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Advance and Destroy

Advance and Destroy: Patton as Commander in the Bulge

John Nelson Rickard
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 528
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  • Book Info
    Advance and Destroy
    Book Description:

    In the winter of 1944--1945, Hitler sought to divide Allied forces in the heavily forested Ardennes region of Luxembourg and Belgium. He deployed more than 400,000 troops in one of the last major German offensives of the war, which became known as the Battle of the Bulge, in a desperate attempt to regain the strategic initiative in the West. Hitler's effort failed for a variety of reasons, but many historians assert that Lieutenant General George S. Patton Jr.'s Third Army was ultimately responsible for securing Allied victory. Although Patton has assumed a larger-than-life reputation for his leadership in the years since World War II, scholars have paid little attention to his generalship in the Ardennes following the relief of Bastogne.

    In Advance and Destroy, Captain John Nelson Rickard explores the commander's operational performance during the entire Ardennes campaign, through his "estimate of the situation," the U.S. Army's doctrinal approach to problem-solving. Patton's day-by-day situational understanding of the Battle of the Bulge, as revealed through ULTRA intelligence and the influence of the other Allied generals on his decision-making, gives readers an in-depth, critical analysis of Patton's overall effectiveness, measured in terms of mission accomplishment, his ability to gain and hold ground, and a cost-benefit analysis of his operations relative to the lives of his soldiers. The work not only debunks myths about one of America's most controversial generals but provides new insights into his renowned military skill and colorful personality.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-3456-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Key to the Maps
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Series Editor’s Foreword
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    Roger Cirillo

    The study of military operations has been the staple of military academies and staff colleges for 200 years. Indeed, the analysis of operations is the basis for military doctrine, procedures, and attitudes and is rooted in past operations. Although famous captains have left their own accounts and theories, these relate to the past. The analysis of a battle or a campaign is different from a narrative of its events. Formerly, operational history was written for professional soldiers. In modern times, however, operational history has become little more than a scholarly recounting of details, emphasizing a narrative that is chronologically arranged...

  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  7. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xix-xxii)
  8. Studying Patton
    (pp. 1-10)

    Adolf Hitler launched his counteroffensive in the Ardennes forest, codenamedWACHT AM RHEIN(Watch on the Rhine), on December 16, 1944, and proved that a tiger is at its most dangerous when cornered. The German army (Heere),Waffen–Schutzstaffel(SS; the guard echelon), and German air force (Luftwaffe) made a final, supreme effort against the U.S. Army during six weeks of bitter combat. Hitler committed the last of his carefully accumulated reserves in an attempt to wrest the strategic initiative from the Allies in the west. Even as the battle raged in the Ardennes, he launched a subsidiary operation,NORDWIND...

  9. Part I. The Road to the Bulge

    • 1 Origin of the Ardennes Counteroffensive
      (pp. 13-24)

      On the morning of July 25, 1944, more than 2,400 American bombers and fighter-bombers launched an aerial assault on a narrow sector of the German front in western Normandy. The aircraft, approaching at an altitude of 12,000 feet, flew directly over the heads of awed American infantry below. Four thousand tons of explosives tumbled out of the bomb bays in great rectangular carpet patterns, and most of the bombs found their way toGeneralleutnantFritz Bayerlein’sPanzer Lehr Division, dug in awaiting another American ground onslaught. The carnage on the ground was awful, and Bayerlein compared his front line to...

    • 2 The Opposing Armies in December 1944
      (pp. 25-52)

      German ground forces in World War II were finally defeated in May 1945 because they fought a multifront war against the world’s three greatest industrial powers. They were simply outnumbered in manpower and materiel. Eisenhower’s G-3, Major General Harold R. Bull, calculated that Allied numerical superiority in Normandy on July 1, 1944, was between 2.5:1 and 3:1. At the end of the Normandy campaign the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) concluded that the “process of final military defeat . . . has begun. . . . Whatever action Hitler may now take, it will be too late to affect the issue...

  10. Part II. Panzers in the Ardennes

    • 3 Onslaught
      (pp. 55-72)

      On the eve of the Ardennes offensive the Allied armies were deployed from the North Sea coast to Switzerland—some 500 miles—a frontage described by the American official historians as “excessively broad.” The sixty-three Allied divisions actually in the line on December 16 therefore held, on average, a frontage of 8 miles, double that prescribed by doctrine for divisions on the offensive. In his October 28 directive to his army group commanders, Eisenhower directed Bradley to support Montgomery’s drive toward the Ruhr industrial area. However, Bradley was also ordered to direct Patton’s Third Army south of the Ardennes toward...

    • 4 Enter Patton
      (pp. 73-93)

      On December 16 Patton’s energy was focused on breaking through the West Wall. After his rapid advance across France during August, his momentum was stopped cold at the Moselle River on the last day of the month. He had no gas for his tanks. On September 2 he, Hodges, and Bradley met Eisenhower at Chartres to discuss future operations. Eisenhower was prepared to reproach Patton for stretching the Allied line too thin and exacerbating logistical difficulties. However, by the end of the meeting Bradley and Patton had coaxed permission to keep attacking east. Indeed, Eisenhower permitted Bradley to attack toward...

    • 5 The Verdun Conference
      (pp. 94-110)

      Early on December 19 Major General Manton S. Eddy, commander of XII Corps, was at Third Army headquarters in Nancy. At 0700 Maddox briefed him on the situation. At that time, Eddy recalled, “They showed me the plans rather sketchedly as all the plans were tentative.” An hour later he sat in on the General Staff meeting in Maddox’s office. Weyland and his staff were there as well. Patton told the assembled officers that “the reputation of the 3rd Army and the XIX Tactical Air Command for speed and effectiveness resulted from the efficiency of the officers present, and that...

  11. Part III. Descent on Bastogne

    • 6 The Ninety-Degree Turn
      (pp. 113-136)

      On December 19 Third Army was deployed in Lorraine between Remich and Hottweiler on a fifty-five-mile front opposite the GermanFirst Armee. Walker’s XX Corps consisted of the 5th, 90th, and 95th Infantry Divisions. The 10th Armored Division had already moved up to VIII Corps on December 17. The 5th Infantry Division was in the Saarlautern–Roden and Fraulautern bridgehead across the Saar River, engaged in tough street fighting. It had relieved the 95th Infantry Division in the bridgehead on December 17 and assumed command at 0600 the next morning. Two regiments of the 5th Infantry Division had attacked on...

    • 7 Third Army Attacks, December 22–23
      (pp. 137-165)

      The speed with which Patton pulled Third Army out of Lorraine and moved it north unsettled Eisenhower and his staff. Patton noted on December 21, “I received quite a few telephone calls from various higher echelons, expressing solicitude as to my ability to attack successfully with only three divisions.” He declared, “As usual on the verge of action, everyone felt full of doubt except myself. It has always been my unfortunate role to be the ray of sunshine and the backslapper before action, both for those under me and also those over me.”¹ At the 1000 SHAEF meeting, Tedder and...

    • 8 A Rendezvous with Eagles, December 24–26
      (pp. 166-178)

      December 23 was not a productive day for Third Army. While CCB recoiled from the counterattack at Chaumont, the tanks of CCA sat virtually idle the whole day on the south bank of the Sûre River, after having cleared Martelange by 0300 that morning. Corps engineers, assisted by the 24th Engineer C Battalion, could not complete a ninety-foot-long Bailey bridge until approximately 1400.¹ Meanwhile, Earnest ordered a company to take the high ground immediately across the river, and the infantry made its way across the blown bridge without opposition. Had theFallschirmjägervigorously defended the heights beyond, it is likely...

  12. Photographs
    (pp. None)
  13. Part IV. The Incomplete Victory

    • 9 Patton’s Alternative Lines of Action
      (pp. 181-199)

      At this juncture it is important to examine Patton’s estimate process. Through it, the historian can evaluate his favored lines of action and compare them with those favored by Eisenhower and Bradley. The estimate process was designed to guard against selecting lines of action that did not lead anywhere decisive. The estimate offers insights into Patton’s ability to think and plan beyond the present problem faced by Third Army. He had accomplished his initial mission. He had reoriented Third Army, penetrated the German southern front, and relieved the 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne. Even as the 4th Armored Division made...

    • 10 Path to Attrition, December 27–29
      (pp. 200-225)

      Late on December 25 Manteuffel told Model that the window of opportunity to take Bastogne had vanished and that the attacks in the Marche sector had achieved only limited success. This estimate reached Model onlyafterhe had sent his own estimate at 2000 to Hitler via telegram throughOB West, recommending that the bulk of the panzer armies should advance to the area of Ciney (approximately nine miles from the Meuse) and wheel to the northeast to attack Allied forces oppositeSixth Panzer Armee. Model had resurrected his “small solution” and clearly identified Third Army as the main Allied...

    • 11 Slugging Match, December 30–31
      (pp. 226-240)

      On the west side of the Bastogne corridor theXLVII Panzerkorpsformations crossed the LD at approximately 0730—the3rd PGDadvancing on Villeroux, and theFBBadvancing on Sibret. Despite the fact that 4th Armored Division and III Corps artillery pounded Denkert’s assembly area in the southern edge of the Bois de Fragotte, andPGR 29did not arrive and detruck until 0630,3rd PGD’s attack started off well. Yet it was brought to a halt by CCA/9th Armored Division, under command of VIII Corps as of 0600, short of Villeroux. Denkert did not possess sufficient artillery to properly...

    • 12 Culmination, January 1–4
      (pp. 241-260)

      On December 31 Eisenhower cabled Marshall that there were “several indications that the Germans may be preparing a counter offensive in the area of the upper Rhine.”¹ As a precaution, Kibler sent a message to Third Army at 1730 to “initiate without delay” the necessary reconnaissance and organization to tie into Patch’s reserve position west of Bitche.² Less than six hours laterHeeresgruppe Glaunched OperationNORDWIND. Rundstedt had begun planning it on December 21 as a way of taking advantage of Patton’s withdrawal from the Saar sector to deal with the southern flank of the Bulge. Hitler, however, expanded...

    • 13 The Harlange Pocket, January 5–8
      (pp. 261-274)

      The intense fighting around Bastogne since December 30 had taken its toll on Middleton. Gay visited him on January 5 and observed, “It was quite remarkable to note the difference in the attitude of the commanders.” Middleton was “quite depressed and felt that he could not attack, and also questioned if he could hold against the enemy’s attacks.” On his own authority Gay advised Middleton to postpone his next attack in order to re-form his divisions and improve his attitude. The commanding officer of the 194th GIR/17th Airborne Division appeared more positive, telling Gay, “God, how green we are, but...

    • 14 No Risk, No Reward, January 9–25
      (pp. 275-302)

      January 9 was a dull, cloudy day with heavy snowfall. XIX TAC flew only twenty-four missions during the day. Third Army attacked at 1000, but not with the number of divisions Patton expected. He spoke of the new offensive in terms of a “hell of a show which should really rock them,” but Middleton held back the 17th Airborne Division, ordering Miley to assume defensive positions and consolidate. Miley reflected that Middleton ordered him to conduct active patrolling “so as to avoid an appearance of the defensive.” With Miley’s paratroopers consolidating, it is difficult to explain why Maddox’s G-3 situation...

  14. 15 Assessment
    (pp. 303-324)

    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’scommand techniqueencompassed 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’soperational techniquecan still serve the modern practitioner of maneuver warfare....

  15. Appendixes

    • A. Eisenhower’s Order of Battle, December 16, 1944
      (pp. 325-334)
    • B. German Order of Battle, December 16, 1944
      (pp. 335-345)
    • C. German Reinforcements versus Third Army, December 22, 1944–January 18, 1945
      (pp. 346-346)
    • D. Selected ULTRA Messages
      (pp. 347-349)
    • E. Weather Conditions in Third Army’s Area, December 23, 1944–January 10, 1945
      (pp. 350-350)
    • F. XIX TAC Daily Fighter and Fighter-Bomber Sorties, December 22, 1944–January 28, 1945
      (pp. 351-351)
    • G. Third Army Reinforcements versus Casualties, December 22, 1944–January 28, 1945
      (pp. 352-352)
    • H. Patton’s Staff
      (pp. 353-354)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 355-426)
  17. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 427-446)
  18. Index of Military Units
    (pp. 447-471)
  19. General Index
    (pp. 472-490)