Advance and Destroy: Patton as Commander in the Bulge

By John Nelson Rickard | Go to book overview

15
Assessment

The Ardennes was not where Patton wanted to fight in late December 1944. Set to punch through the West Wall after a brutal campaign in Lorraine, he had to stop and realign Third Army for an entirely new operation. Although more than sixty-five years have passed, his conduct of the battle remains relevant for study by senior commanders today. Patton’s command technique encompassed the “human” factor in war and therefore offers timeless instruction. Although the march of technology has been relentless since the end of World War II, Patton’s operational technique can still serve the modern practitioner of maneuver warfare. The modern observe, orient, decide, and act (OODA) loop concept is sometimes characterized as an epiphany, but Patton’s operational technique functioned on the same premise. Utilizing the estimate process, he continuously updated his situational awareness and consistently strove to disrupt German intentions. The estimate process, combined with the communication of his intent to subordinates, shaped the conduct of operations and the ultimate outcome of the missions assigned by Eisenhower and Bradley. The outcomes are the most important aspect of this study; therefore, his overall effectiveness as an army commander in the Bulge must be based on mission accomplishment, spatial effectiveness, and casualty effectiveness.


Patton’s Command Technique

Fundamental to Patton’s command technique was his philosophy of leadership. He wrote to his son on January 16: “I have it—but I’ll be damned if I can define it. Probably it consists in knowing what you want to do and then doing it and getting mad if anyone stepps [sic] in the way.”1 It also involves being seen at the front. Patton consistently went forward to visit his commanders. Maxwell Taylor recalled that Patton left a fine impression on him because he frequently visited the 101st Airborne Division in

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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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