RANGER AGAINST WAR: Battle of the Bulge <

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Battle of the Bulge

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The U.S. Army Freedom Team puts out a publication called "The Salute", subtitled (What else?), "I was a soldier, I am a soldier, I will always be a soldier." Their Fall issue offers a gloss on the Battle of the Bulge, some points with which Ranger will take exception:

"On December 16, 1944, two German armies attacked the American First Army in Belgium and Luxembourg. Two divisions, the veteran 28th Infantry and the green 196th Infantry, were virtually annihilated in two days of heavy fighting. Two other divisions, the 99th and the 4th, also took casualties, but remained intact."

While the 196th was green and faced a formidable enemy, they were not annihilated (virtual annihilation only occurs when your crops fail in Farmville.com). While I was recently impressed with revisionist historian Niall Ferguson's interview on the Charlie Rose show, my stomach for revisionism goes only so far. The 422 and 423 Regiments surrendered and ceased to engage the enemy, but they were hardly annihilated, so this is a false historical revision. The division only lost 400 plus killed in the entire 63 days they served in combat.

"The Bulge was closed on January 13 when Soldiers from the First and Third armies met in Houfflalize. In the end it was the GI -- the Infantryman, tankers, engineers, clerks and paratroopers of the U.S. Army -- fighting against the German wave that gave the American generals time to organize an effective strategy. With the plan in place, courageous Americans pinched off the Bulge and defeated the last German offensive of the war."

This is included to salute the bravery of the Americans during the Bulge, a battle which proved as always, American fighting men will carry the day. However, this was not the last offensive, but the last "strategic" offensive. the Germans still operated offensively in a tactical situation. A gander at the Eastern Front will verify this.

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16 Comments:

Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

strategically, the bulge would have been a non-factor. even had it succeeded beyond hitler's wildest fantasy, the result would have been exactly the same, on both of his fighting fronts.

the germans might have succeeded in splitting the western front into halves, north and south. they would not have ever been able to "drive them back into the sea" or create yet another dunkirk.

the only thing the bulge would have ever created was a little longer of merciless killing, maybe using an atomic bomb on gernmany rather than two on japan. (one on hiroshima, one on berlin would have probably brought both sides to the table. after all, the biggest trouble with a nuclear weapon is that it has no practical value until people know you have it).

nothing would have been accomplished by a successful counter-offensive at the bulge, except more, deadlier, war.

p.s. my pet peeve among misunderstood and misused terms in war is using decimated when they really mean the shit kicked outta them.

decimation was a harsh and drastic punishment given by the romans for an entire legion (between 3,000 to 5,000 depending on the period of time)which disobeyed orders, mutinied, or exhibited cowardice in battle.

the legion was mustered, deviced into its cohorts (10's).

each group of ten men had one man selected by lot, he was then beaten to death by the remaining nine.

if a cohort refused to go through with its assigment, the entire cohort was flogged, then beheaded.

the punishment was so extreme, so vicious in its results but also in its application that it was very seldom used.

gaius marius, sulla, and ceasar all refused to employ it, even in the face of bald mutinies saying that it showed a level of failure in command that they would not admit.

crassus, lucullus, pompei strabo carnifax, fabius, a metellus pius each used it once.

decimation implies, by its root of decis that there is a reduction by a tenth.

by its real meaning, it implies that a just, but horrible verdict has been imposed.

Saturday, November 14, 2009 at 11:51:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous barcalounger said...

I've read Donald Burgett's Seven Roads To Hell about his time with the 506 PIR in Bastogne. Those guys were some tough hombres.

Saturday, November 14, 2009 at 12:02:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Joe said...

The inconsistencies in the battle of the bulge don't compare to the biggest lie in American schools about WW2. That is that the United States won it in Europe.

3/4 of the German forces were on the Eastern Front. The Russians had to push the same distance if not further and still managed to get to Berlin first and cause the German surrender.

The Germans would have lost WW2 regardless of American involvement, it would have just lasted longer and been much bloodier.

Saturday, November 14, 2009 at 12:12:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

MB,

While reading your response, I wondered if the wd. "crass" descends from Marcus Licinius Crassus?

--materialistic, greedy, etc.

Saturday, November 14, 2009 at 12:23:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

MB, Barca and joe,
I agree with all u guys say.
jim

Saturday, November 14, 2009 at 2:15:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

MB,

If the Germans were wildly successful they then could not exploit their success, lacking strategic and/or operational reserves; the entire operation lacked depth. This would have made any success at the Bulge similar to Lee's victories.

They were victories and nice to the touch but never strategically exploited. Now Grant on the other hand....

It's like the US winning every battle in RVN- it's irrelevant.

The perspective you bring is always most illuminating.

jim

Saturday, November 14, 2009 at 5:15:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

crass very well might be a derivation of crassus. his greed, and his unscrupulous methods of gaining wealth were legendary.

one of his best scams was arson. he would have a gang of slaves set a block or two in the subura district of rome on fire, then, crassus' slaves would show up to put out the fire (at the expense of the landowner, or, if the landowner couldn't pay, then crassus would take ownership)

he also was very liberal with his loans to other patricians. especially those, like caesar, who came from old and distinguished families, but were down at the heels with cash.

crassus financed caesar's ransom from piracy, also caesar's initial forays in roman politics as an adile who was mainly responsible for putting on the roman games. putting on a great and expensive show, feeding the multitudes well and such was a traditional way for a young man to make his splashing entry into the world of the senate.

crassus financed caesar willingly, and caesar repaid him with loyalty, right up until caesar got his own money by trouncing the gauls and the germans.

chafing under the loss of his most agile and most dangerous client, crassus, flush from his trouncing of spartacus began to feel that he needed a foreign triumph to enhance his dignitas to a level more equal with his once subordinate friend. he chose the parthians, they kicked his ass all over syria, wiping out two full consular legions.

caesar was only a few days from taking the field against parthia when he was murdered.

i'll do some digging into that entymology.

Sunday, November 15, 2009 at 2:05:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Bob,

I meant no disrespect to you or your mate. My comment on the 106th just happened to come after your heartfelt remembrance as I'd just gotten the magazine. Please don't take it personally as it was not meant that way

Sunday, November 15, 2009 at 12:28:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

MB,

Thank you, as always, for sharing your in-depth knowledge. He does seem "crass".

Sunday, November 15, 2009 at 12:40:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim,
Sorry I got so hot. When triggered my PTSD bites me, and anyone in remote proximity in the ass. As you all your readers might have have noticed....

Still I have go out and bite a few dogs. I'll be better in a few days. I meant no disrespect either.
Peace,
Blackhawk187 aka Bob

Sunday, November 15, 2009 at 2:00:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

The intelligence failures of Omar Bradley and his 12th Army Group G-3 are the real villains of the piece on the Allied side. Brad usually gets a pass because he was supposedly such a "nice guy", but he/his staff:

1. Got caught up looking over Hodges' shoulder at the Aachen Gap and Patton's shoulder at Metz,

2. Unforgivably, kept shoving Hodges' men, especially the Bloody Bucket, into the meatgrinder of the Huertgen Forest, and

3. Underestimated their enemy's tactical capabilities and morale.

The 106th had been in the line 5 days; it was greener than grass. It was a very marginal infantry division to begin with, having been stripped for cadre at least once (and I think twice) before; many of the officers and NCOs barely knew the men they led. The division was placed in an untenable position by First Army, supported by an exhausted 28th, and was attacked on 12/16 by a 5th Panzer Army superior in every military aspect.

Add to that the character of MG Jones, the 106th CG, who from everything I've read effectively fell apart by 12/18/44 and was relieved on the 22nd. He made no real effort to fight his division, and it showed.

The two surrounded regiments hung on for three days, which helped delay the German attack. The 424th, the remaining 106th regiment, did pretty well with the experience they gained in the early days of the Bulge.

But as a division the 106th was overwhelmed in three days; that's the historical record. So for Jim to say that the 106th combat effectiveness as a unit was extremely low is a harsh assessment but not unrealistic.

Sunday, November 15, 2009 at 7:56:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

FD Chief,
My cmts are really not about the 106th div but rather the Army printed material saying that they were annihilated when this is not factual.
jim

Monday, November 16, 2009 at 10:31:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Bob,
Your cmts are always welcome here but Rangers Rules of Order must be followed.
And of course the Ranger gets the last word.
jim

Monday, November 16, 2009 at 10:43:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

Check.

My comment would be that their wording was very poor (especially for a publication; where were the editors?) but you could make a case for their main point. A unit that takes 60% casualties is effectively destroyed. The 106th had, in practice, ceased to exist as a maneuver element by 12/19/44.

But you are exact in your observation that "annhilated" is a poor description for what happened. "Broken" or "combat-ineffective" would have been more correct.

Monday, November 16, 2009 at 11:59:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

FDCHIEF,
The Germans learned in the ost to fortify towns and key terrain often called road junctions. This allowed the troops to at least sleep out of the sub zero weather. Why the US cmd did not do likewise at /before the Bulge is a mystery to me.We could've occupied towns and formed little fixed fortress type combined arms task forces instead of occupying indefensible extended frontages. But we didn't even tho the Kraut couldn't atk cross country with Infy or armor. They were restricted by the terrain and the weather.
So the question is why? The troops deserved better than that, but few criticize the battle b/c it's too sacrosanct. We can't criticise WPers can we?
The main losses to the 106th was prisoners lost to the Germans. This alone was enuf to render the unit combat ineffective.
Army schools always put this figure at 30 % for a unit to become inoperational. Sometimes cross levelling will work as we saw in the German experience in Russia.
All in all the Bulge was a snuffy victory for the allies.
jim

Monday, November 16, 2009 at 4:15:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Note:

12/3/09: A few comments were removed from this post at the behest of the commenter. This rare editorial move was made in respect for this person.

L.

Thursday, December 3, 2009 at 7:42:00 PM GMT-5  

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