By Kevin H. Hymel As the Belgian town of La Gleize burned to the ground around him, 29-year-old SS Lt. Col. Joachim Peiper remained calm in his headquarters, listening to reports and issuing orders. Outside, his outnumbered tanks, exchanged fire with American armor. The date was December 22, 1944, and Peiper’s forces clung to the small town, waiting for a relief column to reach them. Peiper had gone into battle six days earlier as the spearhead of Adolf Hitler’s Operation Herbstnebel (Autumn Fog), the Battle of the Bulge. He had started out with 4,800 men, 117 tanks, and numerous other vehicles and heavy weapons. Now he was down to about 800 men and no fuel for his vehicles. How had it come to this? Cutting a Path to Antwerp After the Allies’ invasion of Normandy and the subsequent ejection of German forces from France and Belgium in the summer and fall of 1944, Hitler had planned an all-out drive to retake the Belgian port city of Antwerp, an important supply base for the Western Allies, to take place during December, when short days and heavy fog would prevent the Allied air forces from flying. By cutting a path to Antwerp, his armies would divide the American and British army groups, sending both into a headlong retreat. The two demoralized forces, he believed, could then be pursued and destroyed. Another victory in the West would allow him to refocus his attention in the East, where the Red Army was closing in on the German border. To capture


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