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Suggested reads for Bulge / Ardennes??


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Surprised no one list "Hitler's Last Gamble: The Battle of the Bulge, Dec 1944-Jan 1945" by Trevor Dupuy.  Despite its "pulpy" title it is a super detailed account that approaches the subject matter from an operational level systems perspective.  It includes many maps and 130+ page appendixes on the TO&Es and doctrines of the armies involved.  It is a bit dry and perhaps overly detailed at times.

http://www.amazon.com/Hitlers-Last-Gamble-December-1944-January/dp/0060166274/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1452955771&sr=8-2&keywords=Hitlers+last+gamble

I bought this book when it was first released (before the internet as we know it). I was impressed by the TO&Es in the appendix and bought it just for that because finding this information before the internet was hard. However, when I showed the book to my Grandfather, who was in the 99th ID in WWII, he found an error within minutes of reading about the specific areas that he was involved. In short, Dupuy says in his book that the Germans captured a certain town by a certain time and date, but my Grandfather says he was in that particular town on that date and the Germans were not there. I'm paraphrasing here, but basically my Grandfather said that Dupuy had copied errors that were published in previous books (probably the official US Army History).

Needless to say, I lost some respect for this book after that. I should also say that the claim that it's overly detailed at times is relative. His entire Chapter about the Northern Shoulder is a brief few pages. It's lacking any real detail where other authors have written entire books on the subject. Obviously Dupuy's scope is broader and meant to be an operational level account but the Northern Shoulder is where the Germans focal point of the entire operation was focused. And when they were stopped there it stalled the entire operation.

Edited by Pak40
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I bought this book when it was first released (before the internet as we know it). I was impressed by the TO&Es in the appendix and bought it just for that because finding this information before the internet was hard. However, when I showed the book to my Grandfather, who was in the 99th ID in WWII, he found an error within minutes of reading about the specific areas that he was involved. In short, Dupuy says in his book that the Germans captured a certain town by a certain time and date, but my Grandfather says he was in that particular town on that date and the Germans were not there. I'm paraphrasing here, but basically my Grandfather said that Dupuy had copied errors that were published in previous books (probably the official US Army History).

Needless to say, I lost some respect for this book after that. I should also say that the claim that it's overly detailed at times is relative. His entire Chapter about the Northern Shoulder is a brief few pages. It's lacking any real detail where other authors have written entire books on the subject. Obviously Dupuy's scope is broader and meant to be an operational level account but the Northern Shoulder is where the Germans focal point of the entire operation was focused. And when they were stopped there it stalled the entire operation.

That is interesting. I found Dupuy's work on the Ardennes very hard, because yes, there's a lot of data in that book but unfortunately: 1) it is usually presented out of context and 2) you can find conflicting interpretations of the data peppered across the text. This also happens on his "Numbers, Prediction and War " which is a book I have studied a lot - it is hard work to make sense of what he says and why he says it.

Regarding the coverage of the 6. SS Panzerarmee... Dupuy tends to cherry pick his examples for his Thesis, that of the superiority of the German "magic powers". Of course, the failure of the offensive in the northern shoulder of the Ardennes is a massive outlier, and he just drives around it. Works like Bergstrom, even if I find them somewhat biased, are much more honest and straightforward, going into analysing the reasons for the German failure in the north, and how that changed the nature of the German operation. That is, from a battle to annihilate Allied forces by maneuver (flawed as it was the concept of a pincer movement consisting of one single arm), into a Italian front-style bear trap to cause attrition and tie down as many Allied forces as possible (into which the Allies fell pretty much by default). 

Another odd thing I distinctly remember about this book was at the end, after substantial remarks along the lines that the US Army performance was "not good" he goes on to say something along the lines "But Patton was awesome"... So yeah sure, whatever floats your boat, Colonel Dupuy.

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Well written and I agree with the points you make. Its true that mr bergström holds a very high admiration for the FJ units in the 7. Army and most of all the 5.Fallschirmjäger-Division.

On the 5th Fallschirmjager, Cole has a different viewpoint:

 

During the two nights prior to 16 December the 5th Parachute Division moved its regiments into these east bank fortifications and the extensive woods which lay just to the rear. The 5th Parachute Division had its full complement of officers and men, but lacked its antitank battalion (which had lost much equipment to air attack en route from Holland) and its mortar battalion. Colonel Heilmann, who had recently taken over the division, was not too sanguine as to its ability or state of training as a unit. He relied on the 15th Parachute Regiment, the 5th Parachute Engineer Battalion, and the attached 11th Assault Gun Brigade, which were well trained and motorized, to furnish the main striking force. The division artillery lacked the motors to accompany a rapid advance, and fire support would be given by the assault guns and a regiment of Volks artillery. The latter was horse-drawn but expected to motorize with captured American vehicles.

Only a few days before the attack Heilmann warned Model that the 5th Parachute Division was only a Class IV outfit, but Model, who by now must have been surfeited with complaints on lack of equipment and insufficient training, merely replied that success would be won by the paratroopers' "usual audacity."Perhaps Model did not care to recognize that the paratroopers in this once elite division had been replaced by meagerly trained Luftwaffe ground troops and Navy battalions. Lacking experienced fighting men and the heavy weapons requisite for close support, Heilmann instructed his line officers to avoid pitched battles for defended positions. After all, the goal to be reached by the night of 16 December was near the town of Wiltz some ten miles west of the Our. Therefore the 5th Parachute Division plan called for a quick and unopposed crossing at the Our; a bridge to be in at Roth by midafternoon of the first day; a rapid advance past the villages where the weak American forces were located; and a lightning stroke to force the crossing sites near Wiltz.

(pp. 214-215)

 

http://history.army.mil/html/books/007/7-8-1/index.html

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On the 5th Fallschirmjager, Cole has a different viewpoint:

 

Sgt Joch: Interesting quote but I have some difficulties to see the different viewpoint you referred to. I think Mr Bergströms admiration of the 5.Fallschirmjäger-Division comes from the fact that the unit had very meagre resources to start with (as your quote clearly describes) and still had orders to play an important part in protecting the flank of the 5. Panzerarmee. That they managed to accomplish their mission after all is what surly gave rise to the authors admiration.

 
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Regarding the coverage of the 6. SS Panzerarmee... Dupuy tends to cherry pick his examples for his Thesis, that of the superiority of the German "magic powers". Of course, the failure of the offensive in the northern shoulder of the Ardennes is a massive outlier, and he just drives around it. Works like Bergstrom, even if I find them somewhat biased, are much more honest and straightforward, going into analysing the reasons for the German failure in the north, and how that changed the nature of the German operation. That is, from a battle to annihilate Allied forces by maneuver (flawed as it was the concept of a pincer movement consisting of one single arm), into a Italian front-style bear trap to cause attrition and tie down as many Allied forces as possible (into which the Allies fell pretty much by default). 

Another odd thing I distinctly remember about this book was at the end, after substantial remarks along the lines that the US Army performance was "not good" he goes on to say something along the lines "But Patton was awesome"... So yeah sure, whatever floats your boat, Colonel Dupuy.

I also read Dupuy's book and agree with the assessment here. It's a nice single work on the Bulge fighting but it should be taken lightly. Dupuy really plays up the prowess of the Waffen SS and SS Panzers to the point where he makes it seem like Kampfgruppe Pieper only failed because those plucky Americans held out at Bastonge. His Patton fawning was both much worse and much more tiresome. 

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On January 7, 2016 at 10:24 PM, John Kettler said:

Much food for thought here, to say the least. Let me take a bit of fiscal strain out of the equation. Against the Panzers grew out of a SAIC study for the Army. Here are the study volumes--available free from DTIC.

http://dsearch.dtic.mil/search?site=default_collection&q=armor+defense+study&client=dticol_frontend&proxystylesheet=dticol_frontend&proxyreload=1&filter=0&tlen=200&getfields=*&btnG=Google+search

=

I'll make it easy. Here's the relevant study volume, and the info is on Page 21.

NTI-ARMOR DEFENSE DATA STUDY (A2D2)

PHASE I

DRAFT FINAL REPORT
VOLUME
III -- US ANTI-TANK DEFENSE AT

DOM BUTGENBACH, BELGIUM (DECEMBER, 1944) 

http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a284379.pdf
 

Quote

Each of the 57mm guns had, as part of its ammunition supply, seven to ten rounds of British discarding sabot (DS) ammunition, which the British had given to the regiment before D-Day.'

Regards,

John Kettler

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Thanks to a family reunion, I'm reading a borrowed copy (crossing the Rhine now) of Roscoe Blunt, Jr,'s Foot Soldier, which I consider to be excellent. My memory could well be hazy, but I don't recall ever reading so much of the intimate detail of a GI at war. Nothing significant seems to go unaddressed, be it the terrors of being under fire, the joy in being able to hit back, field hygiene (including foxhole excretory activities and the nitty gritty of foot care), truck transport, food, encounters with refugees, the ghastly sights and smells of the battlefield, antitank warfare, mine warfare and mine clearance, pillboxes and other fixed fortifications, letters and packages to and from home, trophy weapons and docs, recon, 88s directly observed, specifics of being under 88 mm fire, snipers, POWs, execution of POWs, numerous German atrocities, etc. Offhand, I can't recall anything which went into such deep detail and description.

I leave it to the experts here to determine whether Tigers were where he said they were, for I simply don't know. His account of the CA on a tank seemed reasonable to me, as did being screwed by an ambitious medal chasing 2nd lieutenant in reference to the CA.

Regards,

John Kettler

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Wanted to note I've now finished Foot Soldier, and my opinion of it now is significantly higher than it already was. He covers much new ground, including interactions with the Germans, crossing the Elbe to meet and celebrate with the Russians, his exhilarating and exhausting band gigs, travel on leave to Paris and Switzerland, the agonies of waiting to go home, the agonies of feeling totally lost after 171 days on the line, the miserable trip home and the joys of meeting his family. there is also a brief, poignant passage about returning to Europe 39 years later with his family and a brief encounter he had in a German village where he was famous for his generosity after the war with what presumably were Hershey bars. He also speaks of somehow coming to terms with what he's been through.

Phenomenal book!

Regards,

John Kettler

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On 2/2/2016 at 3:44 PM, CaptHawkeye said:

I also read Dupuy's book and agree with the assessment here. It's a nice single work on the Bulge fighting but it should be taken lightly. Dupuy really plays up the prowess of the Waffen SS and SS Panzers to the point where he makes it seem like Kampfgruppe Pieper only failed because those plucky Americans held out at Bastonge. His Patton fawning was both much worse and much more tiresome. 

I wouldn't entirely agree with that. The Waffen SS were certainly not what they were. Dupuy certainly has his biases and the reader should be aware of these. When you  have studied History at graduate level bias is an issue you will be keenly aware of. The German accounts such as Meyer's History of the 12th SS, the history f the Panzer Korps Grss Deutschland (he ccount f the Fuhrer Begleit Brigade is the relevant section here) and even Michael Reynolds' various modern histories all have some degree of pro German bias n my opinion.

One should never rely on a single text and use a variety of sources wherever possible.All of the above sources including also Cole's official history, Charles B MacDonald's book and, for the US Bulge counter offensive in the Bulge sector Victory in Europe : the last offensive in Europe are useful but mainly from an operational perspective

We must not however forget the other battles fought by the US Army at this tme for example Aachen, Huertgen Forest, the Saar, the Vosges Mountains and of course Operation Nordwind. There are a number of texts covering these battles from both the US and the German sides. Additionally here were operations in Holland, often in co-ordination with the British, a few of whom also participated in the Battle of the Bulge

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