January 1, 1945, was a bad day for Eisenhower. More than a thousand German planes had struck Allied airfields in a surprise raid at dawn. Allied loses were over 200 planes had been destroyed on the ground. The German attacks to capture on Bastogne continued while American ground losses soared and morale plummeted. British Field Marshal Montgomery demanded Ike appoint him overall ground commander. (Later, on January 7, Monte pushed Ike over the edge.)
The Sixth Army Group, commanded by Gen. Jacob Devers, was responsible for the Nordwind front, had problems too. The divisions in this sector covered 15 miles of front instead of the usual five. Many were inexperienced and short of infantry. After attacked, Devers wanted to fight and hold ground and contest the Germans. Eisenhower disagreed and ordered a retreat. Devers drug his feet in disobediance. Eisenhower followed with the threat obey or be relieved. Eisenhower’s thinking was sound. A shorter line would be easier to defend. Strasbourg, just liberated by the French 2nd Armor and the 44th must be defended as a point of French honor. A furious General De Gaulle, and British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, scurried to Eisenhower’s headquarters. DeGaulle, stated “If this was a war game, I would say you were right, but I must consider this from another point of view. Retreat in Alsace would yield French territory to the enemy and for France this would be a national disaster.” DeGaulle commanded his French units not to retreat from Strasbourg and, if necessary, the 2nd French Armored Division would defend it alone. De Gaulle was willing to sacrifice his best unit, led by General Le Clerk. Eisenhower angrily suggesting that the Allies might cut off supplying the French Army. DeGaulle countered with the threat to stop the use of French railroads to supply the American armies. Eisenhower gave in and cancelled the withdrawal. American and French forces would continue to hold the line successfully. Their relationship soured further and this continued when both lead their nations after the war. The 44th provided Ike with more confidence that the Americans could hold and not to retreat. Stopping the left flank of the attack, materially help the defense of the right flank. Reserves were shifted to the defense of Strasbourg and the rest of the right flank, where most of the German Nordwind success occurred.
Above Right- "men of our 2nd Battalion smile as they march into Strasbourg attached to the French 2nd Armor Division. These men of the 324th Regiment became the 1st American troops to reach and cross the Rhine River" November 23, 1944
De Galle disobeyed his commander Eisenhower and was willing to sacrifice his best division and commander Leclerc to defend Strassborg. General Devers disobeyed his boss Eisenhower and agreed with De Galle, briefly. The bitter Eisenhower - de Gaulle feud would again involve the "Fighting 44th".
Left- General O'Daniel and General Leclerc