The Ardennes Offensive 16 December 1944-25 January 1945

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At 0530hrs 16 December 1944, hell was unleashed upon an 80 mile wide swath of Allied lines in the form of a 90 minute artillery barrage by the Nazis. The Allied command wasn’t worried though. They thought they were facing a localized offensive by the 6th SS Panzer Army. The Allied “brain” trust figured this was in response to the Americans temporarily breaching the Siegfried Line in the Wahlerscheid section days earlier. Of course these geniuses were wrong and the Nazis were launching a last ditch, desperate counter attack to land a “knock out” blow and gain the upper hand over Allied forces besieging Germany.


That was Hitler’s hopeless dream. If the Nazis did manage to secure all their objectives, they never would have been able to hold them but holding their hard fought gains wasn’t the point of the Ardennes Offensive as we shall see.

Before I continue, I need to warn the readers of this post that it’s going to be a long one and I’m omitting lots of info to shorten it as much as possible. I suggest before you dig into this article you use the restroom, get yourself a beverage of choice and perhaps a delicious sandwich or snack.

BACKROUND:

December of 1944 things were desperate for the Nazis. They were fighting a stubborn delaying action that was probably the best outcome for the Krauts since they no longer had to defend western Europe. The Nazis were fighting on their own ground behind the Siegfried Line (thanks for that one Eisenhower, you incompetent boob. YOU SHOULD HAVE GIVEN PATTON THE GAS, FUCK HEAD.) with drastically shortened supply routes. Still the Nazis only had 55 divisions facing 96 Allied divisions crouching at Germany’s door, and the Allied air campaign of 1944, for the most part, broke the back of the Luftwaffe so like I said…dire.

Hitler, for being mostly an idiot militarily and other ways, was smart enough to realize that the rapid advance of the Allies since September, well the rapid advance of the 3rd US Army that drug along the rest of slow moving dullards like Gen. Bernard Law Montgomery and that backstabbing bitch Omar Bradley, was outstripping the Allies ability to supply the fast moving attack of the 3rd Army. The reason for this was the Nazis still controlled/destroyed a majority of deep water ports on the English channel so the Allies were resupplying from the D-Day beaches in France. The opening of the port at Antwerp in late November eased the supply problem a little but it made the port an attractive target for Hitler’s mad plan. There were a lot of needed supplies in Antwerp and along the roads to Antwerp. Most especially petroleum for tanks, trucks and APCs.

Lastly, there was the steady advance of the Soviets and their probable winter offensive believed to be scheduled for a 20 December start. Hitler thought that if he could neutralize the western front by splitting the Anglo-American alliance with a well timed breakout, then he could sue for a separate peace with both countries. If Hitler could somehow pull this miracle off then he could concentrate on defeating the Soviet barbarians pillaging their way west. This was a pipe dream of epic proportions.

PLANNING:

With all these problems in mind, Hitler and his staff started planning his grand masterstroke against the Allied armies of the west in October of ’44. Right from the start Hitler chose the Ardennes as the place for his salvation. He, in his nuttiness, was operating in the past and thought he could recreate the success the Wehrmacht and SS had in Belgium in 1940. In this thinking he was at least a bit correct because by early December the area was sparsely defended and was mostly populated by green replacement units or units rotated to the rear to rest and refit after the savage fighting of autumn.

From the start, the planning of the operation was marred by unrealistic assumptions by Hitler. Even his pet generals, Jodel and Von Runstadt, thought the plans were entirely unlikely to succeed so they tried to advance their own scaled back ideas which Hitler flat out rejected. Hitler was laboring under the delusion that Germany could still turn out the needed weapons and materials and had the personnel to sustain a large and rapid thrust westward. Further, Hitler thought that Germany had enough of the “Wonder Weapons”, like advanced artillery and the Leopard tanks, to make a major contribution to his poorly thought out offensive scheme. Also, this one he got a bit correct, the weather would help neutralize the air superiority of the Allies. Lastly, Hitler thought he could pull all this off by late November to get ahead of the obvious winter offensive being planned by the Soviets. Of course it was insane to think you could organize this massive of an operation, in secret, in about 6 weeks. It couldn’t be done so the start date was pushed back to mid December. As you can see, there were a lot of unrealistic assumptions in Hitler’s order of battle.

While planning for the Ardennes Offensive, Hitler had 4 major criteria in mind in order for the operation to be successful. Let’s look at them and see how they fared.

  1. The attack had to be a complete surprise. DUH, that’s a basic tenet of warfare. OK, I’ll give them this one. The Germans managed to mostly keep out of sight of the Allies. The US 3rd Army intelligence picked up on something going on and told SHEAF HQs an attack was going to happen. They were backstopped (never one source your intel, basic rule) by a lessening of radio traffic picked up by ULTRA intercepts and by some oddly encrypted radio traffic. This info did get the Bletchley Park wizards thinking that an attack was in the works. Mostly though, by using German telephone and telegraph lines and avoiding the use of radios as much as possible, the Nazis ducked Allied intelligence for the most part.
  2. The weather had to be bad. The Nazis got lucky on this one and it was probably good they were forced to delay the attack until mid December. The weather was awful with thick cloud cover and constant snowstorms, fog and freezing rain and the storms were expected to last at least through Christmas. The weather grounded Allied aircraft which the Nazis desperately needed to happen because the Allies air superiority would stop their advance cold by destroying the Nazi supply lines.
  3. Rapid advance, another basic tenet of warfare. In order for Hitler’s cockamamie scheme to work, they needed to get half way to Antwerp in under four days and to capture major communication and roadway hubs like Bastogne, which they didn’t as we will see.
  4. Lastly and the most critical part of the operation, the Nazis had to secure Allied fuel stores because POL for Nazi tanks, trucks and APC were at critically low levels

SPECIAL OPERATIONS

Nazi plans called for two special operations to go along with the ground assault. If you are talking about commando operations in Nazi Germany, you are talking about the legendary Otto Skorzeny. Skorzeny and his English speaking disciples were tasked with Operation Grief which called for the infiltration of Allied lines dressed in captured American and British uniforms during the artillery barrage. Their objective was to cause as much mischief as possible by changing road signs, disrupting communication, small scale ambushes and assassinations, misdirecting traffic and seizing bridges on the Meuse river. It was an aptly name operation and Skorzeny had some small success but he and his commandos were not able to seize the bridges on the Meuse and Operation Grief wasn’t the game changer envisioned. The best success Operation Grief had was by a couple of captured commandos that manged to spread a rumor that Skorzeny was on his way to Paris to kidnap that dummy Eisenhower. That caused the dipstick to be isolated in a secure location during Christmas.

The other operation was a last minute addition to the battle plan. It was called Operation Stösser lead by Oberst Friedrich August Freiherr von der Heydte, the hero of the Crete disaster. This plan was doomed from the beginning. Heydte had only 8 days to plan the only nighttime vertical envelopment operation conducted by German Fallschirmjäger (Airborne troops). Heydte was forbidden from using his own unit because the Nazi high command feared it would tip the Allies to their plans. Instead he was given 900 troopers he didn’t know and hadn’t worked with previously   plus 150 of his own troops that disobeyed orders and went with Heydte. It’s virtually impossible to win in combat under those conditions and Operation Stösser was a complete failure. Only 300 of 1100 paratroopers even made it to the DZ. 300 troopers were not enough secure their objective, the crossroad at Baraque Michel. They ended up wandering around being a slight nuisance until the less than 100 troopers left manged to make it back to the German lines

THE GROUND ASSAULT:

The plan for the ground assault was a three pronged operation of tanks and Infantry mounted on any powered transport the Nazis could find making them into a motley array of mechanized Infantry. Hitler called for the three prongs, the North, Center and South, to move out immediately after the artillery barrage ended. They were supposed to punch through the Allied lines, split them asunder and allow the follow-on units to destroy the individual pockets of Allied soldiers while the three main thrusts drove on through, ceasing key roadways and the port at Antwerp and encircling the Allies. Victory, Hitler believed, would force the Allies to seek peace with Nazi Germany. Let’s take a look at each arm and see if they achieved their objectives.

Northern Shoulder:

north attack

Of the three prongs of the Nazi attack, this one might have been the most important due to the fact the Jerries thought it had the best equipped and arguably the best  lead unit, the 1st SS Panzer Division commanded by Waffen SS Obersturmbannfuherer Joachim Peiper, as the point of the spear for the attack for the 6th

Waffen SS Panzer Army. If you have ever seen the movie The Battle of the Bulge (Warner Bros 1965), Peiper was the inspiration for the Col. Hesseler character played by Robert Shaw. Originally they were going to use Peiper as a character until some smart guy realized that A.) Peiper was still alive and could sue, B.) Was a hardcore SS officer that spent time as Himmler’s chief of staff, C.) Was involved with the Einsatzgruppen in Eastern Europe and deported Jews in Italy and D.) Ordered the massacre, via automatic weapons, of 75-85 American POWS at the town of Malmedy. At the town of Wereth, 11 black US Army POWS were tortured and then shot to death. Peiper was a hell of a tank commander but a total nut case as a human being so it was probably a good thing that Warner Brothers changed Shaw’s character’s name and made him a Wehrmacht Officer instead of Waffen SS.

The 6th SS Panzer Army’s main objective was to seize the port at Antwerp and the Allied gas depots on the way to Antwerp. Almost immediately the attack bogged down because of the stubborn resistance by elements of the 2nd and the 99th Infantry divisions. It should be noted that the heroic stand of an 18 man intelligence and reconnaissance unit of the 99th Infantry and 4 forward air controllers that were able to hold off a 500 man Fallschirmjäger battalion for 10 hours probably won the Ardennes Offensive for the Allies. This stand created a bottleneck for the 6th Panzer Army and let US Army engineers destroy important bridges that the Nazis needed to advance the attack and fortify important roadway strong points. It also led to Peiper and his commander, SS Oberstruppenfuherer Sepp Dietrchit (another prize piece of shit) to make some truly disastrous decisions like bypassing a flank attack that would have overrun the 2nd Infantry. Those decisions made the 6th Panzer fail in taking their objectives and securing the vast amount of American fuel stores in the area.

Many historians feel that the defense put up by the 2nd and the 99th Infantry is what caused the Ardennes Offensive to ultimately fail. The 6th SS Panzer not securing needed supplies and major roadways was nothing less than disastrous to the Nazi high command. The 99th was outnumbered by 5 to 1 but was able to inflict damage on the 6th SS Panzer Army by a ratio of 18 to 1. The 99th lost 20% of it’s effective fighting force to injury and death but they managed to thwart the most import sector of the Nazi attack and they destroyed 60 tanks and artillery pieces and killed almost 4000 Nazis. In my opinion that’s a good day of work.

Center Attack:

center attack

The Nazis fared better in this area and drove farther westward than they did up north principally due to the somewhat poor leadership exhibited by the English and American commanders at first and by the fact that the units in this area were spread even thinner than the ones up north. The German 5th Panzer Army was led by one of the Wehrmacht best tank commanders, General der Panzertruppen Hasso-Eccard Freiherr von Manteuffel who was also the overall ground commander, easily bypassed the far flung units of the 28th and 106th US Infantry divisions and a couple of battalions of English Armored Cavalry. All these factors lead to the pincer movement of Von Manteuffel’s 5th Panzer to be initially successful and to make the deepest inroads west that any German unit made in the Ardennes Offensive. It should be noted that the center attack is the area Skorzeny and his commandos operated so that helped. Like both the north and south AOs there were key places of resistance that held up the Germans advance and made Hitler’s ambitious plan a massive failure.

The first was at St. Vith, an important roadway juncture the Nazis had to take in order to move the supplies that Peiper was supposed to secure but failed to. The Nazi Operation Order called for St. Vith to be secured by 1800hrs on 17 December. The defenders of St. Vith, the 7th and 9th US Armor and elements of the 28th Infantry, were ordered to retreat by English General Bernard Law Montgomery on 23 December after their flanks began to crumble after nearly 5 days of continuous combat. The ferocious defense of St. Vith caused the Nazis to miss a central objective of the OPORD and delivered a coup de grace to the Nazi time table.

The second, failure of the 5th Panzer Army, was not being able to secure the bridges over the Meuse river. The backbone of the defenders of the Meuse were elements of the British 29th Armor brigade, some minus tanks and a scratch force of Infantry made up of US Military Police, US Army Air Corps personnel and REMFs, basically anybody they could shove a rifle in the hands of and told to go fight as Infantry. These support troops were thrown into combat on 19 December and blunted the farthest westward advance of any German unit, elements of the 2nd Panzer Division 5th Panzer Army of the Wehrmacht. The bridges never fell into enemy hands and were never seriously in jeopardy of falling to the Germans, not even close. Those men deserve recognition for their warrior spirit in stopping the Nazis. If the bridges had fallen, the Nazis would have driven into Liege and seized the much needed supplies to continue their attack

The center attack was the one that had the largest number of casualties of the three arms. Even though this represented the most successful AO for the Nazis, it was still a failure since the major objectives were not met.

The Southern Arm:

south attack

This is probably the most well known area of the Ardennes Offensive since this is where the Siege of Bastogne occurred (more on that below). It showcased the tactical and strategic genius of the saintly Gen. George S. Patton Jr (more below) and it showed just how lethal the US 3rd Army was (more below).

The southern arm of the Nazi attack was spearheaded by an amphibious assault across the river Our by the 7th Wehrmacht Army led by General Der Panzertruppen Adolf Brandenberger. Their objectives were to put pressure on the key roadways leading to Bastogne and St. Vith, to seize the bridges over the Our river around the town of Ouren in order to facilitate the encirclement and to provide flank security to the 5th Panzertruppen. Almost immediately they ran into stiff resistance by the 112th battalion of the US 28th Infantry. Their continuous front, sometimes stretching as much as 5 miles, kept the Our river bridges in Allied hands. As you can see, maintaining the bridges and road junctions were of paramount importance to the Allies. The fight put up by the 28th and less experienced 106th Infantry divisions slowed the German 7th Army advance to a crawl for three days until they were forced to retire the field. More importantly, it bought enough time to get the ill supplied but magnificently led 101st Airborne into Bastogne and fortify it before the Nazis could seize the vital roadway and communication hub. The German OPORD called for Bastogne to be taken within two days but the bitter fighting and massive transport issues the Nazis faced around Bastogne caused them to be a day over their time estimate, in essence they had lost already.

THE SIEGE OF BASTOGNE:

By the afternoon of the 17th, it became clear to Boobenhower and his coterie of shit flinging monkeys that it was more than a localized counterattack taking place in the Ardennes. When they finally snapped to the fact they had a full fledged battle on their hands, they made plans to throw reserve and resting units into the crucible of combat to secure important areas in the path of the 7th Wehrmacht Army like Bastogne. Orders were issued by late in the day on 17 December to the 82nd and 101st Airborne to load up in any truck they could find and move 100 miles east from Holland into Belgium and take up blocking positions in the path of the 7th Army. At the same time, orders were issued to elements of the 10th Armor to take up position around Bastogne to guard the crucial road, rail and communication hub. While the two Airborne units hurried east in freezing temps with sleet, snow and mud dogging them the whole way, the 10th Armor began rolling into town. Instead of going on to Elsenborn Ridge with the 82nd, it was decided that the 101st would link up with the 10th Armor since the 101st was undermanned and supplied after the hard fighting in Holland during Operation Market Garden, thus the stage was set for one of the greatest stands in Military History.

By getting into Bastogne ahead of the Nazi columns, that gave the 10th Armor and the 101st Airborne about half a day to harden the perimeter around the town and set up pickets, OPs, LPs and ambushes outside the perimeter to further slow down the Nazi tanks and Infantry. It worked but it was savage combat. The 7th Army was already weakened by having to slug its way through the furious defenses of the 28th and 106th Infantry for 3 days and they weren’t counting on that. By the time the Nazis forced those fine Infantrymen from the field, the 7th Wermact Army had wasted unplanned for lives and supplies and had to face the other great fighting force of the American Army, the 101st Airborne. Even though the 101st was short on everything from bullets to food to warm clothing, they and the 10th Armor never cracked, never faltered, never wavered and gave more than they got. The Battling Bastards of Bastogne were infrequently supplied by air when a pilot would brave the stormy skies and anti-aircraft fire to resupply them. It was never enough but the paratroopers of the 101st continued to fight and fight magnificently. Airborne all the way.

When Brandenberger saw what he had to face in Bastogne after a day and half of combat, he decided to bypass it and left two lesser divisions to invest Bastogne in order to starve out or destroy the 101st. On 22 December, an offer of surrender was extended to General McAullife, the commander of 101st and overall commander of the defense of Bastogne, by General Heinrich Freiherr von Lüttwitz, commander of the Wehrmacht troops investing Bastogne (Surrender Document) . When informed of the demand, McAuliffe said, “Nuts”. When pressed to make a formal reply to the German offer, one of McAuliffe’s staff suggested that a better answer couldn’t be written and thus the second best reply ever to an offer of surrender was made. “NUTS” was scrawled across the offer sheet and sent back to the Germans. The response had to be explained to them. In case you were wondering what the greatest reply to an offer of surrender is, it was Leonidas at the last battle of Thermopylae. When asked to lay down arms by the Persians, Leonidas’s two word reply was “Molon labe” which means come and take them.

Meanwhile Brandenberger rolled the dice and tried to press forward to seize the Our river bridges and continue his flanking sweep towards Antwerp but the splitting of his force was a huge mistake. Brandenberger’s 7th Army was already weakened and was further reduced by about a third, leaving soldiers behind to invest Bastogne and he didn’t have the resources or the manpower to fight his way through.

For seven hellish days the paratroopers and tankers in Bastogne fought like Ares reborn and were never overrun. They were still in command of Bastogne when the 3rd Army broke through to relieve them. That magnificent stand has earned them a place of honor next to the Spartans at Thermopylae, B.Co 24th Infantry at Roark’s Drift and the Marines at the Chosen Reservoir. The warriors of Bastogne’s names are etched on the walls of Valhalla. What was the reward the Battling Bastards of Bastogne got for their stand? They got to lead the counter attack. That’s right, they kept on fighting.

THE SAINTED LT.GEN. GEORGE S. PATTON, THE LETHAL 3rd US ARMY AND THE ALLIED COUNTERATTACK


On 19 December 1944, a hastily assembled meeting of British and American commanders met in a bunker at Verdun to listen to the wisdom of Boobenhower and his carpet piddling mutts. Ike said the attack was actually a good thing because it drew out the Germans from their defensive positions and they were easier to attack in the open and on the move. Boobenhower’s exact words were “The present situation is to be regarded as one of opportunity for us and not of disaster. There will be only cheerful faces at this table.” From down that table, one wit realized what the dipstick was saying and opined loudly “Hell, let’s have the guts to let the bastards go all the way to Paris. Then, we’ll really cut ’em off and chew ’em up.” That wit was George S. Patton.

In response, Ike testily said to Patton he wasn’t that optimistic. Then, in an attempt to bitchily embarrass Patton, asked how long it would take Patton to disengage the 3rd Army, at that time actively engaged in hot combat in north Central France, pivot north and drive to Bastogne to relieve the already beleaguered 101st Airborne. To the shock and astonishment of all present, Patton said he would have 2 divisions on the road in under 48 hours. By the time Patton uttered those portentous words, forward elements of 3rd Army were preparing to move north towards Bastogne.

General Patton was by far the best commander America had in WWII. Hell, Patton was the best general IN WWII from ANY Nation. In my opinion, Patton was also the greatest commander America has ever produced. He had it all. A command of tactics, a nose for strategic planning, he was a leader of men that knew exactly how to motivate his soldiers and he had an unparalleled grasp of logistics. Lastly, he was a funny mother. Except for maybe General Maxwell Taylor (101st Airborne commander, CoC JCS, future diplomat) and Marine General Alexander Vandergrift (1st MarDiv Commander at Guadalcanal future Commandant CMH), Patton was the most well read General in harness even though he was probably dyslexic. If there was ever somebody that the term fighting General could be applied to, Patton was it. The interesting thing though about Patton was for all his bombastic public blood and guts statements he was really quite troubled over the deaths of his soldiers, enemy soldiers and especially civilians. That’s why Patton preferred enveloping movements over frontal attacks. Patton’s private correspondence showed he was basically a gentle soul who had a genius for war and leading men in combat. Probably the most obvious example of Patton’s noble spirit was how much he was loved by his horses and dogs. When Patton was put on ice after he gave a well deserved slap to a coward in Italy, he got another in a long line of Bull Terriers he dearly loved and named him William the Conqueror, called “Willie” for short, that was as devoted to Patton as Patton was to him. That dog fought with Patton from  France to Berlin. I think this picture taken after Patton’s death shows Willie’s devotion.

george-patton-dog

OK, enough gushing over my man crush, let’s get down to brass tacks here and talk about one of the most breathtaking military maneuvers ever pulled off in combat.

How was Patton able to disengage two divisions locked in mortal combat, pivot them north, and get them on a dangerous road filled with ice, snow and belligerent enemies in under 40 hours? Simple. Before he left for the meeting in Verdun, he had his staff, made up of some of the finest minds (Oh yeah I forgot to mention Patton was a great evaluator of talent and not afraid to employ smart people unlike other Generals), make 3 separate contingency plans for just such a situation because he saw the possible need for it because Patton was a strategic thinker. By the time he made it back to 3rd Army HQ from Verdun, the scout and forward units were starting to move out. His reserve were taking up positions behind the line units preparing to pivot and take off for Belgium. This was done so that the line would fill instantly and not leave any exploitable gaps the Germans could strike through.

3rd US Army

Why were the Infantry and tankers of the 3rd Army able to not only make it to Bastogne intact and chew up the Nazis along the way and launch a furious attack on the units besieging the town? Simple. Patton instituted a tough, hard and demanding training schedule. Nothing and no one escaped his notice from mistakes made. It didn’t matter if it was the lowliest fuzz nut private or his XO,  fast and hard corrections came down. The 3rd Army had one paramount rule, produce no matter what. If you couldn’t find the answer you got fired and the next guy got fired and so on until the problem was solved. For the 25 months of the 3rd US Army’s existence, no other unit went so far, so fast, with such lethal results. This success is attributed directly to Patton. His distinctive personality was stamped all over his Army.

Allied Counterattack

On 23 December, the skies over Belgium began to clear slightly and according to Patton, it was because he ordered his chaplain to order God to clear the skies so he could get at the “Kraut SOBs”. With the weather cooperating, the pilots of the USAAF and Royal English and Canadian Air Force got in the game. First they were able to drop ammo and food on Bastogne in larger amounts to keep them fighting, then they began heavy bomber raids on German supply points and fighter aircraft hit troops and tanks in the open.

By 24 December, the Germans were stopped cold and running out of supplies so they decided to launch a massive but concentrated attack aimed directly at the British XXX Corps, who they thought they could handle easier than the Americans, but the English stood up under a harrowing barrage of Nazi artillery and tanks and held the bridges at Dinant, Givet, and Namur that the Nazis were desperately trying to take.

Late in the evening on 24 December, Hasso von Manteuffel, the overall ground commander and commander of the 5th Panzer Army had to admit to himself that the attack had failed and the Nazi forces were stalled. He requested of Hitler that Nazi forces fall back to the western wall. He was denied his request.

On 25 December, elements of the 15th Panzergrendiers atttached to the 26th Volksgrenadier Division launched a last ditch attack on Bastogne in an attempt to wrest control away from the American defenders ahead of the hard charging 3rd Army. Thankfully, the 26th VG did not have enough personnel to launch an all out attack across the entire perimeter of Bastogne so instead they settled on a staggered attack schedule on the west side of Bastogne. They did mange to breach the defenders line for a short period of time but the Battling Bastards of Bastogne closed the breach and in the counterattack destroyed all the tanks of 26 VG.

At 1650hrs 26 December, D Co 1st Battalion 37th Armor Regiment, 4th Armor Division breached the Nazi lines and relieved Bastogne. On 27 December, Nazi forces laying siege to Bastogne were destroyed.

On 1 January a vengeful Patton and the 3rd Army began the counter attack. The 3rd Army was suppossed to be the bottom of a pincer movement to cut off and destroy the Nazi units in the buldge but of course Montgomery couldn’t be bothered to get off his slow ass and start on time. The sluggish start by Montgomery, it didn’t begin until 3 January 1945, allowed several dozen of Nazi Divisions to escape back towards German and helping to prolong WW2 AGAIN.


THE LAST DYING GASP OF THE NAZIS

I will give Hitler credit for persistence. Since his attack plan in Belgium stalled well short of the Meuse river and there were no major breaches of the allied lines and none of the objectives were met, he decided to double down on stupid with one last, long shot in the form of twin operations, throwing everything he had left at the western front.

Operation Baseplate

Or as I think of it, the final nail in the coffin of the Luftwaffe. At 0950hrs on 1 January 1945, every aircraft the Nazis had on the western front took to the sky in order to destroy Allied aircraft and airfields in the Low Countries. Like every Nazi operation in the Ardennes Offensive, it had some limited success but ultimately failed. The Luftwaffe managed to damage or destroy about 450 aircraft but they paid a heavy price from the air defense artillery of the Allies and by their own air defense artillery. Somebody forgot tell Nazi ADA that there was an operation happening so the Luftwaffe got hit coming and going. The losses of the Allies were replaced in a few days but Baseplate effectively ended the Luftwaffe as a fighting force of the Third Reich.

Operation North Wind

On the same day at the same time the Nazis launched operation Baseplate, they also launched the last major Nazi offensive of WW2 on the western front. Hitler stripped out the last of his reserves and assigned them to Wehrmacht Group G and Wehrmacht Group Upper Rhine. The job of these two combat commands was to break through the 7th US Army lines around the Alsace Plain and the Vosges Mountains in France. If they could do this, it would open up an avenue of attack at the rear of of 3rd US Army. This stretch of line was chosen because Hitler thought that a attack along a 70km front had a high probability of success since over half of the US 7th Army forces had been stripped and moved into Belgium to reinforce weak points around the bulge.

Once again the Nazis had some initial successes and forced the 7th US Army, who were fighting a three sided battle, into defensive positions along south bank of the Moder river. The 7th Army tenaciously clung to those positions and even though they were short of everything except for Nazis, they never broke and would not be dislodged from their positions no matter what. After nearly 3 weeks of hard fighting, the Nazis couldn’t break the 7th Army and had to face the writing on the wall. World War 2 was now over and the Third Reich had given it’s death rattle on the Alsace Plain. The 7th US Army rallied for the counter attack and was the first unit to reach the banks of the Rhine.

On 25 January 1945, Hitler ordered all Ardennes Offensive units to cease combat operations (the ones still fighting that is) and fall back behind the now shortened Siegfried Line towards Berlin. The Allies had been busy and successful in their counter attacks. The Ardennes Offensive was officially over.

THE FINAL TALLY

89,500 American casualties which breaks down as 19,000 KIA, 47,500 wounded and 23,000 MIA/POW. They lost 600 tanks and between 400-600 aircraft.

1,408 British casualties which breaks down as 208 KIA, and 1200 wounded, POW or MIA.

For the Nazis, the numbers were staggering. Somewhere between 60-100 thousand KIA. Nobody is quite sure of the wounded numbers and about another 70,000 were taken prisoner. They lost 600 of their 1,800 irreplaceable tanks and 950 of 1,900 equally irreplaceable artillery guns and the Luftwaffe was destroyed. The Ardennes Offensive was an utter and complete failure. It also showcased yet again that audacity, ferocity and speed are what win wars and not crawling straight ahead set piece battles. If only Boobenhower had given Patton the gas back in September and told Montgomery to fuck off with his Market Garden nonsense (I mean really, why the fuck did Boobenhower think an unimaginative clod like Montgomery could pull off that sort of operation is beyond me), the Battle of the Bulge never would have happened and millions of lives would have been spared and the barbarous Soviets never would have had dominion over Eastern Europe.

Xiphos

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25 responses to “The Ardennes Offensive 16 December 1944-25 January 1945”

  1. Xiphos0311 says :

    Barfy deserves a big round of applause for all the work she did in getting this monstrous thing barely readable. Thank you Barfy for all your hard work.

  2. just pillow talk says :

    Nice write-up Xi.

    It fit Bastogne, for me, a bit better into the wider picture of what was happening.

    My favorite episodes are the Bastogne ones from Band of Brothers…fucking hell, what they went through to hold the line.

    • Xiphos0311 says :

      I agree Pillow the three episode arc of BoB in the Ardennes was probably the highlight of the show for me. My single favorite episode was in there the one focusing on the medic.

      • Tom_Bando says :

        And about all of that was shot inside on a Set–no joke! I was amazed. Them there Special F/X they gots now! Impressed.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        Yeah a lot of it was but there was also a few practical shots. The heavy cloud cover during the real event helped to sell the staged event.

  3. Toadkillerdog says :

    Very good job Xi – and to you as well Ms Barfy, but I am going to have to disagree on one important factor concerning the 3rd Army – yes it was Patton’s, but the strategy that made the 3rd army great was conceived and executed by General Elwood Quesada.

    It was his brilliance and innovation that Patton used to propel the 3rd army to greatness while Patton took all the credit and acted like a prima donna – which is no singular indictment of WWII generals when you consider the likes of MacArthur, Montgomery, and DeGaulle – preening prima donnas all.

    If you are unaware of General Quesada’s enormous contributions – which I doubt given your fantastic sense of military history, please take a moment to read up on.

    I do not despise Patton, he recognized talent, and he knew how to carry a riding crop and wear jodhpurs. He was undoubtedly courageous and he knew how to motivate men. He also recognized when to delegate tactical command – if not exactly publicize that fact.

    • Xiphos0311 says :

      I am going to have to disagree with your disagreement just a bit. if your going to take that tack then somebody like Creighton Abrams is just as responsible as Quesada since Abrams came up with innovated new tactics and training methods and I think they tankers still use some of them today.

      I look at it like this, and I am going to use a football example, so most people can follow.

      Over the last decade the New England Patriots have arguably been the dominant team in football, more or less, and are having another stellar season. Their successes, besides Tom Terrific, is attributed directly to the Hoody. Now is it just the Hoody alone? no of course not, but he recognizes and nurtures talent and let the coaching talent flourish just like Patton did or a successful CEO or even a movie director does. Do these types tend to grab credit yeah but that goes along with being successful and having a large ego.

  4. Toadkillerdog says :

    Xi – It was not my intention to trash Patton, or to denigrate one of your heroes.

    Patton, as I am sure you are aware; to this day still elicits mixed reactions.

    I greatly respect and admire what the man accomplished and what he did for his country.

    I have a different opinion of him than you, but that is all that it is, my opinion.

    • Xiphos0311 says :

      TKD Patton isn’t a hero of mine I don’t have any heroes because I don’t believe in the concept so I’m not in the least bit offended.

      I just think Patton was an interesting contradiction filled man that was an extremely able combat leader which I respect. What he did in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and especially with 3rd Army from France to Germany was admirable for a variety reasons.

  5. redfishybluefishy says :

    want to reply, but haven’t had time to sit and read it. it’s like a dissertation! is this all for your masters in military history? 🙂 will get to it this weekend, sometime.

  6. Tom_Bando says :

    Patton like all these guys–Monty, Ike, Omar, has his fans and critics. He certainly is a biggie, and a major reason why we won there no doubting that.

    Any thoughts on Mssrs Clark or Ridgeway by any chance?

    • Xiphos0311 says :

      Clark was OK, sort of reckless, and wasn’t that good at following up his successes. He was good enough that is the best way to put it. He was a better staff officer then a commander.

      Ridgeway was an excellent leader and that is painful for me to say since I can’t stand the 82nd Airborne. In Korea he did a phenomenal job.

      • Continentalop says :

        You don’t like the All-Americans? Why not?

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        Why don’t I like the 82nd? It goes back to when I was in the Army and an incident from a few years back.

        1.)Vertical envelopment via parachute is a dumb concept that was more or less disproved as a useful way to get men into combat* by the end of WW2 yet they still hang around and coast on dubious reputation from that same war.

        2.)The 82nd has had a long and proud history of dubious leadership and they acted like Navy brown shoe Battleship commanders after WW2 and refused to believe that they were supplanted on the battlefield by the helicopter. The 82nd still think they have relevance in a world were helos rule the landscape of vertical envelopment. Fuck them parachuting is a stupid way to get large numbers of soldiers into combat. You can lose up to 25% of your effective fighting force in large scale airborne operations.(thank you jump master school text book for that little nugget I’m surprised I still remember it)

        3.)Lastly everybody I’ve ever met from the 82nd has been a useless douche bag. Including a cocksucker of a battalion commander I almost got into a fight with in Afghanistan. The insults were flying fast and loud. I took a ration of shit over that one from my regimental commander.

        *for small forces like Special Operations it works becasue of the small numbers and for what ever reason if you jump under like 50 people the losses due to injury are small yet over 50 injury multiplies at an almost exponential rate. Math is weird sometimes. Also for Ranger operations of a battalion or smaller, like airport seizures for instance, it works well. there will never ever be a large scale WW2 like mass drop ever again. Easily available surface to air missiles and advanced air defense artillery guarantee that.

      • Tom_Bando says :

        Ahhhh, one of my first cousins spent Years in the 82nd. Couldn’t tell ya where he went or what he did (save for a spell in Germany) but it was a 20 year hitch. He wasn’t in the 82nd for the whole 20 however.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        yeah it mostly doesn’t work that way you don’t spend 20 years in one place.

      • Continentalop says :

        Good points Xi. I can see why the 101st moved over to Air Assault.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        helicopters almost didn’t make it, a bunch of old line infantry, armor and airborne generals almost killed it before it became doctrine.

        If 7th Cav got blown off the LZ in the Ia Drang in ’65 that would have put the helo on the back burner for years. Getting the helo into play was a very tenuous proposition and almost didn’t happen.

  7. just pillow talk says :

    Xi, I’m going to post this here, since I figure it’s as good as any.

    One of my uncles just passed away, and he served in Korea. He never talked about it too much, however on his casket was the following information: Company A, 47th infantry. It was my understanding from my Uncle that they fought on the front lines…unless I didn’t read it correctly or what, wikipedia (taken with a grain of salt) said they were created from Minnesota national guard…that doesn’t seem right.

    • Xiphos0311 says :

      Condolences for your Uncle Pillow.

      I read that wiki article and here’s what I think it means. After the government federalized the 47th it became for purposes of paper work convince(and not having to establish a new division) what is today called a “round out unit”. What that means is that they provide soldiers, equipment and support to activity duty units inorder to round out(fill up) their table of equipment and personnel to full strength.

      I’m assuming your uncle was a Connecticuttian or least a New Englander correct or maybe NY/NJ? If so it was possible for him to be assigned to a federalized NG unit from the midwest since they were more or less a paper division. His company or battalion were used to bring up an active duty division to full strength or as replacement units or something along those lines.

      Hope this helps and again condolences on his passing he did his duty.

  8. ThereWolf says :

    Thanks for that, Xi.

    Epic, I like those, when I can put me feet up with a brew and dig into a good read. And I’ve come to rely on you for the military history stuff.

    It’s weird seeing your reaction to Monty. Me being an Englander, he’s always presented as a military genius over here and it’s just accepted. Honestly, was he really that bad? I’m presuming he had some positives…

    Mind you, it’s the same with Ike. You are the first I’ve ever seen to heap scorn on the bloke!

    And to Pillows – sorry to hear about your Uncle.

    • Xiphos0311 says :

      Monty strengths lay in set piece battles one where he has the time to plan everything out with alternatives. He was not good at free flowing make decisions on the fly type of combat. he started to have successes with 8th Army after Rommels time was split between Africa, Europe and his new command Panzer Corps Africa. Rommels replacements were no where near as good as Rommel. or for that matter as good as Monty in set piece battle planning. Also supplies, especially gas, were finally getting through to North Africa becasue America got geared up. Lastly Operation Torch, led by Patton opened up a new front on the Nazi flanks that forced them to fight a two front war they didn’t have the supplies for.

      Monty’s pushing for Operation Market Garden which was a free flowing make fast decisions on the fly sort operation, like what 3rd US Army was doing was a complete disaster, and Monty can’t really command those types of operations. MG diverted supplies that could been used to encircle retreating German division prevent them from reaching the safety of the Siegfried line and prolonged WW2 by at least 8 months.

      Ike well he was a good administrator and had the placidity of a cow so he could work well with giant egos.

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