Academic journal article Military Review

ARDENNES 1944: The Battle of the Bulge

Academic journal article Military Review

ARDENNES 1944: The Battle of the Bulge

Article excerpt

ARDENNES 1944: The Battle of the Bulge Anthony Beevor, Viking, New York, 2015, 480 pages

The Ardennes offensive launched by the Germans in late 1944, more commonly known as the Battle of the Bulge, needs little introduction and one wonders if another telling is necessary. The wondering does not last long as Anthony Beevor, the distinguished author of D-Day, does not disappoint with this excellent new addition to the literature.

At 0520 hours on 16 December 1944, artillery from the 6th Panzer Army opened fire on the surprised American troops. A battle of desperation on both sides-a last gasp for the Germans and for the understrength Americans-began in the snowy and bitter cold Ardennes forest. It brought the incredibly hard eastern front fighting to the west, Beevor argues. By the end, casualties on both sides were similar, he notes with 80,000 killed, wounded, or missing on the German side and 75,482 with 8,407 dead for the Americans. Additionally, the British suffered two hundred killed, but civilian casualties were difficult to measure. The overall results were far from even as the German attack was checked and ultimately reversed.

The author does an excellent job laying out Hitler's strategy and reasons behind the attack and argues persuasively that the absence of the two Panzer Armies from the eastern front opened the door for the Russian winter attack. The only absence in the book is any thinking on how, or if, the Allied demand for unconditional surrender factored into German thinking; the author is silent on this point.

This is a complex story to tell, especially from the multiple perspectives used. But, Beevor does a masterful job. He seamlessly connects the soldiers in their foxholes to the generals in their headquarters, encompassing all levels from small unit tactics to theater strategy, including the ambivalence to downright negativity over the plan by many in the German leadership ranks. …

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