The Ardennes 1944-1945 Hitler's Winter Offensive, Christer Bergström

The Ardennes 1944-1945 Hitler's Winter Offensive, Christer Bergström

The battle of the Bulge was the most costly American battle of the Second World War, an impressive surprise attack that forced the Allies into a chaotic retreat in the Ardennes, triggering a campaign that lasted for two months across the winter of 1944-45. The campaign is now most famous for the defence of Bastogne, but this was only one part of a much larger battle.

Many accounts of the battle of the Bulge focus heavily on the initial German advances, the threat to the Meuse, the siege of Bastogne and Patton's relief of Bastogne, but that only tells part of the story. This volume covers a much wider range of topics. The unsuccessful attack by the SS in the north gets more coverage than is normal, but the most significant improvement here is the impressive coverage of the second half of the battle - the slow, costly Allied counterattacks and the determined German attempts to take Bastogne even after Patton had ended the blockade of that town. This period of the battle actually saw higher Allied casualties than the first defensive period, and demonstrated the impressive abilities of the Germany army.

This is a rare example of a book that manages to combine a very detailed small scale analysis of individual fights with a good overview of a campaign. Much of the text is taken up with accounts of the many crucial fights for individual villages, or the activities of particular units, but they are always placed in context, and there are regular overviews of the situation across the entire battle area. We finish with a detailed analysis of the two sides' performance during the battle and in leadership, weaponry, losses, air power and artillery.

Unusually for a book on this topic, the author comes from a nation that was neutral during the Second World War (Sweden), and he adopts a more even handed approach than many other writers on this topic. One example is the examination of the seemingly endless arguments within the Allied High Command (the 'battle of the Generals'), where many American and British authors tend to favour their men. Here we get a rather more balanced view, with Montgomery portrayed as playing a crucial role on the northern flank of the battle, while also being somewhat annoying and tactless towards his American colleagues. Patton emerges as a complex figure, willing and able to rush troops north when ordered, but not so impressive when attacking decent German defences. The regular overviews also provide some balance here - Montgomery is often criticised for delaying the counterattack on the northern flank of the bulge, but we see Patton's own attacks from the south repeatedly failing, and the northern attacks only started a few days later. Both sides claims are subjected to careful examination, and plenty of misconceptions about the battle are cleared up.

This is the best book I have yet read on the Battle of the Bulge, combining an impressive level of detail with a clear overview of the battle. 

Chapters
1 - The Road to the Ardennes Offensive: Towards the Abyss
2 - The Attack Plan: 'A Momentous Decision!'
3 - The Opponents: Countdown to the Great Battle
4 - 5.Panzerarmee: Panzer March towards the Meuse!
5 - 7.Armee: Secure the flank!
6 - SS-Panzerarmee: Ruthlessly Forward!
7 - The Allied Aviation Intervenes: Jabos!
8 - Bastogne: 'Nuts!'
9 - New Year's Day 1945: New Blows against the Allies
10 - January 1945: Renewed German Attacks
11 - The Bloody Final Battle

Appendices
1 - German and U.S. military unit structures in December 1944
2 - Color profiles of Military Vehicles and Aircraft during the Ardennes Battle
3 - Tanks and Anti-tank Guns in the Ardennes Battle
4 - Order of Battle, the Ardennes Battle

 

Author: Christer Bergström
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 504
Publisher: Casemate
Year: 2014 (English edition)


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