I am pleased to welcome you to my personal blog, which I started in March 2009. I first became interested in blogging about five years ago, using old "blogger.com", which was cumbersome to use and I never mastered. About a year ago I discovered that Google had bought "blogger.com" and had revised it considerably, making it fun to use, so much so that I have devised at least 15 blogs on various subjects and frequently add posts and Gadgets to them.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Little About the Ardennes Offensive

After studying the US Army account of the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, I picked a few significant paragraphs to publish:

On the morning of 16 December General Middleton's VIII Corps had a formal corps reserve consisting of one armored combat command and four engineer combat battalions. In dire circumstances Middleton might count on three additional engineer combat battalions which, under First Army command, were engaged as the 1128th Engineer Group in direct support of the normal engineer operations on foot in the VIII Corps area. In exceptionally adverse circumstances, that is under conditions then so remote as to be hardly worth a thought, the VIII Corps would have a last combat residue-poorly armed and ill-trained for combat-made up of rear echelon headquarters, supply, and technical service troops, plus the increment of stragglers who might, in the course of battle, stray back from the front lines. General Middleton would be called upon to use all of these "reserves." Their total effect in the fight to delay the German forces hammering through the VIII Corps center would be extremely important but at the same time generally incalculable, nor would many of these troops enter the pages of history.1
A handful of ordnance mechanics manning a Sherman tank fresh from the repair shop are seen at a bridge. By their mere presence they check an enemy column long enough for the bridge to be demolished. The tank and its crew disappear. They have affected the course of the Ardennes battle, even though minutely, but history does not record from whence they came or whither they went. A signal officer checking his wire along a byroad encounters a German column; he wheels his jeep and races back to alert a section of tank destroyers standing at a crossroad. Both he and the gunners are and remain anonymous. Yet the tank destroyers with a few shots rob the enemy of precious minutes, even hours. A platoon of engineers appears in one terse sentence of a German commander's report. They have fought bravely, says the foe, and forced him to waste a couple of hours in deployment and maneuver. In this brief emergence from the fog of war the engineer platoon makes its bid for recognition in history. That is all. A small group of stragglers suddenly become tired of what seems to be eternally retreating. Miles back they ceased to be part of an organized combat formation, and recorded history, at that point, lost them. The sound of firing is heard for fifteen minutes, an hour, coming from a patch of woods, a tiny village, the opposite side of a hill. The enemy has been delayed; the enemy resumes the march westward. Weeks later a graves registration team uncovers mute evidence of a last-ditch stand at woods, village, or hill.

The story of the units that were retained under tactical control and employed directly by General Middleton in the attempt to form some defense in depth in the VIII Corps center has been partially recorded and therefore can be narrated. The effect that these units had in retarding the German advances, a course of action evolving extemporaneously, must be considered along with the role played by the uncoordinated front-line formations in the haphazard sequence of their delaying actions from east to west. For convenience sake the VIII Corps action is recounted here in independent detail.

With the very limited forces at his disposal prior to 16 December the VIII Corps commander found it physically impossible to erect any of the standard defenses taught in the higher army schools or prescribed in the field service regulations. The best he could do to defend the extended front was to deploy his troops as a screen, retaining local reserves for local counterattack at potentially dangerous points. In effect, therefore, the main part of Middleton's reserve consisted of the battalions and companies assembled in or close to the villages which formed the strongpoints of the screen. Under the circumstances there could be no thought of an elastic defense with strong formations echeloned in any depth behind the forward positions. In the event of a general attack in great strength delivered against all parts of the corps front simultaneously, Middleton had little choice but to carry out the general directive to "defend in place." With four engineer battalions and one small armored combat command as the only corps reserve behind an elongated and brittle linear defense Middleton's commitment of this last reserve would turn on the attempt to plug a few of the gaps in the forward line, slow the enemy columns on a few main roads, and strengthen by human means two or three of the natural physical barriers deep in the corps rear area.

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