Advance and Destroy: Patton as Commander in the Bulge

By John Nelson Rickard | Go to book overview

12
Culmination,
January 1–4

III Corps reports that the heaviest fighting yet encountered on its front
was met during the day of 4 January.

—Twelfth Army Group G-2 Periodic Report, January 5, 1945

On December 31 Eisenhower cabled Marshall that there were “several indications that the Germans may be preparing a counter offensive in the area of the upper Rhine.”1 As a precaution, Kibler sent a message to Third Army at 1730 to “initiate without delay” the necessary reconnaissance and organization to tie into Patch’s reserve position west of Bitche.2 Less than six hours later Heeresgruppe G launched Operation NORDWIND. Rundstedt had begun planning it on December 21 as a way of taking advantage of Patton’s withdrawal from the Saar sector to deal with the southern flank of the Bulge. Hitler, however, expanded it on December 22 and turned it into a major offensive aimed at the Saverne Gap, twenty miles northwest of Strasbourg, to regain the Zabern rise, destroy Allied forces in northern Alsace, and regain contact with Nineteenth Armee.3 It was also an attempt to deflect Third Army from Fifth Panzer Armee and restart the drive to the Meuse. It employed reserves that could not be effectively employed in the Ardennes due to road and logistical limitations. If NORDWIND was successful, Hitler envisioned another series of operations, code-named ZAHNARTZ (Dentist), from the Saare valley-Saverne area toward Metz and the rear of Third Army. Indeed, Hitler had even considered the possibility of turning southward after the initial breakthrough during WACHT AM RHEIN to attack Patton’s rear.4

As NORDWIND got under way, Model was already sending more combat power to Manteuffel. Fifth Panzer Armee had lost 324 panzers since December 16.5 At 0005 December 30 Heeresgruppe B ordered 340th VGD to be transferred as quickly as possible to a location southwest of Houffalize.

-241-

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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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