. They’ll retrake Dijon in a week or two, not unless you can give me some troops from Italy. They’re still holding firm.”
A look of distaste crosses Von Rundstedt’s face. “The Allies launched two attacks. Kesselring held the British and French in the East. Not the Americans in the west. Most likely they’ll be in FLorence by the end of January. We’re going to have to abandon another defense line and I’m not sure where they’re going to find the troops to fill up the next one . Each month it’s getting a little thinner down there. Kesselring is asking for 40,000 replacements to bring broken formations back up the strength. I’m not sure where Berlin is going to find that. Well the train to Berlin is ready to go and since it’s getting dark we best be on it. Better to chance the RAF at night than the Yankees in the day. Good luck Herr Field Marshall.”
The level of crisis in the West is accelerating. The German plan was to hold on in eastern France long enough to allow the West Wall to be strengthened. The shortage of engineers and bad weather has been making this a slow process with only part of the wall being fully rebuilt.. The Americans hit the line just west of the Belgium border hard.and in multiple locations. Along the coast they drove the northernmost German corps back into Ostend, At the same time three U.S. corps with massive artillery, air and engineer support mauled the LIlle garrison destroying half the force and driving the survivors to the east. About 30 miles southwest of Lille another German corps was driven back but remained intact. This has the side effect of pushing the front line up against two cadred German panzer divisions that were supposed to be rebuilt at the beginning of January, but now find themselves plugging a hole in the front line. The British had planned a major attack against the I SS Panzer corps, but canceled the attack at the last minute. At the southern end of the line the German position abruptly became unglued. The 17th airborne division , two newly arrived U.S. infantry divisions with a plethora of engineers and artillery assaulted DIjon with clouds of Jabos overhead. The city is defended by a weakest full strength panzer and panzer grenadier divisions in the German army. The German defenders give way abandoning Dijon with the survivors retreating into the rough country just north of the city. This turns out to be a horrible mistake. A few miles behind the American attack force is a mobile group of several armored cavalry and tank destroyer units which exploit down the open road and do not stop until they reach the outskirts of Belfort. The old french fortress is manned by a single training brigade which is now desperately hoping reinforcements will arrive from Germany before the Americans can assault the fortress. The American mechanized groups have also effectively cut communications to the two southernmost German infantry groups defending the country between Dijon and the Swiss Border.
In Italy the Americans continue to punch their way towards Florence. They evict a German infantry corps from a position near the center of the line sending it into retreat with heavy losses.