Advance and Destroy: Patton as Commander in the Bulge

By John Nelson Rickard | Go to book overview

Studying Patton

Adolf Hitler launched his counteroffensive in the Ardennes forest, codenamed WACHT AM RHEIN (Watch on the Rhine), on December 16, 1944, and proved that a tiger is at its most dangerous when cornered. The German army (Heere), Waffen-Schutzstaffel (SS; the guard echelon), and German air force (Luftwaffe) made a final, supreme effort against the U.S. Army during six weeks of bitter combat. Hitler committed the last of his carefully accumulated reserves in an attempt to wrest the strategic initiative from the Allies in the west. Even as the battle raged in the Ardennes, he launched a subsidiary operation, NORDWIND (North Wind), on January 1, 1945, to recapture Alsace-Lorraine and relieve some of the pressure on the southern flank of the “Bulge.” NORDWIND dragged on until late January. It and WACHT AM RHEIN should be considered one and the same for the purposes of analysis.

For a brief moment at the end of the war, the German army profited from a massive injection of adrenaline and offered the Americans a fleeting but sobering glimpse of German offensive skill. The Supreme Allied Commander, General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, committed almost 600,000 Americans to stem the German onslaught. The Americans clearly enjoyed important numerical and materiel advantages, but the Germans’ achievement at the end of five years of war was remarkable. The Ardennes campaign represented the truest test of strength between the U.S. and German armies during the entire war.1 Playing a conspicuous role in this marshaling of American power and its application against the counteroffensive was Lieutenant General George S. Patton Jr., commanding the Third United States Army.

On the eve of the Battle of the Bulge, Patton had barely seven months of combat experience in World War II. Nevertheless, he was the most seasoned of the four American army commanders in the European Theater of Operations (ETO). As commander of the Western Task Force during Operation TORCH (the invasion of French North Africa), II Corps in Tunisia, Seventh Army in Sicily, and Third Army in Normandy and Lorraine, Patton experienced combat in all its principal manifestations.

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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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