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September 28, 2012

Battle of the Bulge

Battle of the bulge
            The Battle of the Bulge that is also known as Von Rundstedt Offensive and Ardennes Offensive, was started on 16th December 1944 and ended on 25th January 1945. This battle considered the massive German offensive against the allies. This war launched at the densely forested region of Ardennes Mountains that was the area of Wallonia in Belgium. German called this war as a “Operation Watch on the Rhine". While the US army pronounced it as “Ardennes-Alsace campaign” officially. However, generally this war known as “Battle of the Bulge” generally by the English speaker community. (Eggenberger & David, 1985)
This German attacks were the combination of different supporting and subordinate operations that are also known as Greif, Währung and Unternehmen Bodenplatte. According to the German plan the aim was to split the American and British Allies by capturing the area of Antwerp located in Belgium and further proceed to capture and destroy the remaining allied forces by pushing the Western Allies to negotiate about the peace treaty. (U-S-history, 2010)
Germans started this plan with strict and high secrecy. To maintain and assure the secrecy Germans minimized the radio traffic and prefer to move in the dark with their equipments and arsenals. The important factor of this war is that
“Hitler had convinced himself that the alliance between Britain, France and America in the western sector of Europe was not strong and that a major attack and defeat would break up the alliance. Therefore, he ordered a massive attack against what were primarily American forces. The attack is strictly known as the Ardennes Offensive but because the initial attack by the Germans created a bulge in the Allied front line.
Hitler’s plan was to launch a massive attack using three armies on the Allies which would, in his mind, destabilize their accord and also take the huge port of Antwerp through which a great deal of supplies was reaching the Allies. The plan was:
The Sixth Panzer Army, led by Sepp Dietrich, was to lead the attack and to capture Antwerp
The Fifth Panzer Army, led by Manteuffel, was to attack the centre of the American forces, capture the strategic road and rail centre of St Vith and then drive on to Brussels.
The Seventh Army, led by Brandenberger, was to attack in the southern flank, as designated by Hitler, and to create a buffer zone to prevent American reinforcements from attacking the Fifth Panzer Army. The Fifteenth Army was to be held in reserve to counter any Allied attack when they took place.
Hitler believed that his forces would be able to surround and cut off Canada’s First Army, America’s First and Ninth Armies and Britain’s Second Army. On paper, it was a seemingly absurd plan – especially as Germany had been in retreat since D-Day, her military was depleted of supplies and was facing the awesome might of the Allies. However, Hitler, as commander-in-chief of the military, decreed that the attack should take place”. (Historylearningsite, 2010)
The German plan to keep secret each and every activity was the major cause of first successful attacks on allies. According to the secret, following four criteria was the critical factors to make the plan successful:
  • “the attack had to be a complete surprise;
  • the weather conditions had to be poor to neutralize Allied air superiority and the damage it could inflict on the German offensive and its supply lines
  • the progress had to be rapid—the Meuse River, halfway to Antwerp, had to be reached by day 4
  • Allied fuel supplies would have to be captured intact along the way because the Wehrmacht was short on fuel.
  • The General Staff estimated they only had enough fuel to cover one-third to one-half of the ground to Antwerp in heavy combat conditions.” ( Parker, &Danny, 1994)
In the final phase of planning and preparations:
“Hitler and his staff left their Wolf's Lair headquarters in East Prussia, in which they had coordinated much of the fighting on the Eastern Front. After a brief visit to Berlin, on 11 December, they came to the Eagle's Nest, Hitler's headquarters near Bad Nauheim in southern Germany, the site from which he had overseen the successful 1940 campaign against France and the Low Countries. In a personal conversation on 13 December with Friedrich von der Heydte, who was put in charge of Operation Stösser, General field Marshall Model gave the entire operation less than a 10% chance of succeeding. Model told him it was necessary to make the attempt. "It must be done because this offensive is the last chance to conclude the war favorably. ( Parker, &Danny, 2004)
This strategy was the catalyst to overrun the German on Americans.
Before the attack, the allies were totally unaware and blind about the German plan and the movement of their troops. During the France liberations, the widespread network of French resistance gave key intelligence information about the Germans movement and dispositions. Once they reached the borders (German), the source dried.
In France, order had been communicated among the German army by using radio massage that was enciphered by the specialized machine known as Enigma machine, these message could be traced and decrypted by the German enemies’ code breakers.
In Germany, these types of orders were normally transmitted by using the teleprinter and telephone devices. Furthermore, a special silence order was imposed that was pertaining to the radio; the order was imposed on all matters that was related to the upcoming attack or offensive (as Americans pronounced). The major attack in the Wehrmacht resulted in comparatively higher security and minimal leaks.
            Thus, the high command of the Allies was considering the Ardennes as sector of quiet or in other words quiet sector and was relaying on the information that was being analyzed and communicated from their intelligence departments. This information was that, German army was not able to operate or initiate any major attack or operations in that period of war. While in fact, due to German army efforts, the allies were led to consider that the new defensive forces was being established around the area of Düsseldorf , northern Rhine, possibly to guard against the English offense.
            German did this by increasing the quantity of flak batteries and the fake multiplication of radio signals and transmissions all over the area. On the other side, the allied forces were not paying attention on that signals and activity because they were considering this information is useless and unimportant. This over confidence of the allies on their ability, capability and skills of their professional intelligence department and networks was the major cause of this surprise attacks and the reason to over ran the Americans, obviously by the Germans. (Dougherty & Kevin ,2002).
Here, at this point it should be remembered that following American Army officials predicted correctly the capability of German attacks and intensions to the USA and their allies.
The U.S. Third Army intelligence chief, Colonel Oscar Koch, the U.S, First Army intelligence chief,  SHAEF intelligence.
But all the predictions were not noticed by the United States Army Group. This price of that ignorance and reliance on the intelligence unit was very costly that had to Pay by the United states army and allied forces (Dougherty & Kevin, 2002).
Another reason of Germans overran to the Americans was the extreme weather conditions that provide the shelter to the German armies to attack as a surprise.
“Much of the battle was affected by the weather. Great snowstorms were a big problem. Trucks had to be run every half hour to keep the oil in them from freezing. Weapons froze, so men urinated on them to thaw them. The temperature during January 1945 was the coldest on record, and casualties from exposure to the cold grew as large as the losses from fighting. The Germans attacked in white uniforms to blend in with the snow.” (U-S-history, 2010)
This extreme weather conditions was the main cause to add the success in German side for continuously five days that was covered by the fogs that was creating a fifty miles westward bulge in the proper queue that gave this battle a popular name “ the Battle of Bulge”.
This heavy fog and stormy weather was the main catalyst to increase the number of causalities and losses. During those days the seven thousand and five hundred American soldiers died, that was the worst lost for Unites states army during the Entire the era of World War II. Furthermore, at the vicinity of Malmedy that was the northern part of the front, the eighty one causalities of unarmed American documented that was shot dead by the troops of Waffen. Besides that, another incident that is following was the major cause of confusion that led to Germans overran the Americans:
“Meanwhile, several jeeploads of Skorzeny's imposters penetrated the lines and caused disruption as planned. Given the vastness of the front, their overall impact was rather limited. However, one team had a huge impact, chiefly resulting from their capture by suspicious Americans. During interrogation, they revealed details of the whole commando mission. As a result, the news flashed all along the front that German saboteurs were masquerading as Americans. This was a psychological blow to the beleaguered Americans, creating an atmosphere of widespread mistrust. Americans who didn't know each other beforehand now demanded answers to off-the-cuff trivia questions such as who had won the last World Series in baseball”. (History place, 2010)
This battle was consisted of several attacks and segments on different areas like Attack on the northern shoulder, Operation Stösser, Malmedy massacre, Wereth, Battle for St. Vith, Operation Greif and Operation Währung, Attack in the south and Siege of Bastogne, specially the Kampfgruppe Peiper (a German Army Officer) movements, when he moved to east section that was the another phase of Germans over ran the Americans.
The Peiper entered the area of Honsfield where that encountered the one of the United States army rest center. Their soldiers killed many Americans and destroyed the heavy number of United States armored units and equipments. Peiper also succeeded to capture the vicinity and fifty thousand United States gallons of vehicle fuels. Peiper also achieved many successes like:
“Peiper then advanced towards Büllingen, keeping to the plan to move east, apparently unaware he had nearly taken the town and unknowingly bypassing an opportunity to flank and trap the entire 2nd and 99th Division. Peiper suddenly turned south to detour around Hünningen, interested only in getting back onto his assigned route……. the 12th SS Panzer Division, reinforced by additional infantry (Panzergrenadier and Volksgenadier) divisions took the key road junction at Losheimergraben just north of Lanzerath and attacked the twin villages of Rocherath and Krinkelt. However, after more than ten days of intense battle, they were able to push the Americans out of the villages, but were unable to dislodge them from Elsenborn Ridge, where elements of the V Corps of the First U.S. Army prevented the German forces from reaching the road network to their west” (Quarrie & Bruce, 1999; Ralph & Hersko, 1998).
To be precise, the Siege of Bastogne was the final battle ground, where this phase of war means that “the Battle of Bulge” concluded in the favor of American and the Allies, in spite of the silent and proper planning and rigorous attacks by the Germans that was also backed by the weather conditions. However, this silent planning initially helped Germans to overrun the Americans.   According to sources that further describe the Siege of Bastogne situations:
“Bastogne was a strategic position which both the Germans and Americans wanted to occupy. This lead to a race between the American 101st Airborne divisions and the Germans. The Americans managed to get there first and occupy the city. The Germans were not far behind and quickly surrounded and laid siege to the city. This city was an important strategic location for the Allies because this city could be used as a base to launch a counteroffensive. On December 22 German officers under the flag of truce delivered a message from General der Panzertruppe von Luttwitz Commander of XLVII Panzerhops, demanding the surrender of Bastogne. After receiving the message Brigadier General Mcauliffe exclaimed "Aw, nuts" which was his official reply to the request for surrender. This message was delivered by Joseph Harper to the Germans. He told the Germans it meant they could all go to Hell. With that they parted and the siege continued. Because the Americans were surrounded the only way they could get supplies was by air drops. However because it was the winter and the weather was bad for a long time planes could not fly. The Americans had to survive the best they could until the weather finally cleared up. The Americans at Bastogne were relieved when the VII Corps moved down and enlarged the U. S. line. This allowed Patton's Third Army to counterattack the Germans surrounding Bastogne. The Third Army was then able to push the Germans past the border of Bastogne”.
“Bastogne was not out of danger however, and on December 29 troops from the 101st Airborne division left Bastogne to fight the Germans. At this time the weather had cleared up which allowed Allied air support for the first time. At the same time General Hodges 2nd Armored divisions repelled the 2nd Panzer division short of the Meuse River at Celles. The Allies launched a counteroffensive two days before the New Year. This counteroffensive involved the U.S. Third Army striking to the North while the U.S. First Army pushed to the South. They were supposed to meet at the village of Houffalize to trap all German force. The Germans did not go easily however and the Americans had a rough time. Day after day, soldiers wallowed through the snow. Newspapers were put under clothes as added insulation.
On January first, Hitler launched a plan he called "The Great Blow." The goal of this plan was to eliminate Allied air power. At 8:00 A.M. German fighter airplanes swarmed over Belgium, Holland, and northern France. For more than two hours Allied airfields were bombarded. By 10:00 A.M. 206 aircraft and many bases layed in ruin. Hitler's plan had a great deal of damage to Allied aircraft. However, the price he paid for this was devastating. The German Luftwaffe lost 300 planes and 253 trained pilots.” (Juntosociety, 2010)
It was the bloodiest battle of world war two that American and allied forces faced; The Outcomes of the Battle was very severe. According to the estimate:
“The official U.S. account lists 80,987 American casualties, while other estimates range from 70,000 to 108,000.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense the American forces suffered 89,500 casualties including 19,000 killed, 47,500 wounded and 23,000 missing. (Miles & Donna, 2004).
An official report by the United States Department of the Army lists some 108,347 casualties including 19,246 killed, 62,489 wounded and 26,612 captured and missing. (cgsc.cdmhos, 1953)
British losses totaled 1,400.
The German High Command's official figure for the campaign was 84,834 casualties, and other estimates range between 60,000 and 100,000”.  (MacDonald & Charles B,1998)
Despite the efforts of secret planning and continuous attacks, the German had to leave the battle ground when Hitler ordered to withdraw the troops from the Bulge area after his realization of German army’s failure and finally on the 28th January the Battle of the Bulge is finalized in favor of American and the Allies and it officially declared as well on that date.


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