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Advance and Destroy

Patton as Commander in the Bulge

John Nelson Rickard

Publication Year: 2011

In the winter of 1944–1945, Hitler sought to divide Allied forces in the heavily forested Ardennes region of Luxembourg and Belgium. He deployed more than 400,000 troops in one of the last major German offensives of the war, which became known as the Battle of the Bulge, in a desperate attempt to regain the strategic initiative in the West. Hitler’s effort failed for a variety of reasons, but many historians assert that Lieutenant General George S. Patton Jr.’s Third Army was ultimately responsible for securing Allied victory. Although Patton has assumed a larger-than-life reputation for his leadership in the years since World War II, scholars have paid little attention to his generalship in the Ardennes following the relief of Bastogne. In Advance and Destroy, Captain John Nelson Rickard explores the commander’s operational performance during the entire Ardennes campaign, through his “estimate of the situation,” the U.S. Army’s doctrinal approach to problem-solving. Patton’s day-by-day situational understanding of the Battle of the Bulge, as revealed through ULTRA intelligence and the influence of the other Allied generals on his decision-making, gives readers an in-depth, critical analysis of Patton’s overall effectiveness, measured in terms of mission accomplishment, his ability to gain and hold ground, and a cost-benefit analysis of his operations relative to the lives of his soldiers. The work not only debunks myths about one of America’s most controversial generals but provides new insights into his renowned military skill and colorful personality.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Series: American Warriors Series

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix-xii

Key to the Maps

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pp. xiii-xiv

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Series Editor’s Foreword

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pp. xv-xvi

The study of military operations has been the staple of military academies and staff colleges for 200 years. Indeed, the analysis of operations is the basis for military doctrine, procedures, and attitudes and is rooted in past operations. Although famous captains have left their own accounts and theories, these relate to the past. The analysis of a battle or a campaign is...

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pp. xvii-xviii

This book has been in the works for many years, and I cannot thank every person who assisted in its development. However, a few thanks are in order to the following people: Roger Beaumont, Ira Hunt Jr., Dan Crosswell, David O’Keefe, Harold Winton, Herb Pankratz, Richard Sommers, Timothy Nenninger, and Tim Frank. Special thanks go to my longtime...


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pp. xix-xxii

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Studying Patton

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pp. 1-10

Adolf Hitler launched his counteroffensive in the Ardennes forest, codenamed WACHT AM RHEIN (Watch on the Rhine), on December 16, 1944, and proved that a tiger is at its most dangerous when cornered. The German army (Heere), Waffen–Schutzstaffel (SS; the guard echelon), and German air force...

PART I: The Road to the Bulge

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pp. 11-12

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1.Origin of the Ardennes Counteroffensive

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pp. 13-24

On the morning of July 25, 1944, more than 2,400 American bombers and fighter-bombers launched an aerial assault on a narrow sector of the German front in western Normandy. The aircraft, approaching at an altitude of 12,000 feet, flew directly over the heads of awed American infantry below. Four thousand tons of explosives tumbled out of the bomb bays in...

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2.The Opposing Armies in December 1944

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pp. 25-52

German ground forces in World War II were finally defeated in May 1945 because they fought a multifront war against the world’s three greatest industrial powers. They were simply outnumbered in manpower and materiel. Eisenhower’s G-3, Major General Harold R. Bull, calculated that Allied numerical superiority in Normandy on July 1, 1944, was between...

PART II: Panzers in the Ardennes

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pp. 53-54

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3. Onslaught

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pp. 55-72

On the eve of the Ardennes offensive the Allied armies were deployed from the North Sea coast to Switzerland—some 500 miles—a frontage described by the American offi cial historians as “excessively broad.” The sixty-three Allied divisions actually in the line on December 16 therefore held, on average, a frontage of 8 miles, double that prescribed by doctrine for divisions...

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4. Enter Patton

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pp. 73-93

On December 16 Patton’s energy was focused on breaking through the West Wall. After his rapid advance across France during August, his momentum was stopped cold at the Moselle River on the last day of the month. He had no gas for his tanks. On September 2 he, Hodges, and Bradley met Eisenhower at Chartres to discuss future operations. Eisenhower...

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5. The Verdun Conference

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pp. 94-110

Early on December 19 Major General Manton S. Eddy, commander of XII Corps, was at Third Army headquarters in Nancy. At 0700 Maddox briefed him on the situation. At that time, Eddy recalled, “They showed me the plans rather sketchedly as all the plans were tentative.” An hour later he sat in on the General Staff meeting in Maddox’s offi ce. Weyland...

PART III: Descent on Bastogne

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pp. 111-112

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6. The Ninety-Degree Turn

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pp. 113-136

On December 19 Third Army was deployed in Lorraine between Remich and Hottweiler on a fifty-five-mile front opposite the German First Armee. Walker’s XX Corps consisted of the 5th, 90th, and 95th Infantry Divisions. The 10th Armored Division had already moved up to VIII Corps on December 17. The 5th Infantry Division was in the Saarlautern–Roden and...

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7. Third Army Attacks, December 22–23

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pp. 137-165

The speed with which Patton pulled Third Army out of Lorraine and moved it north unsettled Eisenhower and his staff. Patton noted on December 21, “I received quite a few telephone calls from various higher echelons, expressing solicitude as to my ability to attack successfully with only three divisions.” He declared, “As usual on the verge of action, everyone...

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8. A Rendezvous with Eagles, December 24–26 [Contains Image Plates]

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pp. 166-178

December 23 was not a productive day for Third Army. While CCB recoiled from the counterattack at Chaumont, the tanks of CCA sat virtually idle the whole day on the south bank of the S

PART IV: The Incomplete Victory

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pp. 179-180

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9. Patton’s Alternative Lines of Action

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pp. 181-199

At this juncture it is important to examine Patton’s estimate process. Through it, the historian can evaluate his favored lines of action and compare them with those favored by Eisenhower and Bradley. The estimate process was designed to guard against selecting lines of action that did not lead anywhere decisive. The estimate offers insights into Patton’s...

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10. Path to Attrition, December 27–29

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pp. 200-225

Late on December 25 Manteuffel told Model that the window of opportunity to take Bastogne had vanished and that the attacks in the Marche sector had achieved only limited success. This estimate reached Model only after he had sent his own estimate at 2000 to Hitler via telegram through...

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11. Slugging Match,December 30–31

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pp. 226-240

On the west side of the Bastogne corridor the XLVII Panzerkorps formations crossed the LD at approximately 0730—the 3rd PGD advancing on Villeroux, and the FBB advancing on Sibret. Despite the fact that 4th Armored Division and III Corps artillery pounded Denkert’s assembly area in the southern edge of the Bois de Fragotte, and...

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12. Culmination, January 1–4

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pp. 241-260

On December 31 Eisenhower cabled Marshall that there were “several indications that the Germans may be preparing a counter offensive in the area of the upper Rhine.” As a precaution, Kibler sent a message to Third Army at 1730 to “initiate without delay” the necessary reconnaissance and organization to tie into Patch’s reserve position west of Bitche. Less...

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13. The Harlange Pocket, January 5–8

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pp. 261-274

The intense fighting around Bastogne since December 30 had taken its toll on Middleton. Gay visited him on January 5 and observed, “It was quite remarkable to note the difference in the attitude of the commanders.” Middleton was “quite depressed and felt that he could not attack, and also questioned if he could hold against the enemy’s attacks.” On his...

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14. No Risk, No Reward, January 9–25

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pp. 275-302

January 9 was a dull, cloudy day with heavy snowfall. XIX TAC flew only twenty-four missions during the day. Third Army attacked at 1000, but not with the number of divisions Patton expected. He spoke of the new offensive in terms of a “hell of a show which should really rock them,” but Middleton held back the 17th Airborne Division, ordering Miley to assume...

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15. Assessment

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pp. 303-324

The Ardennes was not where Patton wanted to fight in late December 1944. Set to punch through the West Wall after a brutal campaign in Lorraine, he had to stop and realign Third Army for an entirely new operation. Although more than sixty-five years have passed, his conduct of the battle remains relevant for study by senior commanders today. Patton’s...


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pp. 325-354


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pp. 355-426

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 427-446

Index of Military Units

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pp. 447-471

General Index

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pp. 472-490

E-ISBN-13: 9780813134567
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813134550

Page Count: 472
Illustrations: 18 b&w photos, 22 maps, 3 figures, 36 tables
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: American Warriors Series