- Corps Commanders of the Bulge: Six American Generals and Victory in the Ardennes
Harold Winton's book is a study of leadership at the level of Corps commander. It is a biographical, institutional, organizational, analytical study. Winton has done his homework. He has conducted research at all the required national and military archives and libraries, and mastered the secondary literature. He understands military theory and operations at the tactical level of war, and how armies and air forces operate. This is an excellent study and a valuable contribution. But why research and write another book on the Battle of the Bulge?
Winton has identified "significant gaps in our knowledge and understanding of military art and science" (p. 7). The historiography of the Battle of the Bulge is extensive and well written at theater level and from battalion level down. But the story and roles of division and corps commanders have been woefully neglected. While most Americans can name World War II generals at theater and army level, for example, Eisenhower, Bradley, and Patton, and can recognize division formations, such as "The Big Red One," the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, few Americans can name tactical commanders—division and corps commanders. Winton writes: "Unless we are able to appreciate the specific challenges that arise at what might be called the 'middle management' of combat and the human attributes required to meet these challenges, our appreciation of what war really is will remain dangerously imperfect." Winton's work is addressed to a specific audience: "while the general population can afford to neglect these middle levels, those who have either a serious desire or a professional obligation to understand warfare as a whole simply cannot." Winton's second objective is "to establish connections" between the ground war and the air war during the battle. He notes that there is ample material on the battle in both dimensions, but little that shows the coordination, and the effectiveness of this joint operation between the Army and the Army Air Forces.
Winton's book is the product of his experiences. A graduate of the United States Military Academy, he taught at the U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and currently teaches at the U.S. Air Force's School of Advanced Air and Space Studies at Maxwell AFB, Alabama. At the SAMS he conducted Staff Rides of [End Page 1288] the European battlefields. These exercises required detailed knowledge of the movement of forces, intimate knowledge of the ground that was fought over, and an in-depth understanding of the alternative decisions available to maneuver commanders. The role-playing part of the Staff Ride and final after action questions and responses, I am sure added significantly to his understanding of the Ardennes campaign.
Winton studies six corps commanders: Major General (MG) Troy H. Middleton, Commanding General (CG), VII Corps; MG Matthew B. Ridgway, CG XVIII Airborne Corps; MG Leonard T. Gerow, CG V Corps; MG J. Lawton Collins, CG VII Corps; MG Manton A. Eddy, CG XII Corps; and MG John Millikin, CG III Corps. His book is divided into five major parts totaling nineteen chapters. The first part outlines the early careers of the six corps commanders, and the Army's philosophy and system of command. The next three parts cover the three phases of the Battle of the Bulge, "German Initiative in Action," "Initiative in Flux," and "American Initiative in Action." The final section is the Epilogue.
The most significant objective of any study of wars, campaigns, or battles is to explain their outcome, why one side won and the other side lost. Most students of World War II recognize that the outcome of the Battle of Bulge was determined before it started. In the winter of 1944 Nazi Germany was near exhaustion. Its best leaders and soldiers had been killed or wounded. It had been stripped of all...