Battle Of The Bulge - The German View - Perspectives From Hitlers High Command

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    Danny S Parker
    For some the Battle Of The Bulge was a tremendous feat of arms, an operation of daring and cunning devised by Hitler. Had it succeeded it would have changed the face of the war in Western Europe. For others, it was a last desperate throw of the dice with scant chance of success.

    The objective was to make a rapid advance to Antwerp and to deny the Allies the use of its port facilities, thus paralysing their ability to resupply their invasion forces. It was also estimated that between 20 and 30 Allied divisions would be caught in the "pocket" formed by the advance. The loss of up to a third of the Allied forces would wreak political and military havoc and devastate morale. At the very least Allied efforts would be set back many, many months.

    Launched on 16th December 1944, "Die Wacht Am Rhine" (Watch on The Rhine) caught the Allies completely by surprise. Such was the secrecy and deception surrounding the offensive, that few on the German side were aware of what they were involved in until the last few hours. The cover story for the assembly of men and materiel was that they were needed to counter an anticipated offensive.
    Using early post-war interviews with prominent German officers, some of Hitler's speeches and an analysis of the planning and preparation by Dr. Schramm, an officer Hitler's Wehrmacht Operations Staff, Danny Parker has put together what one might call a view from the top. There its certainly nothing to interest those with an interest in the fortunes of the "fighting man".

    The majority of the book is taken up by Dr. Schramm's analysis which, although detailed and demonstrative of the planning process, is rather undermined by the terrible sycophancy of its author, who like Hitler, does seem blind to reality.

    From the outset it is obvious that Hitler would accept nothing but the capture of Antwerp, despite the categoric advice from his Generals that this was not viable with the forces at his disposal. Indeed, in the last days prior to launching the offensive Hitler confided that he only saw a 10% chance of success.

    The interviews with Jodl, von Runstedt and Model all show that they were in favour of what was called "The Small Solution". Given the available forces , they recommended the envelopment and destruction of Allied forces east of the Meuse. This they deemed viable and with a good chance of success. Hitler would not contemplate this alternative and was determined to embark on what von Runstedt called, "a nonsensical operation".

    I would suggest that this is not a book for the casual reader, but if you have a particular interest in the Battle Of The Bulge it makes for interesting reading, shedding new light on what might have been and demonstrating the tensions that existed between Hitler and his Generals.

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  1. LeoRoverman
    The arguments rage as to the advisability of the battle of the Bulge. It’s certainly been filmed in various guises by the Americans since it cost them in manpower and equipment and taught them a salutary lesson. They could still be caught on the hop. The book is intriguing because deep down Hitler knew he had lost, but what was he to do? That knowledge was not transmitted to the Public, though Generals like Jodl knew it was the elephant in the room. There were simply not enough resources to smash the allies. That needed to have been done some 6 months earlier as Rommel had predicted. But given the position of the Russians, would surrendering have achieved anything other than the inevitable dismemberment of Germany as Hitler was only too aware given his knowledge of allied meetings.

    We know how the battle unfolded, but certainly not the scale, or how early it was planned. That it was able to happen at all given the situation is amazing. If the US first army based in the southeast England was a fake deceiving the Germans, the Bulge could be seen as their revenge. They reversed the charges with utter secrecy.

    The interviews are telling. Gone for me is the concept of sycophancy. Rundstedt himself knew the truth but as a General he had to obey. Jodl was not just the fawning Hitlerian-there was simply no alternative once one had hitched one’s star. Well there was;, a far longer slog for the allies. More to the point they were soldiers and they had a job to do. Given the rapidity of the collapse after December 1944, perhaps we should thank them for hastening the end.
  2. Fuktifino
    I've recently finished reading this book on Kindle, A Time For Trumpets;

    Written by Charles Macdonald who was a 22 yr old rifle company commander in the battle. He later became the Deputy Chief Historian for the US Army. His reseach took him over 5 years, and is, to say the least, meticulous. The book is primarily concerned with the " fighting men " from both sides. It also provides a detailed overview of the decision making at the highest levels on both sides.
    At 712 pages, it's a long book, and at times confusing, mainly, for me at least, because of the US Armys' unit numbering system. At times, some of the pages reminded me of the old fashion logarythm table books from my far off school days with a few words included! My main criticism apart from the unit numbers is a complete absence of any maps. Althought the book was originally published in 1984, I don't think that can be used as an excuse for the lack of maps.
    Overall, I enjoyed the book, however, I would've enjoyed it much more if it had included maps.