26.12.16

FRITZ BAYERLEIN'S DALLIANCE.

With the Christmas season come the recollections of the Battle of the Bulge, which began on Beethoven's birthday in 1944, and continued through the Festive Season and into some time in January.  There were some among the Western Allies who were hoping to have the European war done by Christmas, and there were a few people in the German command, most notably one named Adolf, who expected that a setback in the west would fracture the alliance and lead to a separate piece.

I've made reference to this battle before, including a recollection of Sgt. Karlson about going into action with the 87th Infantry Division earlier in December, in the Saar.  But then came the Ardennes offensive, and his unit, relatively new in theater, was attached to Third Army to hustle north toward a place called Bastogne.

Book Review No. 29 commends Peter Caddick-Adams's Snow & Steel: The Battle of the Bulge, 1944-1945.  Mr Caddick-Adams has combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan and has made the time to walk and read the battlefields.  He also works a fair number of stories into the history of what might be better understood as a campaign (it covered more ground than, for example, McClellan's abortive Peninsula Campaign of 1862).  We learn, for instance, that a journalist came up with the name for the event, eschewing the traditional "salient."

The offensive failed, for a number of reasons.  One of them, the author argues, is the relatively inexperienced U.S. units holding the front line in the Ardennes, which the conventional wisdom held was not of strategic importance, gave a good account of themselves; in addition, the infantry had enough tanks on hand to give the Germans the impression they were confronting forces of greater strength than their intelligence had estimated.  Another is the failure of German logistics: it is difficult for an army dependent on motor fuel to travel a greater distance from its base than the fuel trucks can go without consuming the fuel, and moreso off paved roads, or cross-country, or detouring around those towns that appeared to be more strongly held ...  And the horse-drawn artillery (imagine modern looking field pieces, but hitched to a caisson and six horses in a fashion that Marshal Ney or Colonel Hunt would recognize) was slower and more prone to bogging down.  Thus all the commanders got behind schedule.  Panzer Lehr's Bayerlein, for example?  Read the book.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

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