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Al Jassas View Drop Down
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    Posted: 26-Aug-2007 at 13:13

Hello To You All

 

I was reading about the Battle of the Bulge the other day and since then I became extremely obsessed with it so I would like to start a discussion about that very important Battle and I hope that our AE WWII experts would actively join the discussion.

 

I think that this battle was the single most important battle of the war and one of the greatest battles ever fought because every weapon was used, every strategy was exhausted and it was the zenith of modern warfare. But my point here is why the hell did the Germans insisted so enthusiastically to capture Bastogne when it was just another stop on the way to the sea which was the goal of the German command and had no strategic value, the siege in my opinion was the reason that the German attack failed since it prevented 15 divisions from joining the attack which was already facing stiff resistance in the Belgian plains. If the Germans just bypassed the town and made a ring of fire around it or just bombed it to smithereens it would have freed those German forces and the Germans might have dealt the final blow to the Americans in the Belgian low country.

 

What about You, what do you think?

 

Thank you

 

Al-Jassas ibn Murrah  

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote deadkenny Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Aug-2007 at 17:19
I'm afraid that I will have to disagree with you on just about all points.  The war was effectively over by the time that the Germans launched their Ardennes offensive.  They didn't have enough strength or supplies to effectively exploit a strategic breakthrough, even if they had achieved one.  They achieved some measure of success initially, due to a combination of tactical and strategic surprize, and bad weather that kept the massive Allied air superiority out of the picture.  Even given those advantages the Germans started to run into trouble fairly early and started to fall behind their rather ambitious schedule.

The issue with Bastogne was that it blocked the German lines of communication and supply and the Americans had stationed a significant force there.  So, the Germans tried to take it 'quickly' from the first, and failed, then tried to bypass it then tried to take it again, and failed again.  They couldn't simply ignore it as the airborne division the Americans had there could cut their supply line.  If they 'masked' it, then it would be holding up troops the Germans needed elsewhere, and still interfering with their supply line.  Bombing it to 'smithereens' wasn't really an option, because as soon as the weather cleared it was the Allies who had control of the air.

Finally, recall that the Soviets were ready to drive into Germany from the east.  So even a greater measure of success in their Ardennes Offensive simply would have meant that more of Germany would have been overrun by the Red Army before the end of the war.  Hitler's 'fantasy' scenario was to somehow 'knock out' the Allies in the west, as in 1940, and then concentrate everything in the east.  The problem is that the plan was just that, 'fantasy'.  The Wehrmacht was simply not capable of achieving those results in late '44, against the Americans in particular.  The British were in a bit worse position, and had already been forced to disband some units to bring others up to full strength after the losses they had suffered in Normandy.  So a huge blow against the British might have effectively 'knock them out' of the war.  However, the Americans still had plenty of reserves, so the Germans had no chance of 'knocking them out'.


Edited by deadkenny - 26-Aug-2007 at 17:20
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sparten Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Aug-2007 at 00:53
deadkenny, I have always felt that the American escaped a bullet at the Bulge. If a breakthrough had been achieved you have three allied armies cut off, and actions at Bastonge and St Vith (by the 82nd) probably saved those three allied armies from complete destruction.
The Germans also take vacations in Paris; especially during the periods they call "blitzkrieg".
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Aug-2007 at 02:47
Hello to you all
 
I have to agree with Sparten deadkenny in this issue. In this battle, the Americans suffered their greatest losses ever in that battle and ruin would have been wreked on the American and British armies in the low country in both the Netherlands and Belgium. I agree with you that the allies did have air superiority but that superiority was challenged by the German Luftwaffe very successfully during the onset of the Battle. Hitler or any successor if he was to "barvely" die might have had the chance to surrender with terms (which was the intention of the high command in my opinion) that are acceptable by the German military and force on the allies who did not want to see literally hundreds of thousands of their youth die in an avoidable incident. I doubt that would have contended the Russians but remember that the rift between the allies was grown daily during those days which made a deal with Germany possible if Russian intentions went beyond Germany. As for Bastogne and St. Vith I still don't understand why the Germans did what hey did there. They could have done better especially after the great achievements buring the Blitzkrieg of 1941 or just Bypass the towns which the main body did but late in the battle.
 
By the way, is it true that the money the Hitler spent on the V2 rocket project was enough to build 17000 bombers. I heard this in BBC documentry and if this was true, the allies would have been in big trouble after Normandy.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote deadkenny Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Aug-2007 at 13:30
Originally posted by Sparten Sparten wrote:

deadkenny, I have always felt that the American escaped a bullet at the Bulge. If a breakthrough had been achieved you have three allied armies cut off, and actions at Bastonge and St Vith (by the 82nd) probably saved those three allied armies from complete destruction.


Well, if the Americans 'dodged a bullet' it was a pretty desperate  'long shot' by the Germans and not only did that 'shot' have little chance of 'hitting the target', but it is questionable how much velocity it would have had and how much damage it could have done if it had hit (apologies for the extended 'bullet' analogy).

First, check a map on the furtherest extent of the German offensive:

http://www.europeanmilitarytours.com/fullmap.htm

You can see that the spearheads came up short of Dinant.  Now check a map of Belgium and see where Dinant is in relation to Antwerp.

http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/europe/belgium.jpg

The Germans came no where near their objective of Antwerp.  Without capturing Antwerp, they would not have cutoff or destroyed anything.  Further, the British and American forces further north, in Belgium and Holland, had already turned south to face the 'northern shoulder' of the German 'bulge' (hence Monty's infamous conference where he made it sound like he had 'saved' the Americans).  Also note that Patton's forces were driving up from the south to relieve the 101st in Bastogne.  Other than the few weakened units on the front that had be 'overrun' in the initial attack, the Germans were no where close to surrounding, cutting off or destroying any major Allied formations, never mind armies.  Furthermore, with strong British and American forces having turned to face south on the northern flank, and Patton's army driving into the southern flank and the Allies' airforce bombing everything in sight as the weather cleared and the German spearheads trying to 'capture' enough fuel to continue moving the fact is that it was the Germans who were on the verge of destruction, not the Allies.


Edited by deadkenny - 27-Aug-2007 at 13:33
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sparten Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Aug-2007 at 15:15

Those defences did not arrive inforce for several days. The people at St Vith and Bastonge and the 99th Division are the ones that held the Germans off. The crucial days were the first 4, if the Muse was not ctrossed by then everything was lost, as it was the Germans were delayed by the efforts of three divisions. A breakthrough in 36 hours as planned would have seen the Germans up to the Muse, the last defensive line before Antwerp and a whole n ew ball game.

 
As for airpower, while the Allied Airpower was unable to act in the Arden nes, it was clear weather in Alsace sector, and Allied Airpower was unable to prevent the Seventh Army from a great thrashing. As it is, the Alsace campaign probably caused the Germans a lot of grief, those 8 divs could have made the difference at the Ardennes.
The Germans also take vacations in Paris; especially during the periods they call "blitzkrieg".
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote deadkenny Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Aug-2007 at 18:57
Originally posted by Sparten Sparten wrote:

Those defences did not arrive inforce for several days. The people at St Vith and Bastonge and the 99th Division are the ones that held the Germans off. The crucial days were the first 4, if the Muse was not ctrossed by then everything was lost, as it was the Germans were delayed by the efforts of three divisions. A breakthrough in 36 hours as planned would have seen the Germans up to the Muse, the last defensive line before Antwerp and a whole new ball game....


The problem is that the Germans were simply incapable of achieving that plan.  Sure, I can say IF the German had counterattacked the Russians outside of Berlin in 1945, totally destroyed them and went on to capture Moscow the tide may have turned.  But those outcomes were completely and totally beyond the capability of the German forces engaged.  Again, reference the map of the German Ardennes Offensive posted previously.  The northern 'arm' of the German attack was supposed to have been the main thrust.  After the initial attack it was totally 'stuffed'.  Stopped cold, no where near the Meuse River crossings that were it's objective.  Again, look at the map of Belgium posted previously.  The Meuse river is not close to Antwerp where the Germans would have been crossing it, even if their attack had been wildly more successful than it was historically.  Given the terrain and weather and road conditions, the Germans would have been hard pressed to cross the Meuse in force in 36 hours with no opposition at all!  The Allies simply weren't so stupid that they were going to leave the Ardennes practically undefended for a second time in the same war!  Hitler's 'fantasy' outcome for this offensive was just that, a complete fantasy and totally beyond what could possibly be achieved by the German forces committed to the attack.  His own Generals tried to tell him as much, and 'suggested' that a less ambitious 'spoiling attack' be attempted.  Also note that it took a brave General to gainsay Hitler at that stage of the war, especially after the July assassination attempt.  So Hitler's 'fantasy' offensive went forward and achieved nothing but to use up Germany's few remaining reserves, overrun a couple weak American divisions and the capture of some worthless territory in southern Belgium.

You have to keep in mind when realistically assessing the Ardennes Offensive that the Allies were not going to 'collapse', even if the Germans had managed to cross the Meuse River in force.  The British and Americans to the north would still have had time to turn and form a defense line well south of Antwerp.  Patton would still have been driving into the southern flank.  The Russians would still have been driving into Germany from the east.  The Germans had no where near the forces necessary to maintain an effective offensive north towards Antwerp and still stop Patton and the Russians. 


Edited by deadkenny - 27-Aug-2007 at 19:01
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sparten Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-Aug-2007 at 01:17
I agree it was a long shot, but when I reread crusade in Europe, Ike mentions thats at the time the Germans came he had little by the way of defenses behind the 106th and 99th and a Canadian formation whose name escapes me and that the British especially took a long time to redeploy. Patton arrived 9 days latter, 25th december.So that leaves on the 20th at the Muse, if a breakthrough is achieved a Canadian divison (who at this point of the war were fairly week, after almost 6 months of continous fighting and lack of replacements) and the British who are redeploying piecemiel as defense between the Germans and Antwerp. If the Muse had been crossed on time (and this unlike your example of a '45 counterattack was possible) then its possible the Germans would have achieved their objective.
 
And the allies did make the same mistake twice, in '40 and '44 the divisions sent to cover the Ardennes were raw inexperienced troops.
The Germans also take vacations in Paris; especially during the periods they call "blitzkrieg".
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote deadkenny Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-Aug-2007 at 10:50
Originally posted by Sparten Sparten wrote:

I agree it was a long shot, but when I reread crusade in Europe, Ike mentions thats at the time the Germans came he had little by the way of defenses behind the 106th and 99th and a Canadian formation whose name escapes me and that the British especially took a long time to redeploy. Patton arrived 9 days latter, 25th december.So that leaves on the 20th at the Muse, if a breakthrough is achieved a Canadian divison (who at this point of the war were fairly week, after almost 6 months of continous fighting and lack of replacements) and the British who are redeploying piecemiel as defense between the Germans and Antwerp. If the Muse had been crossed on time (and this unlike your example of a '45 counterattack was possible) then its possible the Germans would have achieved their objective.
 
And the allies did make the same mistake twice, in '40 and '44 the divisions sent to cover the Ardennes were raw inexperienced troops.


Well, I'm not sure that Eisenhower's memoirs provide the best assessment of German capabilities at the time.  Certainly he wasn't interested in 'bursting anyone's bubble' in terms of the belief, at the time, at the 'Battle of the Bulge' was the 'decisive' battle in Europe in WWII.  However, one should keep in mind that, even given the apparently 'thin' defense available, the Germans face some grave challenges that made their 36 hour schedule completely unrealistic.  You have to consider the terrain and weather.  It was winter, making off road travel even more difficult in the rough terrain.  The Meuse River could only be crossed at certain points, assuming that the Allies didn't blow up the bridges, unless great effort was expended to bring up and deploy bridging equipment.  The Allies could always 'delay' defensively simply by stationing 'small' forces at critical spots, with steep hills and dense woods to either side of the roads.  It was simply not easy, often not possible, to deploy larger forces effectively without taking up considerable time.

Regarding the differences between 'mistakes' in '40 vs. '44, they were considerable.  In '44 there were a mixture of 'green' units and 'veteran' units that had sustained losses.  Perhaps the most critical difference is that in '40 the Germans crossed the Ardennes with little or no resistance.  In 1940 the real fighting didn't start until the Germans had reach places like Dinant, Sedan and Montherme and were trying to cross the Meuse River.  In 1944 all the fighting was IN the Ardennes, and the German spearheads didn't quite reach Dinant, never mind any other point on the Meuse.  Further note that Allies in 1944 rushed in some strong reinforcements immediately to fight inside the Ardennes (82nd, 101st airborne divisions) and further forces (British in the north, Patton in the south) were coming not long after.  In 1940, there was little reaction until the Germans were already through the Ardennes and the Germans had broken through the defenders on the other side (on the Meuse at Dinant, Montherme and Sedan).  Although the Allies were 'guilty' of being 'surprized' by the Ardennes Offensive in '44, there is otherwise no comparison with what happened in '40.  The 'proof' is that the Germans broke through in '40 and defeated the Allies whereas they were 'stuffed' in '44 not having achieved any strategic effect other than to exhaust their own strength.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote YohjiArmstrong Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Sep-2007 at 16:25
I'd definately have to disagree that this was the most important battle for one very simple reason: regardless of what happened on the Western Front the Germans would still have been defeated by the Soviets.

I would also disagree that this attack could have won the war in the west. Regardless of Allied defenses and movements they would still have outnumbered the Germans, would have air support (it couldn't stay cloudy for ever) and most importantly- the Germans were wrecked. They barely had enough to attack in the Bulge and their fuel and ammo was almost gone. They were still completely out of soldiers, had no air support etc. If the Bulge had worked we'd just have seen a Falaise Gap 2 within a few months. Embaressing for the Allies but not a war loser.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote dexippus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Nov-2007 at 12:00
The Bulge inflicted heavy casualties, destroyed an entire American division (the 106th), and set back the Allied spring offensive, but the Germans never had anywhere the momentum to change the tide of the war. The main spearhead, the First SS Panzer, never came close to reaching its main objective of the Muse river, and ended up out of fuel and forced to abandon its vehicles, suffering 80% casualties. Given that the offensive was going to end whenever the weather cleared up anyway, even if American defenses at Bastogne, St. Vith, Stavelot and the Elsenborn ridge hadn't held (and they all did), things would have stopped on Dec. 23rd when the sun came out and decisive tactical air support could be brought to bear.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Peteratwar Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Nov-2007 at 14:43
Battle of the Bulge was a waste of resources by the Germans. They never had the resources to do what Hitler required. They were basically relying on weather staying bad and seizing alied supplied to carry on. They failed them both. It was a gamble pure and simple.
 
Even had they seized the supplies the overwhelming forces that could have been deployed/moved/used especially in the air mean that such an attack at best would only end up by being a nuisance.
 
The German Generals didn't give it a chance, but did their duty. 
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