Advance and Destroy: Patton as Commander in the Bulge

By John Nelson Rickard | Go to book overview

3
Onslaught

The Wehrmacht achieved a surprise every bit as staggering as the one
in the same area in May, 1940.

—F. W. von Mellenthin

On the eve of the Ardennes offensive the Allied armies were deployed from the North Sea coast to Switzerland—some 500 miles—a frontage described by the American official historians as “excessively broad.” The sixty-three Allied divisions actually in the line on December 16 therefore held, on average, a frontage of 8 miles, double that prescribed by doctrine for divisions on the offensive. In his October 28 directive to his army group commanders, Eisenhower directed Bradley to support Montgomery’s drive toward the Ruhr industrial area. However, Bradley was also ordered to direct Patton’s Third Army south of the Ardennes toward Germany’s second most important industrial region, the Saar. Bradley therefore pursued two independent lines of action along his 230-mile front. Doing so meant a subsistence-level economy of force in the center of his line in the Ardennes. The 68,822 troops of VIII Corps held an 89-mile front, far in excess of what a corps could realistically defend. Moreover, Bradley had no army group reserve. It was this obvious and persistent area of weakness that continued to fix Hitler’s attention. Eisenhower admitted after the war that his line had been “badly stretched,” but he accepted full responsibility, arguing that “risks had to be taken somewhere.”1

The only sizable German force close to the Ardennes that gave Eisenhower any pause was Sixth Panzer Armee. Eisenhower claimed that SHAEF lost track of it in early December, but in the November 26 Weekly Intelligence Summary his G-2, Major General Kenneth Strong, indicated that its formations were deployed west of the Rhine, with a potential

-55-

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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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