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Wednesday, July 12, 2017
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Battle of the Bulge – A Punch In The Gut

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Just before The Battle of the Bulge, Allied officers drew an eighty-eight-mile line through the forests, hills, and ravines that make the region called The Ardennes. This area lies principally in modern day Belgium but also stretches into France, Germany, and Luxembourg. Being strategically situated, the area’s recorded history is punctuated with wars dating back to Charlemagne in the Middle Ages.

Earlier in the war, the German Army found ways to traverse the rugged terrain and fast moving rivers of the area that had previously been perceived at impassable. Through this difficult route, the Germans entered France in May of 1940 and marched toward victory in Paris.

After America entered the war and France had been liberated in 1944, the Allies were pushing through Belgium with sights set on Germany itself. The German forces had pulled back into the forests and disappeared into the shadows of the evergreen trees. The Allies secured the eighty-eight-mile line with battle-weary soldiers and green, fresh off the boat infantry.

After fierce fighting, which started with the landings in Normandy in June 1944 and continued all through September and October of 1944, hundreds of battered and exhausted men were sent to rest and re-equip. The front was to be defended, for the most part, by inexperienced soldiers who had to cover far more ground and face an enemy assault they could not imagine. Not even the commanding officers expected the intense attack that was to come.

Battle_of_the_Bulge_

Under the cover of the dense forests of the Eifel region, which borders the Ardennes, twenty-five divisions with heavy artillery and two of the dreaded Panzer tank divisions had gathered under the evergreen trees out of sight of any aircraft reconnaissance. Twenty to thirty thousand German soldiers were ready to push the Allies aside and march to Antwerp, Belgium.

This action was designed to split the British and American Allied line in half, so the Germans could then proceed to encircle and destroy four Allied armies, forcing the Western Allies to negotiate a peace treaty in the Axis Powers’ favor. Once that was accomplished, Hitler believed Germany could fully concentrate on the eastern theater of war.

At 5:00 a.m., artillery fire heavily bombarded the northern line of the Allied front. Attacks occurred along all eighty-eight miles of the defended line. A concentrated tank effort pushed through the defenses and in just three hours had advanced three miles into Allied territory and sent the 14th Calvary group into retreat. American brass reacted quickly, reassigning reserve groups of soldiers and sending the 106th Division to provide flank protection. The very real possibility of Allied regiments becoming surrounded and isolated from the rest of the army loomed as December 16th drew to a close.

By his own admission in the book, “Bastogne – The First Eight Days” by General S. L. A. Marshall, the brass had not planned appropriately. “…was a clear case of VIII Corps misunderstanding the enemy’s intent, though the same misunderstanding prevailed in the entire Army for months afterward.” Only after capturing documents and orders did they learn Hitler’s intent was to cut the Allied forces in two, making it vulnerable to the mighty German forces. Allied leaders believed Hitler had his eye on Liege, Belgium, but seized documents lined out strict orders not to advance that far toward France. Hitler wanted to destroy the Allied ground force and came very close to doing it.

Day one of what came to be known as The Battle of the Bulge left the Allies struggling with defeat. Incensed, the generals braced and regrouped for the days of battle to come. There was no way but forward toward Germany. Reporters, looking at the diagrams of the battle lines coined the term “bulge” and thus the name of the entire battle that would last for six grueling days.

The bulge in the defense line was on the German side they pushed into Allied territory. From the Allied point of view, it was a punch in the gut almost splitting its mighty army in half and could have affected the length, or outcome of the war in Europe.

By Elaine Fields Smith

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Before the German move, two allied generals, each with their own (unofficial) intelligence networks sniffed the breeze and concluded that something BIG was in the wind. Neither knew exactly what, but both set about making provisional plans to deal with whatever it was. One was Patton, the other was Monty. Patton put in place a team to work out the logistics of taking the troops under his command out of the line, and changing direction. When the German advance DID happen, Patton announced that he was ready, willing and able to pull his troops out of the line, and rush to assist the "Battered bloody bastards of Bastogne". (He carelessly neglected to mention that his staff had been planning to do something similar for around a week - it would have spoiled the theatricality) Whether Bastogne really was "beseiged" is a moot point. (The Germans had bypassed this "crucial crossroads", and left a picket force) Whatever, Patton's arrival would have been more impressive if it hadn't been continually presaged by daily-repeated claims that he'd be there TOMORROW. Monty, on the other hand, walked into SHAEF (Allied HQ) and volunteered - in the face of a stunned Allied leadership - to take control and sort out the situation. He took command of more US troops than ANY other foreign general in history, found out just how bad things were, "straightened the line" (which involved temporary withdrawals in some areas, to the fury of several senior American officers) and proceeded to put blocks in the path of the Germans. He replaced stunned indecision with some badly needed decisiveness.

And after the German advance had petered out, Monty made a speech.It suggested that Monty had go the Americans out of a hole, but that's what Allies are for, right? "Furious" barely scratches the Pentagon's response. Suddenly. American generals now all had professional PR teams. The US Forces newspaper, which until that point had nothing but praise for Monty changed course even more impressively than Patton. Monty as effectively airbrushed out of American records. Patton's role was inflated to an absurd degree. (It was generally disregarded that he'd announced his plan to change his army's direction AFTER he'd had his staff work on the logistics for a week.)

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The lack of counterattacks from the North, as well as the failure to attack the bulge at its base, allowing thousands of Germans to escape, can be attributed to Montgomery. 

Monty's now common behavior of having no sense of urgency at all and taking heaps of time to prepare to go on the offensive meant a lot of Germans were able to continue the war somewhere else. 

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The lack of counterattacks from the North, as well as the failure to attack the bulge at its base, allowing thousands of Germans to escape, can be attributed to Montgomery. 

Monty's now common behavior of having no sense of urgency at all and taking heaps of time to prepare to go on the offensive meant a lot of Germans were able to continue the war somewhere else. 

Montgomery fixed it twice : he let the Germans escaping from Walcheren to fight them back at Arnhem ! And by pushing back the Germans out of the Bulge , they re-organised behind the Rhine river !

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4 hours ago, Leo Stroobants said:

Montgomery fixed it twice : he let the Germans escaping from Walcheren to fight them back at Arnhem ! And by pushing back the Germans out of the Bulge , they re-organised behind the Rhine river !

Can you imagine Operation Market Garden without the remains of the 15th army attack the corridor at Best or pushing the British Airborne soldiers from their Dropzones at Oosterbeek? 

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2 hours ago, Joris said:

Can you imagine Operation Market Garden without the remains of the 15th army attack the corridor at Best or pushing the British Airborne soldiers from their Dropzones at Oosterbeek? 

Curiously enough, my economic tutor at school was Ron Thomas, who had been adjutant of the 2nd Airborne. He was just starting his leave for Xmas, when all leave was cancelled, as Monty positioned forces in the path of the advancing Germans.

The Unsung hero (heroine?) of the Battle of the Bulge was a Belgian Nurse, whose dalliance with the German commander was so enjoyable that he spent an extra day in her company, postponing the start of the operation. The advance was supposed to rely on crossing the Meuse river using pontoon bridges that the Germans were carrying with them.They were thwarted before they reached the Meuse, but anyway the pontoons that they'd brought were much too big to negotiate the narrow roads of the Ardennes. They were screwed from Day one, not to mention the Belgian floozie! ( who was assuredly screwed on day one.)

 

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Before the German move, two allied generals, each with their own (unofficial) intelligence networks sniffed the breeze and concluded that something BIG was in the wind. Neither knew exactly what, but both set about making provisional plans to deal with whatever it was. One was Patton, the other was Monty. Patton put in place a team to work out the logistics of taking the troops under his command out of the line, and changing direction. When the German advance DID happen, Patton announced that he was ready, willing and able to pull his troops out of the line, and rush to assist the "Battered bloody bastards of Bastogne". (He carelessly neglected to mention that his staff had been planning to do something similar for around a week - it would have spoiled the theatricality) Whether Bastogne really was "beseiged" is a moot point. (The Germans had bypassed this "crucial crossroads", and left a picket force) Whatever, Patton's arrival would have been more impressive if it hadn't been continually presaged by daily-repeated claims that he'd be there TOMORROW. Monty, on the other hand, walked into SHAEF (Allied HQ) and volunteered - in the face of a stunned Allied leadership - to take control and sort out the situation. He took command of more US troops than ANY other foreign general in history, found out just how bad things were, "straightened the line" (which involved temporary withdrawals in some areas, to the fury of several senior American officers) and proceeded to put blocks in the path of the Germans. He replaced stunned indecision with some badly needed decisiveness.

And after the German advance had petered out, Monty made a speech.It suggested that Monty had go the Americans out of a hole, but that's what Allies are for, right? "Furious" barely scratches the Pentagon's response. Suddenly. American generals now all had professional PR teams. The US Forces newspaper, which until that point had nothing but praise for Monty changed course even more impressively than Patton. Monty as effectively airbrushed out of American records. Patton's role was inflated to an absurd degree. (It was generally disregarded that he'd announced his plan to change his army's direction AFTER he'd had his staff work on the logistics for a week.)

LET'S REMEMBER ONE THING ABOUT MONTY. THE BRITS AND CANADIANS HAD WAY LESS FIGHTING AGE MEN. MONTY HAD TO BE CAREFUL AFTER CAEN & MARKET GARDEN NOT TO INVOLVE HIS COMMONWEALTH & POLISH TROOPS IN A BLOOD BATH. AMERICA HAD AT LEAST 3 TIMES THE POPULATION OF BRITAIN. MONTY COULD NOT BE RECKLESS. HE HAD TO PLAN EVERYTHING CAREFULLY AND USE ARTILLERY IN PLACE OF HUGE NUMBERS OF MEN.
PLUNDER WAS A GOOD EXAMPLE. IT WENT OFF FAIRLY CHEAPLY. THE GERMANS WERE SMOTHERED WITH HEAVY ARTILLERY, LIGHT ANTI AIRCRAFT GUNS DOWN TO DOWN TO MACHINE GUNS PRIOR TO THE CROSSING.
IF I HAD BEEN A SOLDIER IN EUROPE I WOULD HAVE PREFERRED TO WORK FOR MONTY. HE HAD MORE INTEREST IN PRESERVING LIVES. THIS DOES NOT FORGET THAT PERSONALLY HE WAS AN ASSHOLE. BUT SO WAS PATTON.

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8 hours ago, SCOTT said:

LET'S REMEMBER ONE THING ABOUT MONTY. THE BRITS AND CANADIANS HAD WAY LESS FIGHTING AGE MEN. MONTY HAD TO BE CAREFUL AFTER CAEN & MARKET GARDEN NOT TO INVOLVE HIS COMMONWEALTH & POLISH TROOPS IN A BLOOD BATH. AMERICA HAD AT LEAST 3 TIMES THE POPULATION OF BRITAIN. MONTY COULD NOT BE RECKLESS. HE HAD TO PLAN EVERYTHING CAREFULLY AND USE ARTILLERY IN PLACE OF HUGE NUMBERS OF MEN.
PLUNDER WAS A GOOD EXAMPLE. IT WENT OFF FAIRLY CHEAPLY. THE GERMANS WERE SMOTHERED WITH HEAVY ARTILLERY, LIGHT ANTI AIRCRAFT GUNS DOWN TO DOWN TO MACHINE GUNS PRIOR TO THE CROSSING.
IF I HAD BEEN A SOLDIER IN EUROPE I WOULD HAVE PREFERRED TO WORK FOR MONTY. HE HAD MORE INTEREST IN PRESERVING LIVES. THIS DOES NOT FORGET THAT PERSONALLY HE WAS AN ASSHOLE. BUT SO WAS PATTON.

No argument that Monty was an "Asshole", but (for example) during the battle of the bulge, he took pains to ensure that the men under his command got hot food. Reminds me of Wellington, who provided his troops  with "Stirabout" on the eve of Waterloo. Both generals took care of their troops as far as possible. At the time, however, the Allies had split their forces in Normandy, with British and Canadians facing East, and Americans facing West. The Germans had also split their forces, with a substantial majority of their armour concentrated opposite Monty's positions. Monty was (apparently) quite happy about this, picked his ground, and invited the German forces to come to him.The Germans repeatedly stormed his relatively unassailable positions, and were repeatedly repulsed with substantial losses every time. If there's one thing worse than a "Phyrric Victory", it's the opposite. Where your attack costs you a substantial portion of your strength, and achieves nothing. Patton meanwhile was racing around North West France against substantially lighter opposition. US troops characterised this as "Monty taking a break and stopping fror tea".  Monty was Churchill's favourite General - exasperating, but he mostly won. And Churchill, thatnks to his experiences in WW1 (as the "First Sea Lord", but who couldn't resist meddling in a wide range of other areas - like armoured cars and tanks. Churchill OK'd the bankrolling of tank development, with absolutely zero authority to do so) If you had to sum up Churchill as war leader in one word it wold probably be "unexpected". He wrote in his history of WW1 that "Battles are won either by slaughter or by manoeuver" and left no doubt that in his view winning by manoeuver was considerably better. On D-Day, The Anglo Canadians were supported by Brigadier Hobart's "Funnies": a range of tanks and vehicles tailor made to overcome the obstacles that would be faced.They achieved their objectives in record time and with minimal casualties. The US forces turned down the offer of as many "funnies" as they needed, and stormed the beaches unsupported. Omaha was, resultingly, a bloodbath. Inexplicably, the American people concentrate on the (let's face it, actually pointless) heroism of their grunts, and IGNORE the thousands of lives that their senior commanders opted to waste. Merely because you HAVE a larger population doesn't mean that you have to waste lives needlessly.

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Monty understood the British General, they were impulsive and largely incompetent. They demonstrated that whenever they were not under a tight rein. He also understood that time was not as critical a factor as preparedness. In the early North African campaigns units and formations winning battles threw away the victory by idiotic unplaned and doomed chases after withdrawing troops. They ran out of fuel, ran too far from support and died in ambushes by rear guards. British tank and cav units were sacrificed by incompetent leaders. Monty was careful, controlling, and won. 

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