Advance and Destroy: Patton as Commander in the Bulge

By John Nelson Rickard | Go to book overview

1
Origin of the Ardennes
Counteroffensive

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
thunder.

—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.1 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

-13-

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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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