Advance and Destroy: Patton as Commander in the Bulge

Advance and Destroy: Patton as Commander in the Bulge

Advance and Destroy: Patton as Commander in the Bulge

Advance and Destroy: Patton as Commander in the Bulge


In the winter of 1944--1945, Hitler sought to divide Allied forces in the heavily forested Ardennes region of Luxembourg and Belgium. He deployed more than 400,000 troops in one of the last major German offensives of the war, which became known as the Battle of the Bulge, in a desperate attempt to regain the strategic initiative in the West. Hitler's effort failed for a variety of reasons, but many historians assert that Lieutenant General George S. Patton Jr.'s Third Army was ultimately responsible for securing Allied victory. Although Patton has assumed a larger-than-life reputation for his leadership in the years since World War II, scholars have paid little attention to his generalship in the Ardennes following the relief of Bastogne.

In Advance and Destroy, Captain John Nelson Rickard explores the commander's operational performance during the entire Ardennes campaign, through his "estimate of the situation," the U.S. Army's doctrinal approach to problem-solving. Patton's day-by-day situational understanding of the Battle of the Bulge, as revealed through ULTRA intelligence and the influence of the other Allied generals on his decision-making, gives readers an in-depth, critical analysis of Patton's overall effectiveness, measured in terms of mission accomplishment, his ability to gain and hold ground, and a cost-benefit analysis of his operations relative to the lives of his soldiers. The work not only debunks myths about one of America's most controversial generals but provides new insights into his renowned military skill and colorful personality.


If we can deliver a few more heavy blows, then at any moment this
artificially bolstered common front may collapse with a mighty clap of

—Hitler, December 12, 1944

On the morning of July 25, 1944, more than 2,400 American bombers and fighter-bombers launched an aerial assault on a narrow sector of the German front in western Normandy. The aircraft, approaching at an altitude of 12,000 feet, flew directly over the heads of awed American infantry below. Four thousand tons of explosives tumbled out of the bomb bays in great rectangular carpet patterns, and most of the bombs found their way to Generalleutnant Fritz Bayerlein’s Panzer Lehr Division, dug in awaiting another American ground onslaught. The carnage on the ground was awful, and Bayerlein compared his front line to the face of the moon. In an instant, 1,000 of his men died. The day before, the division had confidently shaken off the first American attempt to crush the line with airpower, but not today. As the stunned Germans tried to recover from the shattering effects of the new bombardment, American ground forces under the command of Major General J. Lawton Collins slowly began to exploit the breach. This was Operation COBRA, the long-awaited American breakout from the hedgerows of Normandy.

By August 1 Lieutenant General Omar N. Bradley, commander of the American Twelfth Army Group, finally deployed Patton’s Third Army. Seizing on the opportunity presented by the hard work of Collins’s men, Patton, who had taken command of VIII Corps, rapidly pushed two . . .

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