The Ardennes 1944-1945: Hitler's Winter Offensive

By Mongeon, Al | Air Power History, Fall 2015 | Go to article overview

The Ardennes 1944-1945: Hitler's Winter Offensive


Mongeon, Al, Air Power History


The Ardennes 1944-1945: Hitler's Winter Offensive. By Christer Bergstrom. Havertown, Pa.: Casemate Publishers, 2014. Glossary and Abbreviations, Charts, Maps, Appendices, Color Plates. Bibliography. Endnotes. Index. Pp. 503. $69.95. ISBN 978-1-61200-227-4.

On December 16, 1944, over 200,000 German infantry accompanied by over 300 tanks and other tracked vehicles attacked a thinly held section of the Allied lines through a heavily forested, ravine-and-ridge-crossed region along the BelgiumLuxembourg-France border. The area, well known to the Germans, was largely discounted by the Allies because, in their view, it was unsuitable for large-scale mobile warfare. Bergstrom took on the daunting task of tracing this last-ditch effort by Hitler to punch a wedge between the Allied armies and create the conditions for a separate peace with the western allies allowing him to focus on the Eastern Front and, hopefully, have the western allies join him against the communists.

Bergstrom took on a task comparable in many ways to the audacity of the German offensive and came out a winner. He tracks the participants at every level, from headquarters to individual squads. Virtually every picture names the subjects and their status. Biographies of major players on both sides provide context to the battles. Individual units are tracked throughout the battle. The explanations of the equipment and tactics illustrate a level of research that must be applauded. Discussions of the methods of employment of armor on both sides provide a solid basis for appreciating the difficulties the Allies had in dealing with the offensive. Also highlighted are the relative experience levels of the opposing forces and the German practice of replacing units as a unit as opposed to the Allied practice of filling depleted units with individual soldiers. Another strong point is the comparison of the leadership on both sides.

It takes Bergstrom almost 70 pages to actually start the offensive, because he details the German's meticulous planning and ability to hide their intentions from the Allies. Indeed, neither allied aerial reconnaissance nor tactical intelligence picked up indications of the German preparations. Bergstrom also explains both Hitler's insistence on not starting the offensive until a period of bad weather (to keep Allied air power on the ground) and the army's reluctance to accept the idea of the offensive at all. …

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