Code Breakers Knew About The Ardennes Offensive. The Allied Commanders Were Deaf At The Time.

by Daniel Russ on September 9, 2012

Lt. General Omar Bradley, US Commander, WWII

By the middle of 1944, the Germans were retreating on all fronts. In the East, the Russians were in Poland, as far as the border of Germany, caviling away at the Wehrmacht. In the West the English, Americans, Free French and the Canadians were moving the Nazis into their original borders. Naturally the Allies were convinced that the Germans were running out of steam. Just to survive the Germans had to cathect the Normandy landings with the notions about the end of the Reich.  So when Ultra was issuing messages pulled from the air about German troop movements, the Allies ignored them.



Oddly in 1944, the Germans still did not know that the British had broken their encrypted broadcast codes. That said the Allied leaders were more interested in their own plans for who will lead the charge into Berlin. Allied commanders were doing so well they decided to stop allowing a few captured conversations to change their grand plans. Ultra was beginning to hear the coordination between combat forces and resupply assets in Luxembourg. The radio traffic really picked up. British reconnaissance aircraft were starting to see forward air bases built just east of the Ardennes. Luftwaffe radio traffic revealed requests from combat commanders to send fighters to halt British and US recon of the Wehrmacht staging area. One would think that this would be a good portend. But Hitler was a gambler and a bold planner. No one would have ever believed that he could stage a whole army corps and armored divisions through the thick forests of Belgium. Allied commanders didn’t imagine it, and frankly they didn’t want to believe that the Germans had this much fight left in them.



Colossus Code Breaker Bletchley Park

Colossus Code Breaker


It’s telling that the coders at Bletchley Park could tell that Hitler was calling the shots from the characteristics ways that orders were given; many commands were given in high dudgeon, or at the last second, or huge numbers of troops were moved around with little advanced notice, all tell tale signs that this was a hands on Hitlerian affair.


On December 16th, 1944, at 5:30 AM, a fifteen minute artillery barrage  preceded a massive movement west out of the Ardennes. The US forces were caught by surprise and thousands were taken prisoner. The 28th armor and 105th armor divisions were cut off. Both were isolated but they fought like dogs. Panzer General Deitrick’s 6th Panzer division was blocked by the US 99th. Eisenhower had to inject two full divisions to stop the attempt to thrust into Antwerp. Omar Bradley was actually cut off from his own troops and had to be smuggled back to HQ.


Then Bradley was a politician, not a fighter. But unlike bad school kids who get punished when they don’t listen, Bradley was like today’s American politicians- they fail upwards. Failing to put the pieces together cost us 90,000 casualties.


Wikipedia, Military Channel, History of World War II by Winston Churchill.


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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Louis September 19, 2017 at 5:53 am

It is highly unlikely that the guys at Bletchley park knew about the offensive. By the end of the war the amount of Enigma messages became less and less. As Enigma was used to encrypt Inter-Theater messages, to HQ (or U-boats) far from Germany, and now those same HQs were no longer very far away. Most of them were even on German territory, so could be reached by phone. And Hitler was very paranoid about this plan, so most of the orders were brought by courrier.
Also, this might be a case of 20/20 hindsight. Yes, Intel was aware of unussual movements and things going on on the other side of the line, but either they did not connect the dots, or the dots were too scattered to connect anyway. We now know that the Nazis were preparing an offensive. But the movements could just as well have been to prepare for a better defence. So I’m not convinced that the Allies really knew about the offensive, and did not take effective countermeasures. And even if they would have wanted to do that, they did not have a proper Strategic Reserve anyway. Just two Airborne Divisions, being rebuild after Market Garden. And those two were sent to the appropriate hotspots when the offensiv did start, and did a very good job of hindering it in such a way that the Nazis not even reached the Meuse river, or Liege for that matter.

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