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.
- Danny S Parker
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.