The Ardennes Offensive

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by Croft, Jun 2, 2013.

  1. Croft

    Croft New Member

    When the Germans attacked on December 16 1944 hoping to reach Antwerp they had a to big objective. Hitler demanded to much so even when they were succesful as with achieving surprise and a breakthrough they ruined it by striving for to much.

    Would they have been more succesful if the objective had simply been the US formations in front of them instead? They largely destroyed one US division, if the objective of the entire offensive had simply been the encirclement and destruction of say three US divisions while holding off US relief attempts (3rd Army) instead of attempting a deep drive could they have been succesful? Their fuel shortage wouldn't have hurt them so badly if they were dug in around 3 US divisions with their entire 250,000 force shelling and squeezing them while holding off Patton. They wouldn't have had a huge flank for Patton to attack while they themselves were running out of fuel.

    If they'd been succesful they could have then withdrawn under pressure to their original line. Would the removal of three US divisions have helped retard the Allied pressure on them that later forced the Rhine?
  2. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Sounds like a ''What If..'' type of thread , we don't do them here.
    We prefer ''what did''.
  3. Joe Brown

    Joe Brown WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    The successful blitzkrieg attack was the modus operandi of the Hitler strategy. It had proved so surprisingly successful in the opening phase of the Second World War, except in the end they did not follow through the guiding principle which had served them so well: reinforcing success and crossing the English Channel. Yes, they would had stretched their lines of communication so unwisely according to our understanding of the Principles of War, but the concept of grab what you need could well have won them a secure foothold on British soil.

    They were weary and tired of their aggressive mobile defence tactics forced upon them by the weight of the Allied attack when they failed to repulse the Normandy landings but had needed to resort to these tactics in order to gain time for the German High Command to resume operational manoeuvrability. That time was never regained! So in the death throes of the Hitler regime a blitzkrieg attack through to the Port of Antwerp would have been a decisive victory and could have given them time to seriously challenge the control of the air with the rocketry of new weapons. Here, Dear Immoderator, I am stepping dangerously in the realms of "WHAT IF" but at my considerably advanced stage of life I can risk all by making this statement!

    With regards on this lovely sunny Sunday morning!

    Joe Brown.
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  4. gpo son

    gpo son Senior Member

    Well played Mr Joe Brown particularly liked the way you skirted the well camouflaged 'What if scenario' truly masterful, indeed kudos (;
    Oh yes; the nothing Hitler could have done in December 1944 would have changed the outcome of the war by more than a few weeks. Of course wasting many more thousands of lives. IMHO
  5. Croft

    Croft New Member

    I didn't know there was a no what ifs thing. :)
    Anyway it's a question that I've sometimes wondered about as to whether a "damage their forces" rather than a "drive deep" offensive would have aided the German position and prolonged the war. The American shortage of divisions situation would have been worsened. But obviously whatever happened they were going to lose, I'm not wondering about that, that had been certain since December 1941.
  6. merdiolu

    merdiolu Junior Member

    Actually both Von Rundstedt CiC West of German Army and Walther Model commander of German Army Group B advocated a limited attack towards weakly held US front in Ardennes and to pinch out Aachen salient. Hitler just did not listen them and insisted offensive should go all the way to Meuse and Antwerp due to political moral reasons and Nazi standing on German public. "German people demand a huge victory" he said. Result was "a second Stalingrad" said Von Rundstedt after the war.
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  7. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place.... Patron

    Hitler was a gambler.

    The "small solution " could never have delivered what he needed, a decisive victory that might split the western allies. Its a similar issue about the use/ misuse of the Me262 as a bomber. The Me262 may have been the best fighter in the world in 1944 and capable of clawing hundreds of B17s from the skies, but that would not win the war. Hundreds of Jet bombers might have made a difference to D Day..

    The Ardennes was supposed to be earlier than December and envisaged as a counter stroke against exhausted allied armies which were at the end of their logistic tether. The Ardennes offensive needs to be seen in the context of the German operations after Normandy. On the Eastern Front the Germans had successfully stopped Red Army offensives and inflicted losses after the Red army had become over extended. It happened after the 1941 Winter offensive and after Stalingrad and they had crushed the Warsaw uprising at the end of 1944 summer offensive. Hitler wanted to launch an attack initially inot the flank of the advancing allies in September 1944 from the area SW of Nancy, which is why 5th Panzer army were facing Patton..
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  8. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    One of us had this story a bit skewed and I don't know which of us it is...... but my version is of an undereinforced American line - which had been pointed out to Bradley who had failed to recover his losses in Normandy

    plus the idiotic Hitler with the age old Schiefflin plan which was so successful in driving a wedge through the British - French troops and caused the inglorious retreat to Dunkirk in 1940 - the only good part of that story was the saving of so

    many British - and French troops to fight again in the desert of Africa until December 7th 1941 when the US of A was surprisingly attacked at Pearl Harbour by the Japanese and joined in the fun...

    Your reference to Patton coming head to head with 5th panzers is also in doubt as he was actually by passing the break through and had ONE armoured Div turn left to meet with the German 7th Infantry army at Bastogne.....meanwhile both

    Eisenhower and Bradley were shacked up with a couple of babes in the Trinonion Palace 400 miles away until four days after the breakthrough and finally believed what they had been told by intel that time Montgomery had given

    orders to Gen Horrocks to move his corps from the coast across the five divisional admin and supply trails of the Canadian Army and augment with 51st Div - paras and one Armoured brigade to line the Meuse - as knew of this plan since ww1 and stop the German advance

    which happened at Celle just short of the Meuse - Hitler lost so much there that he recalled his troops to lose more battles.....

  9. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place.... Patron

    You are correct to point out that the Allies did not have enough troops in December 1944 to adequately defend all of the territory they had captured in the pursuit from Normandy. This was a consequence of the decision to pursue the Germans on a broad front after Normandy as far as possible and liberate as much of Western Europe as possible to try to end the war in 1944.

    On 1st September 1944 the Allies had around 40 divisions ashore in France. This was really just the advance guard of what had always been seen as C 100 divisions needed to defeat the Germans in the West, and what the huge US army had been recruited to do. The Op Overlord Plans expected the Germans to fall back to the Loire-Seine line as the allies strength increased. The Allies were not expecting the battle of Normandy to end with a German collapse in France. When the Germans did collapse the Allies seem to have assumed that the war was nearly over, despite the evidence from the Eastern front that the Germans would rally and counterattack an over extended pursuer.

    My comments about 5th Panzer Army v Patton refer to the battles in September not December. This battle tends to be ignored by the British who tend to consider September 1944 as the Op market Garden story. Hitler had been planning counter strokes against the Western allies from July onwards, based far more on big hand and small map than on the realities of the fighting power of the armies. He wrecked the 7th and 5th Panzer armies with the decision to mount the Mortain counter attach in August.

    In September he attempted to launch a counter stroke into the flank of 12 Army group from the bugle held by the 19th Army South of Nancy.. The 5th Panzer army, with 47th and 58th Pz Corps, three panzer divisions and as many as possible of the new panzer brigades are deployed , but the Americans (and French)_ beat them to the punch and the Germans are used head on at Nancy against Patton. The tank battles around Arracourt by the 4th US Armoured Division against half a dozen German formations is an epic, and establishes the reputations of Bruce C Clarke and Creighton Abrams. Here is a situation map from the US Campaign history. , If you are interested in the story from the German point of view "Ruckzug" by Jochaim Ludwig is very good.. .

    .I don't think the allies can be faulted for pursuing vigorously after Normandy., Every square metre of liberated Europe was freedom from Nazi rule for someone. The Ardennes was he result of a calculated risk. However, the Allied commanders seem to have ignored the risks of a German recovery and failed to set the expectations to their political masters, the press or the public. As a result we tend to see the Ardennes as "the allies caught napping" and not "the Germans lured into mounting an attack with the last of their strength at a very low chance of success in an unimportant area" oh and their utter defeat.
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  10. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    The Ardennes offensive was one of those Hitler far fetched ideas that did not have a remote chance of achieving.The idea was to take Antwerp to split the British and US Army formations and destroy the port, to deny supplies being brought up the Scheldt to Antwerp.To this end,Antwerp was to be subject to a heavy bombardment from V2 rockets..probably the city with the maximum number of V2 rockets fired at it.

    Hitler likened the operation as being decisive,similar to the Dunkirk victory.So engrossed was he in the plan that he took personal control over it and in his irrational thinking thought it would lead to the Allies to sue for peace.His thinking was based on a report from Guderian that there was a window,as he saw it,that the Red Army were not likely to attack on the Eastern Front but were building up reserves for anticipated offensives in East Prussia and on the Vistula...calm reigned over the whole front as Guderian put it.

    The Ardennes offensive took the Allies by surprise as the Germans had safely withdrew behind the Siegfried operation which Hitler appraised as a "unexpected success" for the Allies.Further there had been heavy raids on 10 synthetic oil plants in the Ruhr during December and it was thought that the oil stocks would prevent extensive enemy operations.

    Hitler had already instructed Jodl to plan for an Ardennes offensive from 24 September 1944 and by 12 October 1944,Jodl produced the plan as "Wacht am Rhein" Then at the end of October,Hitler presented the plan to his inner military circle and demanded that they sign the plan to secrecy.When Hitler launched the offensive on 16 December 1944 from the Eifel Mountains,the success of the initiative and Hitler realised this, was that the weather forecast of unfavourable flying weather would hold and put the Allies at a disadvantage.Then at the end of December,Guderian reported personally to Hitler that a serious offensive was anticipated in the East.Hitler reserved his decision regarding the continuation of the Ardennes offensive but next day in a reported weak voice announced to his conference "As a result and with a heavy heart I have decided to bring the Ardennes to a halt and transfer Dietrich's 6th Tank Army,as well as the principal forces of Manteuffel's 5th Panzer Army to the Eastern Front"

    By this time the Ardennes offensive was over,Model had failed to take Antwerp,recognising that he did not have sufficient strength.Allied air power had won the day as the weather turned for the better and had played a key role in the defeat of the German armies.The withdrawal of the 6th Army had no bearing on the outcome of the battle.

    Dietrich was said to have declared when he received orders on a withdrawal."The Fuhrer needs to be clear on one thing,if my army is withdrawn,then for the British and the Americans,the road is open to the Rhine"

    The cost to the Germans was 17200 dead,34000 wounded and 16000 as POWs while the US lost 30000 dead and missing and 47000 wounded.
  11. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    We tend to see that " the allies were caught napping" was in fact true - OR - at least SOME of them as Montgomery had advised Bradley that he was "thin on the ground" in that sector of the breakthrough only to be told that

    he should mind his own British Business ( see Hamilton "The making of a General " ) The Americans never appreciated Monty's experience of fighting Germans and their ability to come back but then it was near Christmas and holiday time

    so Monty arranged some time in the UK - which was cancelled on day 1 - but both Eisenhower and Bradley went off to the Trinionon for their jollies and although both Strong and Whitely warned of the threat - and were fired by Bedell Smith -

    it still took four days for orders to be issued - that - in our terms means that SOME of the allies were caught napping...

  12. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    One of the aspects of the Ardennes offensive was the separating rumour from fact as far as the Allied top brass was concerned.As it was panic set in until the aim of the German thrust was understood and action taken in a measured response.

    News emerged of the involvement of Skorzeny's special unit operating behind the Allied lines wearing American uniforms and using captured vehicles.As said, Eisenhower and Bradley, together with their staffs were down at Versailles and precautions were quickly put together against an anticipated threat of them being seized,by such special forces in that part of liberated France...a threat which in the end did not materialise.

    Skorzeny had previously won the admiration of Hitler in his daring liberation of Mussolini from Italian partisans and was given the special task of operating behind Allied lines by Hitler himself....whether or not the Allies knew of his previous exploits is not known.
  13. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Old Hickory Recon


    I realize that in your world, the US could not, and still cannot, pour piss out of a boot even with instructions on the heel.

    1. Every single US division that was transferred from the US Ninth Army to the US First Army was on its way before Montgomery was offered temporary command of the US First Army, with the exception of the US 2nd Armored*. Even though it was Monty who requested the 2nd Armored (Ninth Army's reserrve), it is highly unlikely that Simpson would have denied Hodges the request, as they were old friends from the First World War.

    2. Even before Montgomery asked for Collins and VII Corps HQ, Hodges had already allerted Collins to move to the Ardennes and prepare to attack.

    3. Montgomery wanted to pull back from Elsenborne Ridge even as the battle there was almost finished with a US victory, but thankfully he bowed to Hodges' objections.

    4. Montgomery wanted to immediately abandon St Vith, which would have given the Germans early use a vital road net in the north, but again he bowed to Hodges' objections. By the time he specifically ordered a withdrawal, Hodges had already given permission to the CO on the ground, Hasbrouck, to withdraw when he thought necessary. Hasbrouck was already making preparations to do so.

    5. Montgomery ordered the 82nd AB to withdraw from the Salm River to the Trois Ponts-Manhay line, but Ridgway had already directed Gavin to prepare for such a withdrawal and the move was aleady ready to happen.

    6. Montgomery then ordered the relinquishment of the Manhay crossroads. Hodges, recognizing that it opened to the Germans another route to the Ourthe River, ordered the crossroads retaken.

    7. Here is your favorite. Montgomery ordered Joe Collins (VII Corps) to assemble for an attack, but when most of Collins' force became involved in a defensive battle, he authorized a withdrawal. Instead Collins attacked and stopped the Germans short of Meuse.

    Montgomery was a good British leader and he served your King well. As with any other human, he was not the infallible, almighty god of war.

    Thankfully there were British forces available to add more muscle to the fight and the placing of the XXX Corps as Ninth Army reseved gave Simpson and ultimately Hodges far more latitude in choices had the powerful reserve not been ready.

    It is amazing that while Montgomery was busy winning the battle all by his lonesome (in the north), there was still a bit of a scrap going on along the southern shoulder of the bulge that was being won by US forces in the absence of the steady hand of Montgomery. But that is impossible, isn't it, Americans could not do anything right...

    One other thing, exactly how far away is Versailles from Luxembourg City? It is not as though they had to take a ship or airplane to get to it.

    *including my friend's 30th ID, which left Valkenburg the afternoon of the 16th, bound for the area around Malmedy.
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  14. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    For the contribution of British ground forces to the BoB see:

    They did not stop the German Offensive, but merely had a brush with advance elements of the 2nd Pz Division, near Foy-Notre-Dame. The lack of petrol and the timely counterattack by the US 2nd Armoured Division is what brought the German advance to a halt near Dinant.
  15. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Hello Jeff,

    It is a fact that all warnings to General Bradley from ULTRA of the Germans concentrating forces in the Ardennes were ignored or not attributed enough credence (and even hushed-up) and a terrible mistake for him not to have ordered General Hodges US First Army to be in a state of readiness, just in case, rather than static (and for Hodges not to have been ready anyway). The Germans attacked and the rest is history.

    General Hodges did give orders that resulted in certain isolated defensive or offensive actions, but did he exert grip and control of the battlefield? And where was General Bradley?

    On 19 December Montgomery sent Captain Carol Mather, one of his trusted young liaison officers, to see General Hodges, First Army HQ at Spa. He found the HQ deserted: “A hurried evacuation has evidently taken place. We walk in. The tables are laid for Christmas festivities. The offices are deserted, papers are lying about. Telephone lines are still in place. The German attack is more serious than we thought for the evacuation shows every sign of a panic move.” Mather eventually found Hodges at Rear HQ, considerably shaken, unable to give a coherent account of the battle situation. Hodges was also out of touch with Bradley’s HQ. Montgomery also sent a telegram on 19 December to the CIGS Field Marshall Alan Brooke in London: “great confusion and all signs of a full-scale withdrawal – a definite lack of grip and control – an atmosphere of great pessimism…” Page 192, The Battle of the Bulge – Hitler’s Final Gamble (Delaforce).

    …it is true that during the 33 days of battle, Bradley never met with either General Hodges or Simpson… Page 380, The Battle of the Bulge – Hitler’s Final Gamble (Delaforce).

    It was grip and control of the battlefield in the north of the bulge that Montgomery immediately provided. He commanded the battlefield. That is not the same as winning the battle on his lonesome.

    “The operations of the US 1st Army had developed into a series of holding actions. Montgomery’s contribution to restoring the situation was that he turned a series of isolated actions into a coherent battle fought according to a clear and definite plan. It was his refusal to engage in premature and piecemeal counter-attacks which enabled the Americans to gather their reserves and frustrate the German attempts to extend their breakthrough.” General von Manteuffel, Fifth Panzer Army.

    When the battle was all but over Montgomery then praised the US forces under his command in the north of the bulge.

    On 12 January Montgomery sent Bradley a really warm friendly letter: “I would like to say two things (1) What a great honour it has been for me to command such fine troops. (2) How well they have done… it has been a great pleasure to work with Hodges and Simpson: both have done very well. And the Corps Commanders in the First Army, Gerow, Collins and Ridgeway have been quite magnificent…" Pages 379 & 380, The Battle of the Bulge – Hitler’s Final Gamble (Delaforce).

    He also praised the robustness and fighting qualities of the American soldier.

    I doubt very much that Monty bowed to General Hodges objections. It was possible to persuade him that a different course to that he desired to tidy-up the battlefield was better; he had many faults but he was neither a despot or a fool. Monty never was focussed on gabbing or holding land for the sake of it. He was interested in defeating the enemy and if that meant rocking with the punches - making strategic withdrawals - until he was ready to inflict the decisive blow that was fine. He would never have allowed the Germans to cross the Meuse, and that is why British XXX Corps was moved to it and camped there as the longstop.

    Again, authorising General Collins to withdraw is not the same as ordering him to. Monty was empowering General Collins to do as he saw fit. Indeed, it is a matter of record that even before the bulge Monty thought General Collins to be a very fine commander of Armour; he greatly admired Lightning Joe’s ability.

    Monty did indeed serve his King well, but he also served the American people well. He brought order where there was disorder and ultimately saved many thousands of American lives.


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  16. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    It would appear that I have no need to respond to your post as Steve Mac has obviously read the history of that particular battle correctly inasmuch as even Manteuffel agrees with Steve - now Manteuffel is of the same nature as Monty -

    thorough professional who knows how the game is played.....

    with warmest regards jeff

  17. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Steve - With all respect, but your post is asking for a bit of counter-balance.

    First, I don't consider Delaforce an authorative source to quote from. For example I would like to see an ULTRA warning (never saw one) indicating German troop concentrations in the Ardennes. The problem was that the Germans were concentrating troops north and south of the Eiffel (the eastward extension of the Ardennes area into Germany) opposite the main drives of the US 1st/9th US Armies (Aachen Gap) and US 3rd Army (Saarland) respectively. Only at the very last moment the German attacking force secretly concentrated in the assault positions.

    The story of Captain Mather also sounds a bit exaggerated, tables laid for Christmas festivities a week prior to Christmas? Rubbish! Hodges evacuated his Army HQ because of an acute threat, German armoured spearheads were fast closing in on the area his HQ was located in (1st SS Pz Div at Stavelot - Trois Ponts - Stoumont 18/19 Dec 44; I recently did a small BFT in that area, see: Mather, with his whipped up story, probably wants to hide the fact that he was ill-informed of the latest moves of the US Army HQ. A bewildered Hodges? probably dead tired after several days and nights of continuous action. If Mather's impression of an Army Commander who had lost his grip on the battle had been true, Hodges probably would have been sacked. Instead he remained in command. Monty, after taking over command in the North, sanctioned all/most of his decisions.

    The battle, at first fragmented, was rapidly taking shape. The US troops were building strong flanks anchored on the northern and southern shoulders at Elsenborn and Echternach which were holding fast.The US holding actions were very instrumental in slowing down the German advance, so much so that by 19 Dec Manteuffel (!) and Von Rundstedt already considered the offensive lost. The Germans were unable to exploit the initial surprise because of the determined defence by the Americans and the quick response of the Allied Team. Reserves were flowing into the Ardennes from north and south right from the outset of the German attack on 16 Dec 1944. Creating a uniformed command in the North was another of the quick responses of the Allied Team.

    IMO it was not one or the other general nor the British or American Army that won the BoB but the Allied Team.
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  18. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    I am not about to re enter this argument about the Battle of the Bulge but I note that you don't give much credence to Steve Mac's account of the Delacourt source - so perhaps you might like to read perhaps a better account of that Battle from Monty's point of view as written by Nigel Hamilton especially Volume three - "MONTY - The Field Marshal 1944 - 1976 " as a fair account of what actually's a big book and I would suggest that you start at the Maastricht Conference ( CH 6 - pp 161 ) until the end of the Battle .. this might give you a better perception of the ups and downs of the events as they happened..and the personnel's a fairly comprehensive account...

  19. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Dear Tom - there's nothing wrong with my perception ... the controversy/polemic between Bradley/Montgomery flared up after the Germans in the Ardennes were finished off and is of no military significance for the course of the Ardennes battle.
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  20. Joe Brown

    Joe Brown WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    As a footnote to this excellent thread, may I relate I was one of a large group of officers called to a briefing by Monty at the time of the Ardennes Offensive. We gathered in a large hall, warned not to smoke, called to attention, and then Monty began by telling us to have a good cough and then no more! In his clipped form of speech he expertly briefed us on the situation, told us he had been asked to take charge of the area to deal with the break-through and to go back and tell your men "that I, Monty, am in charge and all is well." I was impressed how well the Jocks received that message and were reassured by it.

    An excellent General; brilliant leadership.

    Joe Brown
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