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Ardennes Cannae 1944

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  • Ardennes Cannae 1944

    I remember reading somewhere that Patton's initial reaction to the German Ardennes offensive, was to suggest that his Third Army continue the attack into the Saar. Patton's famous quote was "Hell, let's have the guts to let the sons of bitches go all the way to Paris. Then we'll really cut 'em up and chew 'em up."

    He also said "Brad, the Kraut's stuck his head in a meat grinder. And"—he turned his fist in simulation—"this time I have hold of the handle."

    So what if Patton had continued with his attack into the Saar. Leaving the First Army to launch a fighting-stalling withdrawal. The 9th Army under Simpson continues the push from Aachen. The Germans are lured deeper and deeper into the Bulge, in classic Cannae fashion, while the 3rd and 9th Army push a double envelopment into the rear of the German left and right flanks.

    Instead of defending the Bulge, the Allies continue the Aachen and Saar offensives into the German industrial rear, while luring the Germans into a Cannae trap.

    Instead of clenching the Bulge at the center, the Allied armies would instead be pushing deeper East into the Nazi rear.

  • #2
    Fuel would be an issue. Would the stock at that point support that large of maneuvers by so many forces.

    Replacements. They were so short of infantry replacements they were disbanding AAA units.

    Risk. If the Germans held one or both of the flanking moves, the main German aim might actually succeed.

    Politics. If something went wrong, careers would end.
    Any man can hold his place when the bands play and women throw flowers; it is when the enemy presses close and metal shears through the ranks that one can acertain which are soldiers, and which are not.

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    • #3
      AJR-
      Fuel and replacements were on our side, and the quality of ours were much better than theirs.

      AAA units were a good source of ready manpower since the Luftwaffe was not seen much , if at all, at this time.

      I think your last point is telling. Senior US Officers were not willing to risk a battle of maneuver with the Germans, not matter how good the odds on their side may have appeared to be. Something of an inferiority complex there, I suspect.

      Also; the Germans were not interested i turning South, their goal was Antwerp, and the rolling up the British Army. I kinda doubt they would have agreed to tempting fate to give Patton an opening.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by grant1864 View Post
        So what if Patton had continued with his attack into the Saar. Leaving the First Army to launch a fighting-stalling withdrawal. The 9th Army under Simpson continues the push from Aachen. The Germans are lured deeper and deeper into the Bulge, in classic Cannae fashion, while the 3rd and 9th Army push a double envelopment into the rear of the German left and right .
        The big issue with this is that the US Army had not actually demonstrated any capacity to break through, or even rapidly push back the Germans, before the bulge- Patton stalled at Metz and Hodges at Aachen.

        IIRC Horrock's plan was to fight at Waterloo

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        • #5
          Originally posted by grant1864 View Post
          So what if Patton had continued with his attack into the Saar. Leaving the First Army to launch a fighting-stalling withdrawal. The 9th Army under Simpson continues the push from Aachen. The Germans are lured deeper and deeper into the Bulge, in classic Cannae fashion, while the 3rd and 9th Army push a double envelopment into the rear of the German left and right flanks.
          This was proposed. At least the "deep" counter attack was. Outside of Pattons remark about Paris there was no thought of allowing the Germans to advance anywhere. The guidance to and intent of US 1st Army was to halt the enemy advance east of the Meuse River. The Meuse River was regarded as a backup position if the Germans were not halted in the Ardennes area, The Brit plans for fighting north of the Meuse were also contingent and not primary plans. Montgomery may have lacked confidence in the 1st Army but he understood German combat units north of the Meuse would be less desirable.

          In any case the German armies never had the fuel to 'fight' their way that far west. They started with barely enough fuel for a straight down the road administrative march to Brussels. ie: The 2d Pz Div had its advance defeated at Celles Belgium & after a day and a half of manuvering across the fields found there was insufficent fuel for a proper withdrawl, vehicles with empty fuel tanks were fairy thick along the withdrawl routes.

          Bradley also supported making the counter attacks further east, at the base of the Bulge. However he no longer had control of the battle, having had direct communications to the 1st Army cut & that unit then under command of 21st Army Group.

          Here are links to maps pf the battle: http://www.google.com/search?q=battl...2F%3B597%3B459

          At the center of the sailent is the town of Houffalize. This was the convergence point of the US counter attack as directed by 21 Army Group. Several targets were proposed for a alternate easterly attack. The general are along the north-south road from Bitburg to Prum being one. The one advantage to the westerly counter attack is part of the US armored divisions were positioned to make that attack fairly quickly. They were spread to the west in the effort to contain the German attack as much as possible. A deep attack at the eastern edge of the battle front would have required shuffling the corps around, delaying things several more days.

          Back in the early 1990s I met a former NCO of the US 5th Infantry Div. He remembered the emergency manuver of the 3rd Army to shift its corps from the area around Metz to Belgium. They managed a 150+ kilometer road march over night. Withdrawing out of the battle zone and redeploying in under 30 hours. Overall the entire redeployment of these parts of 3rd Army were accomplished in under 72 hours. However the planning had actually started before the German attack. Patton had directed his staff to study the problem of a German counter attack at various points along the front and prepare contingency plans. When the attack came the planning was accelerated and largely completed when the order came to support the 1st Army. Hence the speed of the 3rd Army redeployment.

          Originally posted by Arnold J Rimmer View Post
          Fuel would be an issue. Would the stock at that point support that large of maneuvers by so many forces.
          As was posted earlier the fuel problem was past by late November, as was the ammunition shortage & all the other problems from supply transport.

          Originally posted by Arnold J Rimmer View Post
          Replacements. They were so short of infantry replacements they were disbanding AAA units.
          Yet somehow a counter attack was made, on the salient, the other US armies continued their battles, 7th Army had its own offensive underway to clear the Vosges region to the Rhine. In January larger offensive operations started across the front. Problems with infantry replacements did not prevent those attacks from occuring.

          Originally posted by Arnold J Rimmer View Post
          Risk. If the Germans held one or both of the flanking moves, the main German aim might actually succeed.

          Politics. If something went wrong, careers would end.
          By 30 December it was understood the Germans were out of fuel, and their ability to deliver ammunition & food to the forward units in the salient collapsing. Enigma decrypts, and other intelligence sources were making it clear the German offensive capability had faded. Risks at this point from the POV of the US commanders were far lower than in the Neptune operation in June or the Cobra operation at the end of July, or when pushing to the German border with nearly unsupplied corps in September.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by grant1864 View Post
            So what if Patton had continued with his attack into the Saar. ...
            Trier might have been a initial objective. It was a rail & automotive road junction, with routes leading off to the north and east. In terms of communications routes it seems to do as much to 'flank' the Bulge salient as anything.

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            • #7
              It is a possibility. The Germans weren't going to get much further than the Meuse river in any case. Even if fuel wasn't an issue their units were spent. 2nd Panzer got the furthest forward as a division and it was in so-so shape from losses (both combat and operational), spread out in pockets over tens of miles, and in no shape to take on an organized Allied defense while crossing a major river. It just wasn't going to do it.
              1st SS was already finished in the Schnee Eifel. Piper was surrounded and being destroyed in detail.
              9th SS got a bit further but was likewise spent.
              The leg infantry units were either finished or stuck. They were not coming forward any time soon.

              Had Patton not counterattacked into the flank but rather into the German rear it probably would have had far more serious consequences for the Germans.
              Nordwind would not have occurred at all and the units involved would have been ground up in the ensuing offensive.
              The same can be said in the North.

              I would think the result would have been once the OKW and Hitler realized that the Allies were attacking into Germany and the rear of the offensive they would do one of two things:

              Hitler might demand the units in the Ardennes stay in place and fight to the end.

              or

              Hitler and the OKW would withdraw them to defend Germany. This is the more likely result even if Hitler hated the idea of retreating to do it. But, this option means that the mobile divisions, as in France are going to end up in a pocket and destroyed in detail. I don't think Germany could have suffered and recovered from the near total loss of the forces in the Ardennes. It likely would have hastened the collapse of Germany.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
                I would think the result would have been once the OKW and Hitler realized that the Allies were attacking into Germany and the rear of the offensive they would do one of two things:

                Hitler might demand the units in the Ardennes stay in place and fight to the end.

                or

                Hitler and the OKW would withdraw them to defend Germany. ....
                That was the eventual decision. I cant recall the exact date Hitler officially declared the offensive over. but that was swiftly followed by a number of other orders directing the participating units to withdraw and move elsewhere.

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                • #9
                  The real purpose of the Ardennes offensive was to delay the Allies by two months. The troops on the other hand, were told that the mission was more ambitious.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Cult Icon View Post
                    The real purpose of the Ardennes offensive was to delay the Allies by two months. The troops on the other hand, were told that the mission was more ambitious.
                    Do you have a source for this claim?

                    Thanks.

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                    • #11
                      Was not Patton at the time of the attack preparing to start his own offensive anyways.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by craven View Post
                        Was not Patton at the time of the attack preparing to start his own offensive anyways.
                        Everyone was. The supply problem was fading. Stocks were being built up for a winter offensive. Attacks across the front had never really ceased. Small preparatory attacks were ongoing to achieve better starting positions. The US 9th AF & Brit 2d Tactical AF were nearly ready to start a transportation bombing campaign similar to that of the previous spring in Italy or NW France. Devers 6th AG had never had the supply problems of the 12th & 21st AG & was hammering away to clear the Vosge and west bank of the Rhine.

                        Originally posted by Cult Icon View Post
                        The real purpose of the Ardennes offensive was to delay the Allies by two months. The troops on the other hand, were told that the mission was more ambitious.
                        It failed in that case. The Allied counter attacks substituted for the attacks they planned on starting in January anyway. The German army lost over 80,000 killed wounded captured in the Ardennes offensive, mostly in the counter attacks of January.

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