Advance and Destroy: Patton as Commander in the Bulge

By John Nelson Rickard | Go to book overview

9
Patton’s Alternative
Lines of Action

It remained for Patton, the diligent student of military history, to
state in forthright terms the classic but venturesome solution… the
Ardennes salient should be cut off and the German armies engulfed
therein by a vise closing from north and south against the shoulders of
the Bulge.

—Hugh Cole

At this juncture it is important to examine Patton’s estimate process. Through it, the historian can evaluate his favored lines of action and compare them with those favored by Eisenhower and Bradley. The estimate process was designed to guard against selecting lines of action that did not lead anywhere decisive. The estimate offers insights into Patton’s ability to think and plan beyond the present problem faced by Third Army. He had accomplished his initial mission. He had reoriented Third Army, penetrated the German southern front, and relieved the 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne. Even as the 4th Armored Division made its final attempt to get into Bastogne, Patton was regrouping Third Army and updating his estimate based on directions from Bradley. Patton’s post-Bastogne mission was to continue the counteroffensive toward St. Vith, along with two secondary tasks: containing the German advance east of the Meuse, and holding along the present line between Saarlautern and Echternach.1


Third Army Capability

On December 26, after five days of hard fighting, Third Army still possessed considerable combat power. Patton now had three armored divisions—the 4th, 6th, and 10th—and nine infantry divisions—the 4th,

-181-

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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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