Advance and Destroy: Patton as Commander in the Bulge

By John Nelson Rickard | Go to book overview

Series Editor’s Foreword

The study of military operations has been the staple of military academies and staff colleges for 200 years. Indeed, the analysis of operations is the basis for military doctrine, procedures, and attitudes and is rooted in past operations. Although famous captains have left their own accounts and theories, these relate to the past. The analysis of a battle or a campaign is different from a narrative of its events. Formerly, operational history was written for professional soldiers. In modern times, however, operational history has become little more than a scholarly recounting of details, emphasizing a narrative that is chronologically arranged and occasionally salted with assessments or conclusions. Many of these are unsupported by information given to the commanders or the participants, or they may in fact lack sufficient information for the reader to make a detailed military estimate and analyze the results. Official histories, which supposedly use all the records and are sometimes bolstered by interviews or a healthy national bias, offer details, but these should be viewed only as narratives and not a complete basis for judgment. Relying on after-action reports or operational summaries and personal diaries, most such accounts suffer from a lack of contemporary intelligence and terrain and weather analysis, and few, if any, note possible courses of action or excerpt details of operational directives or the commanders’ own mission analyses.

Operational history should provide the information necessary to make a military estimate or “appreciation.” To allow the reader to understand the situation as the commander saw it, the narrative should be based on the same elements that drove decisions, and it should account for the events that shaped additional decisions and actions. Ideally, this information is presented as the actors knew it, or some accounting of additional information is provided. The process of actions and orders—that is, the operation’s decision points—should be followed to the action’s completion. This type of history—staff college history—has fallen out of use. Today’s digested narratives often fail to provide the details soldiers need to analyze an action, given that many academics or publishers find these narratives interesting, marketable, or understandable to themselves. Owing

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Advance and Destroy: Patton as Commander in the Bulge
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Key to the Maps xiii
  • Series Editor’s Foreword xv
  • Acknowledgments xvii
  • Abbreviations xix
  • Studying Patton 1
  • Part I- The Road to the Bulge 11
  • 1- Origin of the Ardennes Counteroffensive 13
  • 2- The Opposing Armies in December 1944 25
  • Part II- Panzers in the Ardennes 53
  • 3- Onslaught 55
  • 4- Enter Patton 73
  • 5- The Verdun Conference 94
  • Part III- Descent on Bastogne 111
  • 6- The Ninety-Degree Turn 113
  • 7- Third Army Attacks, December 22–23 137
  • 8- A Rendezvous with Eagles, December 24–26 166
  • Part IV- The Incomplete Victory 179
  • 9- Patton’s Alternative Lines of Action 181
  • 10- Path to Attrition, December 27–29 200
  • 11- Slugging Match, December 30–31 226
  • 12- Culmination, January 1–4 241
  • 13- The Harlange Pocket, January 5–8 261
  • 14- No Risk, No Reward, January 9–25 275
  • 15- Assessment 303
  • Appendixes 325
  • Notes 355
  • Selected Bibliography 427
  • Index of Military Units 447
  • General Index 472
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