Advance and Destroy: Patton as Commander in the Bulge

By John Nelson Rickard | Go to book overview

7
Third Army Attacks,
December 22–23

The amazing Patton said he would be there on time—and he was.

—Major General Kenneth Strong

The speed with which Patton pulled Third Army out of Lorraine and moved it north unsettled Eisenhower and his staff. Patton noted on December 21, “I received quite a few telephone calls from various higher echelons, expressing solicitude as to my ability to attack successfully with only three divisions.” He declared, “As usual on the verge of action, everyone felt full of doubt except myself. It has always been my unfortunate role to be the ray of sunshine and the backslapper before action, both for those under me and also those over me.”1 At the 1000 SHAEF meeting, Tedder and others questioned whether Patton’s swiftly mounted assault might not turn out to be a piecemeal action, similar to German counterattacks in Normandy. The recorder of the SHAEF meeting, Air Marshal James M. Robb, noted that Eisenhower wanted Bradley to understand that a counterattack for the purpose of holding Bastogne “was to be held in check and not to spread, and that, in fact, it was for the purpose of establishing a firm stepping off point for the main counter offensive. The Supreme Commander mentioned that what he was afraid of was that the impetuous Patton would talk Bradley into allowing him to attack at once with the object of going right through and not awaiting the fully co-ordinated counter offensive.”2

It is clear from Robb’s notes that Patton’s mission was limited in scope and scale and was merely the first phase of Eisenhower’s larger concept of operations. Eisenhower further restricted not only Patton’s freedom of decision but also Bradley’s, by his instructions to the latter. Bradley had to “make absolutely certain of the safety of his right flank in the Trier region from which a new offensive by the German 7th Army still threatened,”

-137-

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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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