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the great battles of WoRLD WAR II

ISSUE 3

The Great Battles of

World War II NEW ies ser

FWG10 2013

PRINTED IN THE UK

£7.99

battle of THE BULGE battle of the bulge

The gripping story of the greatest American campaign of WWII

Detailed illustrations, maps and photographs

Surprise attack ‘Hell froze over’ The closest Hitler came to defeating the Allies

How sub-zero conditions crippled tanks & troops


The Great Battles of World War II

The Great Battles of

World War II

THE GREAT BATTLES OF WORLD WAR II

6

ISSUE 3

The Great Battles of

The Great Battles: Battle of the Bulge

World War II

One last great push By the winter of 1944, Germany seemed all but defeated…

NEW IES SER

FWG10 2013

PRINTED IN THE UK

£7.99

BATTLE OF THE BULGE Surprise attack ‘Hell froze over’ How sub-zero conditions crippled tanks & troops

FWG10.cover.indd 1

9/27/13 3:43 PM

Contents

November 1944: German soldiers taken prisoner by Allied forces, walking across Epinal.

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The Great Battles: Battle of the Bulge

Preparations 06-21

Ambitious plans

Hitler’s last great offensive

fter the initial post-D-Day collapse, the German forces had rallied and regrouped. Operation Market Garden, the Allies’ attempt at attacking the heart of Germany’s industrial lands, was successfully thwarted. Buoyed by this success, Hitler planned an offensive of his own. It was a bold operation which went against the advice of his generals, but he believed a surprise armoured attack in the Ardennes region could split the Allied lines, cut off its supplies and reinforcements, and cause havoc in the alliance between the UK, the US and France. Officially known as The Ardennes Offensive, the inward bulge it briefly caused in the front line gave the operation the name by which it’s more commonly known – the Battle of the Bulge. Hitler identified the Ardennes as a key weak point in the Allied lines, and not without good reason. Allied troops were extremely tired and their supply lines stretched extremely thin. Supreme Allied Commander General Eisenhower identified the heavily forested Ardennes region of Belgium, France and Luxembourg as a relatively safe area, which needed only a small number of troops to defend it.

06 Background - Germany’s last chance 14 Plans - Hitler plans his attack 22 Surprise attack - Germany strikes

A

Depleted resources and bad weather did not deter the Führer 14

1 October 1944: Adolph Hitler and members of his General Staff review plans for Operation Bodenplatte, an airstrike in support of the Ardennes offensive.

A “LOOSE” ALLIANCE Allied supply lines were, by then, critical and deep-water ports such as Cherbourg were essential for the transportation of food, fuel and ammunition. Cherbourg was taken during the initial Allied invasions, but the retreating German forces destroyed its infrastructure and by the end of 1944, it was barely useable. Antwerp, by contrast, was taken intact and proved a vital strategic resource, and therefore a tempting target. Hitler believed the opposing forces were only loosely allied. He certainly felt they shared little common purpose. “Ultra capitalist states on one side, ultra Marxist states on the other,” he said. And even the capitalist states had their own vested interests. “On one side a dying empire, Britain. On the other side, a colony, the United States, waiting to claim its inheritance.” A determined effort on the Western Front, he believed, “would bring down this artificial coalition with a crash”.

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The Great Battles: Battle of the Bulge

Surprise offensive

was panic, there was chaos. If you feel you’re surrounded by overwhelming forces, you get the hell out of it. I was demoralised, sick as a dog. I had frostbite. I kept thinking, ‘My God, what have I gotten into? How much of this can I take?’ I wandered off, stumbled into a battalion aid station, collapsed and slept 24 hours. The mind washes out a lot of images, but you remember the feeling of hopelessness, despair. You just want to die.” The German advance relied on bad weather, and although it hampered their advance in places, it also affected the Allies. Fog was a major problem. As an infantry company commander wrote about a skirmish at Stoumont in the first week of the Battle of the Bulge, “It was so foggy one of our men found himself ten yards from a German machine gun before he knew it. Everyone had been pushed as far as he could be. Nerves were being broken on men whom one would have thought would never weaken.” CLIMATE OF FEAR Experienced, battle-hardened formations of the 101st Airborne Division bolstered the less-experienced troops, but they couldn’t stop the panic. As 101st trooper Donald Burgett wrote, “Fear reigned. Once fear strikes, it spreads. Once the first man runs, others soon follow. Then, it’s all over. Soon there are hordes of men running, all of them wide-eyed and driven by fear.” Morale was low. As private first class Harold Lindstrong observed, “[The German corpses] looked peaceful. The war was over for them. They weren’t cold any more.” Lindstrong also noted that some of his comrades were wounding themselves in order to get out of fighting. “No one would ever know how many accidents were genuine and how many self-made.” General Patton was aware of these self-inflicted injuries. On a visit to a field hospital, he asked a man how he had been injured. “I shot myself in the foot,” he explained. Patton was furious, but the wounded soldier, whose ankle was shattered, said, “General, I’ve been in Africa, Sicily, France and now Germany. If I was going to do this to get out of the service, I’d have done it a long time ago. Patton replied, “Sorry son, I made a mistake.” Despite setbacks on the northern shoulder, the German advance was going well. After the first day’s fighting, an excited Adolph Hitler phoned General Hermann Balck, and exclaimed, “Everything has changed in the West. Success – complete success – is now in our grasp!”

MAP KEY xxxxx

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Army Group

Army

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Division

Brigade

Armour

Infantry

III

II

Regiment

Battalion

KEY TO UNITS Parent Unit

Unit Identifier Commander

©Osprey Publishing

The closest Hitler came to defeating the Allies

Mondadori/Getty Images

Detailed illustrations, maps and photographs

Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

BATTLE OF THE BULGE

The gripping story of the greatest American campaign of WWII

Battle progress: The destruction of 106th Infantry Division, 16-19 December 1944.

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Battle of the Bulge 32-65 32 Malmedy - From ambush to atrocity

The Great Battles: Battle of the Bulge

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40 Peiper advances Westward Kampfgruppe Peiper moves on Stavelot 50 St Vith - Battle comes to the central and southern zones 62 Wereth - The SS commit a massacre 80 Bastogne - A crucial engagement

Defeat 104-130 104 Nordwind and Boden - Hitler tries in vain to turn the tide 120 The final assessment - The battle was won – but at what cost? 130 Index 04

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Section Title

battle of the bulge The true story of Hitler’s last great offensive 80

The Great Battles: D-Day Battle of the Bulge

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Illustration and caption ©Osprey Publishing

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Christmas in Bastogne, 1944

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n the early morning of Christmas Day, Kampfgruppe Maucke of the newly arrived 15th Panzergrenadier Division launched an attack against the positions of the 502nd Parachute Infantry (1) and the 327th Glider Infantry on the northern side of the Bastogne perimeter. The attack was beaten decisively in a series of savage skirmishes in the woods and villages outside the city. This scene shows the aftermath of the skirmish as the paratroopers attempt to reinforce their positions for a possible renewed German onslaught. The most vivid memory for most American veterans of the Battle of the Bulge was the misery of life in the foxholes. It was commonplace for a unit to move every few days,

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and sometimes even more than once a day. Each move was accompanied by the need to dig another set of foxholes and defensive positions (2). While foxholes were useful in providing protection from German infantry attack, the main killer in the Ardennes fighting on both sides was artillery. Artillery was particularly deadly in wooded areas, since detonations in the trees tended to spray the area with wood splinters. Not only were these splinters deadly against unprotected infantry, but even if the infantryman was only wounded (3), the small splinters of wood were difficult for medics (4) to find and remove and so often led to life-threatening infections. The best protection against this scourge was the foxhole.

The standard US Army practice was a two-man foxhole, deep enough to stand in. If a unit was stationary for any period of time, the practice was usually to create two sets of defenses – a deep fighting foxhole, and a long, shallow trench for sleeping, preferably with overhead cover such as logs. GIs were issued either the pre-war style of “T” handled entrenching shovel, or the later M1943 type (5) that had a folding blade. Neither was particularly effective, especially in frozen ground full of tree roots. The 101st Airborne Division was hastily deployed to the Ardennes after months of fighting in the Netherlands. By this stage, their distinctive paratrooper garb had given way to the same types of uniforms worn by other US infantry. This was especially true

of new replacements and the glider infantry. One of the major scandals of the Ardennes was the poor preparation of the US Army in providing adequate winter clothing. A particular problem in the winter of 1944–45 was the inadequate supply of water-resistant winter boots. This led to high levels of trench foot in US infantry units. In the background are a pair of burning PzKpfw IV tanks (6). Although overshadowed by the larger Panther tank, the PzKpfw IV was still the workhorse of the Wehrmacht, and the most common German tank type in the Ardennes fighting. Hidden in the tree line is a M18 76mm gun motor carriage (7). This tank destroyer was the fastest tracked combat vehicle of World War II, designed to fulfill the Tank Destroyer Command’s motto

• Nordwind and Bodenplatte 104 • The Chenogne massacre 112 • The Allies push back 114 • The final assessment 120

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The Great Battles: Battle of the Bulge

Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Hitler’s last great

Depleted resources and bad weather did not deter the FĂźhrer 14


Ambitious plans

offensive

A

fter the initial post-D-Day collapse, the German forces had rallied and regrouped. Operation Market Garden, the Allies’ attempt at attacking the heart of Germany’s industrial lands, was successfully thwarted. Buoyed by this success, Hitler planned an offensive of his own. It was a bold operation which went against the advice of his generals, but he believed a surprise armoured attack in the Ardennes region could split the Allied lines, cut off its supplies and reinforcements, and cause havoc in the alliance between the UK, the US and France. Officially known as The Ardennes Offensive, the inward bulge it briefly caused in the front line gave the operation the name by which it’s more commonly known – the Battle of the Bulge. Hitler identified the Ardennes as a key weak point in the Allied lines, and not without good reason. Allied troops were extremely tired and their supply lines stretched extremely thin. Supreme Allied Commander General Eisenhower identified the heavily forested Ardennes region of Belgium, France and Luxembourg as a relatively safe area, which needed only a small number of troops to defend it.

1 October 1944: Adolph Hitler and members of his General Staff review plans for Operation Bodenplatte, an airstrike in support of the Ardennes offensive.

a “loose” alliance Allied supply lines were, by then, critical and deep-water ports such as Cherbourg were essential for the transportation of food, fuel and ammunition. Cherbourg was taken during the initial Allied invasions, but the retreating German forces destroyed its infrastructure and by the end of 1944, it was barely useable. Antwerp, by contrast, was taken intact and proved a vital strategic resource, and therefore a tempting target. Hitler believed the opposing forces were only loosely allied. He certainly felt they shared little common purpose. “Ultra capitalist states on one side, ultra Marxist states on the other,” he said. And even the capitalist states had their own vested interests. “On one side a dying empire, Britain. On the other side, a colony, the United States, waiting to claim its inheritance.” A determined effort on the Western Front, he believed, “would bring down this artificial coalition with a crash”.

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Getty Images


The Malmedy massacre

From ambush to atrocity How a German ambush led to the worst atrocity committed on American servicemen in Europe during the whole of World War II

O

n 17 December 1944, at the crossroads hamlet of Baugnez around two miles from Malmedy, a small column from Battery B, 285th Field Artillery Observations Battalion of the 7th Armored was spotted by a group of German tanks and halftracks from Kampfgruppe Peiper. The Germans attacked, taking out the front and rear trucks to prevent escape and then raking the American column with machine gun fire and mortar shells. Several trucks exploded, and more crashed into ditches as they tried to get away. Taking cover behind stricken trucks and in ditches, the Americans fought back as best they could. SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer Peiper himself arrived at the skirmish, driving an American jeep. Rapid progress and good management of limited resources were the key to success for the advancing German armies, so he was not happy to see time and ammunition being wasted on a helpless target. Nor was he pleased that the trucks had been destroyed, when they could have been extremely useful had they been captured. “Those beautiful trucks, which we needed so badly, all shot up,” he said. With difficulty, he called a ceasefire and the Americans came out of cover with their hands in the air. The Germans herded them into small groups, taking their rings, watches, cigarettes and especially their gloves.

Ambush: A German soldier passing a blazing American half-track on the second day of the Ardennes Offensive, 17 December 1944.

THE FIRST SHOT A small group of the prisoners were stood in a line. A German put a pistol to their heads one by one, threatening to shoot them in retaliation for American bombing raids on Germany. The Battalion’s executive officer, Captain Roger L Mills, intervened, despite being mildly wounded. The

men, he argued, should be treated as prisoners of war. The German backed down. When the column moved on to Ligneuville, the ten men who had been threatened were sent with them, in the back of a half-track. They were kept there under guard, and later moved to Germany. Peiper himself then left the scene, in another half-track. The remaining prisoners from Battery B were herded into a field, along with other prisoners taken that day. All told, there were around 120 to 130 captured men. They were stood in rows around 60 feet from the highway, with their hands above their heads. Their hands, now devoid of gloves, soon grew numb from cold in the winter air. Although the prisoners did not relish the idea of spending Christmas in a POW camp, they assumed they were waiting for transportation trucks, and were not unduly concerned about their safety. A German officer then flagged down two Panzer IV tanks and ordered them into a position covering the captured troops. He then ordered them to fire. A young private who already had his pistol ready fired the first shot, causing disorder among the prisoners, which their officers tried to quench for fear

The prisoners assumed they were waiting for transportation and were not unduly concerned about their safety 33


ŠOsprey Publishing

The Great Battles: Battle of the Bulge

Airborne

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The Great Battles: Battle of the Bulge

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Index Index

A Airborne Division (82nd) 46 Antwerp 24 Ardennes 14

J

B Bailey bridges 67, 73 Balck, Hermann (General) Bastogne 96 Battle of St Vith 52 Belle Croix 37 Bodenplatte 104 Bradley, Omar (Lietenant General) 14, 46 Brandenberger, Adolf Robert Erich (General) 18

K Kampfgruppe Peiper 24 Kingtigers 40

C Chenogne 112 Cherbourg 15 Christmas counter-attack 96 Clandestine operations 72 D D-Day landings 09

Dietrich, General Josef ‘Sepp’ 18, 24 E Elsenborn Ridge, 24 Eisenhower, Dwight (Supreme Allied Commander General ) 14 F Fallschirmgewehr rifle 38 15th Army (German) 18 Frederick the Great 16

G Germany Army (6th Parachute) 36 Gavin, James (Major General) 46 H Hasbrouck, Robert (Brigadier General) 54 Hitler, Adolf 14, 96, 98 Hodges, (General) 34

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Jagdpanzer IV/70 tank destroyer 13 Jagdpanther 61 Jones, Alan (Major General)

L

Langer, Mathias 63 La Glieize 41 Losheim Gap 26 Luftwaffe 41 M Malmedy 20, 96 Malmedy massacre 32 Manteuffel 96 Marauder 96 Meuse, River 66-71, 96 Middleton, Troy (Lieutenant General) 26 Mills, Roger L (Captain) Model, Walther (Field Marshal) 18, 36, 96 Monschau 38 Montgomery, Bernard (Field Marshal) 46, 98 N Nordwind 104 O Operation Stösser 20, 36-39 Operation Währung 20 P Patton (General) 28, 112, 114 Pergrin, Colonel 34 SS Panzer Division (1st) 24, 34 (5th) 18, 50 (6th) 18, 24, 37, 53 (12th) 13, 24 (28th) 53 SS Panzergrenadiers 42 Panzerfaust 38 Poetschke, Werner (Major) 34

Q Quesada (General) 44 S Schonberg 63 Siege of Bastogne 80 Sherman tank 53, 56 Skorzeny, Otto (Lieutenant Colonel 42 Solis, Paul J (Major) 42 St Vith 52, 96, 118 Stavelot 42 Stoumont 44 Strong, Kenneth (Major General) 20 SS Panzer Division (5th) 18 T Thunderbolt 96 Tiger tank 54, 61 Trois Ponts 42 Typhoon 96 U US Army (1st) 16, 24 (3rd) 16, (6th) 16, (7th Armored) 33, (9th) 16, (12th) 16, (291st Engineers) 34 US Infantry (2nd) 24, (28th) 50, (99th) 24, (106th) 50 V Volksgrenadier Division (277th) von der Heydte Friedrich August (Colonel) 20, 36 von Manteuffel, Hasso (General) 46, 53 von Rundstedt, Gerd (Field Marshal) 18, 46 von Zangen, Gustav-Adolf (General) 18 W Wereth Massacre 62


The Battle of the Bulge