THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE. By Hugh M. Cole. (1965, 1983; 720 pages, 14 maps, 93 illustrations, 2 appendixes, bibliographical note, glossary, index, CMH Pub 7-8.)
This volume deals with the great German offensive in the Ardennes and Schnee Eiffel during December 1944; the armored drive to isolate the Anglo-Saxon Allies by the seizure of Antwerp; and the defensive battles fought by units of the U.S.
First, Third, and Ninth Armies reinforced by troops from the British 21 Army Group. The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge opens with the detailed planning and preparations in the German headquarters (Chs. I, II, IV) and follows the development of the campaign from the surprise attack initiated on 16 December to the point where, in the first days of January 1945, the Allies regained the initiative and resumed the offensive to cross the Rhine. The discussion parallels that given in the latter sections of Riviera to the Rhine, covering the southern Allied Army Group, and sets the scene for The Last Offensive.
The Ardennes, as in other volumes of this subseries, is structured on the division as the chief tactical and administrative unit. However, in the early hours and first days the battle mandates that the story be told at platoon and company level with cross reference to battalions, regimental combat teams, and armored combat commands. Command and control exercised by the army corps generally appears in the allocation of reserves rather than in tactical direction of the battle. Higher command efforts come into the narrative in a few specific instances, such as the gross failure of Allied intelligence; the geographic division of command between Montgomery and Bradley; the decisions to hold the American linch-pins on the Elsenborn ridge, St. Vith, and Bastogne, at the shoulders of the German salient; and the initial large-scale counterattack mounted by the Third Army. (The subject of command is given close analysis in The Supreme Command.)
The history of German command and troop operations is told in considerable detail. At the close of World War II, German officers were brought together so as to re-create the commands and general staffs of the major units taking part in the Ardennes campaign. As a result of this exercise in collective memory The Ardennes has an unmatched wealth of precise and parallel information on "the other side of the hill." Much attention is also given to the role played by the Allied air forces- particularly the tactical air commands-and to the effect of weather on air-ground cooperation and on German logistics.
The story begins with the irruption of enemy assault units in force against the green 99th and 106th Infantry Divisions and throughout the breadth of the thinly held VIII Corps front. The German breakthrough in the Schnee Eiffel is given detailed attention (Ch. VII). There follows the American attempt to narrow the rapidly evolving enemy salient by hard fighting at the shoulders of the bulge and by piecemeal tactical reinforcement at these critical points. The exploitation phase of the German offensive sees early armored successes interspersed with delays and halts inflicted by isolated and lone American combined arms detachments plus the vagaries of weather and terrain. This combination of adverse weather and difficult terrain is analyzed as it influenced German armored operations and conditioned the assault or the defense at barrier lines, roadblocks, and timbered patches (Chs. VI, XIV). The tactics of perimeter defense are shown in the record of battles at Bastogne (Ch. XIX) and those in the ring around St. Vith (Chs. XII, XVII).
This volume concludes with the final desperate effort of German armor to reach and cross the Meuse River; with the stiffening American defense at the leading edge of the salient, coupled with the German failure to widen it at the shoulders; with the commencement of the enemy withdrawal; and with the counterattacks of the Third
and First Armies. The final episodes of the Ardennes battle are recounted in The Last Offensive.
Throughout this volume the strictures imposed on German maneuver by logistical failures are evident as are the superior American capability to reinforce and resupply the defense. (See also Logistical Support of the Armies, Volume II). Nonetheless, the German campaign to keep rail and road transport functioning, here described in detail (Ch. XXV), merits close study.
1. Elementary tactics as shown in the many episodes of "the starkness of small unit combat" (Foreword; Chs. VI, VII, VIII, IX).
2. Mobile operations under adverse conditions of weather, terrain, and short daylight hours (see Index: "Mud; Terrain"; Ch. XXV).
3. Organization, tactics, control, and communications in delaying actions (see Index: "Mud; Tactical control; Communications, problems").
4. Failure of Allied intelligence (Ch. IV).
5. Ad hoc air resupply (see Index: "Air supply").
6. The employment of combat engineers (see Index: "Bridges; Bridging operations; Engineers; Barrier lines; Obstacles"; Ch. XIV).
7. Tactical surprise by maneuver, through operations at night and in the fog, and by the use of smoke and deceptive lighting (see Index: "Surprise, tactical").
8. Examples of a double envelopment (Ch. VII).
9. Detailed description of the employment of "the combined arms" (see Index: "Task Forces; Teams").
10. Tanks; antitank combat (see Index: "Tanks; Armor; Mechanized forces").
11. Tactical air support (see Index: "Aircraft, fighter-bombers"; Ch. XXV).
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