The battle of the Bulge was the largest American land battle of the Second World War, and also produced some of the most long lasting controversies. This study looks at the performance of American generals at five levels - Eisenhower at overall command, Bradley at army group, Simpson at army level, Middleton at corps level and Jones and Clarke and division level. When appropriate the subject of each chapter is compared to their contemporaries, so Simpson is compared to Patton and Hodges.
The book works because Morelock is willing to criticise his subjects. Bradley in particular emerges rather badly from the analysis of his performance, seemingly more interesting in his own reputation than in acting as a team player. It also helps to confirm the general impression one gets elsewhere that many of the senior American generals were bad tempered and over-competitive with each other (this also emerges from many of their diaries). Eisenhower emerges with credit for having realised the nature of the German attack early, Middleton for doing the best he could with limited resources and Clarke for his skilful defence of St-Vith. The most impressive is Simpson, who comes across as a genuine team player who realised that the best way to beat the Germans was for the allies to operate together as smoothly as possible, and accepted the order placing him under Montgomery without complaint. Even the generals who performed well have their performance criticised in places - Middleton for not ordering the inexperienced General Jones to withdraw his most exposed battalions at the start of the attack for example.
Another great benefit of this book is its detailed examination of several key command decisions, making it clear who was responsible for decisions such as placing Montgomery in charge to the north of the Bulge. This comes in very useful when reading other books that don't always get those details right.
Overall this is an interesting study of the performance of the American leadership during the battle of the Bulge. Knowledge of the course of the battle is probably essential, but otherwise it's a readable and in places thought provoking examination of a key part of this American victory.
1 - The American Army in the Ardennes, 1944-45
2 - Eisenhower and the Supreme Command
3 - Bradley and the 12th Army Group
4 - Simpson and the Ninth Army
5 - Middleton and the VIII Corps
6 - Jones, Clarke and the Defence of St.-Vith
Afterword: Leaders of Skill and Character
Author: Jerry D. Morelock