The Battle Of The Buldge The Battle of The Bulge As 1945 approached it seemed, to most, that Germany’s surrender was only a matter of time. The Allies, having been on the offensive for so long, had an all time high determination and morale. The idea that Germany could muster the supplies, troops, or will to launch an offensive seemed crazy. In fact, many were already asking the questions of when and where the assault on the Rhine should be launched. Hitler, utilizing his talent of strategic vision, noticed a hole in the Allies defenses.
He saw the Ardennes Forest of Belgium was lightly defended. The Ardennes Forest had traditionally been thought of as impassible to tanks and there fore not an option for either side. The Allies left only four divisions to defend a front of over eighty miles. Because the Germans had now been pushed back almost to Germany, and in some places were already fighting on German soil, the Allies lost the important intelligence on troop movements provided by French and Belgium residents. As a result Germany was able to do major troop movements and buildups right behind the front lines.
Hitler secretly assembled the twenty-one divisions that would later take place in The Battle of The Bulge with out the Allies even knowing. Field-Marshal von Rundsted is generally credited with the plans for the offensive, however in actuality he was strongly opposed to the plan. It was Hitler and his immediate staff who secretly developed the plan, and turned down all requests for changes or revisions. In one of von Rundsted’s request for revisions Hitler responded The Plan itself is irrevocable(World War II Trevor Hall and Gerald Hughes, Smithmark Publisher) The plan was actually brilliant in its simplicity, and if Germany had the fuel, men and supplies that Hitler’s plan required, it could have succeeded giving Germany a major victory in the west. Fortunately for the Allies, Hitler’s idea of the amount of fuel and number of men at his disposal was greatly exaggerated, and his plan did not take into account that three of his Panzer tank divisions were down to roughly 100 tanks per division, less than half the amount in the American armored divisions.
At 5:30 in the morning of December 16, 1944 with the benefit of fog and clouds keeping Allied planes on the ground, Hitler attacked a 90 mile American front between Monschau and Echternach using twenty one German divisions high on morale but low on fuel. The first wave of the attack was by the 150th Panzer Brigade, a unit of about 2,000 English speaking Germans who knew American slang and customs. Under command of Colonel Otto Skorzeny, and using captured Jeeps and wearing American combat jackets, the Germans moved through the American lines cutting telephone wires, turning signpost, and setting up false mind field indicators. The 150th was under orders that if captured tell the Americans that thousands of Germans in Jeeps were behind the American lines. This operation was a huge success thirty-two of the forty Jeeps that went in came back, and the ones who did not make it kept their orders and spread rumors of large number of undercover Germans. The Americans took the bait and set up checkpoints causing massive traffic jams and hundreds of American soldiers were sent to jail if they could not answer check questions such as the height of the Empire State Building.
Later the Americans commended these under cover operations as Military Genius. Less respectable were the acts committed by the 1st SS Panzer Brigade known as Battle Group Peiper. This unit captured the city of Stavelot and discovered a group of civilians huddled in a basement, the Germans took them out and shot in cold blood. Later that same day the US 99th Infantry Division retook Stavelot and held their positions until reinforcements arrived. Ironically while Peiper was held up in Stavelot he was with in a mile of a lightly guarded American fuel dump containing 2.5 Million gallons of gasoline. But he did not know that it was there and therefore made no attempt to capture the fuel that could have changed the entire offensive. While Peiper was held up in the north von Manteuffel’s 5th army busted through the US 106th Division.
By the following day the 5th Panzerarmee had forced the surrender of 7,000 men. Further south the 58th and 47th Panzer Corps had made strong progress and each was close to their goals of Hoffalize and Bastonage. Only now two days after the offensive started did the Allies realize that it had a chance of succeeding. Putting an exclamation point on this thought is the fact that the US First Army HQ at Spa had to be quickly relocated after the 6th Panzerarmee advanced only miles from the town. On December 19 the German 47th Panzer Corps reached the town of Bastogne about the same time as the reinforcements, the 101st Airborne Division.
That same day the US 30th Division was sent to reinforce the 99th division at Stavelot. With the help of air attacks these two divisions cut off Peiper Battle Group from the rest of his army, and began pushing him back. By the 24th he had no gasoline at all, he and his troops abandoned their tanks and walked back through the Ardennes Forest. Further south on that same day von Manteuffel’s 5th Panzerarmee had taken the city of St. Vith and forced the US 7th armored division to retreat.
The Allied line was now burst wide open, Eisenhower acted quickly, putting Montgomery in charge of all the forces north of the breach and Bradley in command of those south of it. On December 21st General Bradley gave General Patton the task of counter attacking von Manteuffel in order to relieve Brigadier-General McAuliffe and the 101st at Bastogne. The 101st had been at Bastogne for three days, completely cut off from all American reinforcement when German General Luttwiz offered them terms of surrender. McAuliffe’s response to the German white flag party..Nuts!, puzzled the German asked the meaning of this answer McAuliffe then responded Go to Hell! By December 24, Christmas Eve the bad weather had cleared and the allied airforces mad up for lost time flying 17,000 sorties in the next three days. von Rundstedt once again requested that the whole offensive be called off, Hitler refused.
By now the defenders at Bastogne were almost defeated but knew that reinforcements would arrive soon. On December 25th Christmas day German tanks made a last ditch effort to break into the town, but remarkably the 101st held out. At 4:46 Pm on the 26th the US 4th Armored division broke through and made contact with the exhausted troops at Bastogne. By the 24th Patton’s counter from the south was pushing the German 7th army back. The 7th army and von Manteuffel’s 5th Panzerarmee combined but were still not strong enough to stop Patton.
Hitler released the 9th & 15th Panzer divisions from reserves, but even they were not enough to stop the counter attack by General Collins. On December 26th he retook Celles just five miles from Hitler’s goal, the Meuse. This was the turning point of the battle. On December 27 von Manteuffel received the reinforcements he had been waiting for, but they were too few too late. Even if they would have arrived on time he lacked the fuel to put them to good use. The Battle of The Bulge was over Hitler’s last offensive had failed, but there were significant losses on both sides.
The Americans could replace the weapons and tanks lost ,Germany could not. All said, The Americans lost 76,890 men, the Germans 81,834, over 700 US tanks were lost as opposed to Germaney’s 324 and 590 American planes were downed compared to 320 Germans. Bibliography Bibliography World War II Trevor Hall and Gerald Hughes, Smithmark Publisher, New York NY, 1998 Battles of the 21st Century Ivor Matanle, Canon Publishing, London England, 1989 Microsoft Encarta ’95 1992-1995 Microsoft Corporation European History Essays.