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In the end even that victory was an illusion. Hitler's gamble in the West opened wide the floodgates in the East. The thinning of German forces on the Eastern Front, the assignment of nearly all new tanks and guns and planes to support Christrose, and the commitment of the German Army's last reserves in the Ardennes greatly eased the path of the Russian offensive that opened on January 12. With a superiority in men and armor of at least six to one, the Russian armies surged westward. In the first week they gained 100 miles; in the second week, 120 miles.

That January, however, as the Bulge was slowly and painfully whittled away, the measure of victory and defeat in the Ardennes was not yet clear. The Germans had indeed been halted and beaten back. But just by taking the offensive, had they achieved at least a partial victory? In terms of his ultimate goal-a decisive victory that would force the Western Allies into a negotiated peace -Hitler of course failed utterly. In terms of the more realistic goals of such German field commanders as Model and Manteuffel-pushing the Americans back beyond the Meuse and inflicting crippling casualties on them in the process-they, too, failed, although only narrowly.

Panzer Lehr and the 9th Panzer both tried to reach Celles during the day, but they were stopped cold by Harmon's armor and guns and by the ever-present Allied planes. That night, the reinforcing columns were ordered to pull back. The 2nd Panzer was left to its fate. On Tuesday, December 26, 1944, the Battle of the Bulge reached its climax. Sepp Dietrich's Sixth Panzer Army was now reduced to a defensive role, stripped of its armor to shore up the salient to the west. Patton's tanks broke through to besieged Bastogne.

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