Snow and Steel: The Battle of the Bulge, 1944-45 by Peter Caddick-AdamsBetween December 16, 1944 and January 15, 1945, American forces found themselves entrenched in the heavily forested Ardennes region of Belgium, France, and Luxembourg defending against an advancing German army amid freezing temperatures, deep snow, and dense fog.
Operation Herbstnebel --Autumn Mist-- was a massive German counter-offensive that stunned the Allies in its scope and intensity. In the end, the 40-day long Battle of the Bulge, as it has come to be called, was the bloodiest battle fought by U.S. forces in World War II, and indeed the largest land battle in American history.
Before effectively halting the German advance, some 89,000 of the 610,000 American servicemen committed to the campaign had become casualties, including 19,000 killed.
The engagement saw the taking of thousands of Americans as prisoners of war, some of whom were massacred by the Waffen SS -- but it also witnessed the storied stand by U.S. forces at Bastogne as German forces besieged the region and culminated in a decisive if costly American victory.
Ordered and directed by Hitler himself --against the advice of his generals-- the Ardennes offensive was the last major German offensive on the Western Front. In the wake of the defeat, many experienced German units were left severely depleted of men and equipment. Its last reserve squandered, these irreplaceable losses would hasten the end of the war.
In Snow and Steel, Peter Caddick-Adams draws on interviews with over 100 participants of the campaign, as well as archival material from both German and US sources, to offer an engagingly written and thorough reassessment of the historic battle.
Exploring the failings of intelligence that were rife on both sides, the effects of weather, and the influence of terrain on the battles outcome, Caddick-Adams deftly details the differences in weaponry and doctrine between the US and German forces, while offering new insights into the origins of the battle; the characters of those involved on both the American and German sides, from the general staff to the foot soldiers; the preparedness of troops; and the decisions and tactics that precipitated the German retreat and the American victory. Re-examining the SS and German infantry units in the Bulge, he shows that far from being deadly military units, they were nearly all under-strength, short on equipment, and poorly trained; kept in the dark about the attack until the last minute, they fought in total ignorance of their opponents or the terrain. Ultimately, Caddick-Adams concludes that the German assault was doomed to failure from the start.
Aided by an intimate knowledge of the battlefield itself and over twenty years of personal battlefield experience, Caddick-Adams has produced the most compelling and complete account of the Bulge yet written.
Why is Hitler’s Ardennes campaign called the battle of the Bulge?
After their invasion of Normandy in June , the Allies moved across northern France into Belgium during the summer but lost momentum in the autumn. Apart from an abortive thrust to Arnhem , Netherlands, the efforts of the Allied armies in western Europe during September and October amounted to little more than a process of nibbling. German numbers were also bolstered by those troops who had managed to withdraw from France. A general offensive launched in mid-November by all six Allied armies on the Western Front brought disappointingly small results at heavy cost; continued efforts merely exhausted the attacking troops. In mid-December Gen. Dwight D.
German Field Marshals Gerd von Rundstedt and Walther Model both cautioned against such an unreasonable timetable, and the pair later offered several written protests and alternative strategies, to no avail. The Allies missed several early warning signs of an offensive. Early German gains in the Battle of the Bulge were largely due to the attack catching the Allies completely by surprise. Some American commanders also dismissed reports of increased German activity near the Ardennes, while others brushed off enemy prisoners who claimed that a major attack was in the offing. As a result, when the German offensive finally began, the region was thinly defended by only a few exhausted and green U. A bad phone connection helped lead to catastrophe for one U. The largely inexperienced outfit arrived in the Ardennes on December 11 and was ordered to cover a large section of the U.
Army Group B :. It was launched through the densely forested Ardennes region of Wallonia in eastern Belgium , northeast France , and Luxembourg , towards the end of the war in Europe. The offensive was intended to stop Allied use of the Belgian port of Antwerp and to split the Allied lines, allowing the Germans to encircle and destroy four Allied armies and force the Western Allies to negotiate a peace treaty in the Axis powers ' favor. The Germans achieved a total surprise attack on the morning of 16 December , due to a combination of Allied overconfidence, preoccupation with Allied offensive plans, and poor aerial reconnaissance due to bad weather. American forces bore the brunt of the attack and incurred their highest casualties of any operation during the war. The battle also severely depleted Germany's armored forces, and they were largely unable to replace them. German personnel and, later, Luftwaffe aircraft in the concluding stages of the engagement also sustained heavy losses.
In , the Nazis launched a huge counterattack in the Ardennes region in Southern Belgium, aimed at bringing the Allied advance on Germany to an abrupt halt. The campaign is often known as the 'battle of the Bulge' — but how did it get its name? In December , Hitler launched his last major offensive of the Second World War — if it succeeded, he would bring the Allied advance to a screeching halt. Hitler attempted to split the western allies and recapture the vital supply port of Antwerp by ordering his forces to launch a surprise thrust through the hilly and wooded Ardennes region in Southern Belgium. The area was only lightly held by American troops and, caught off guard, they were initially swept aside. But their initial success was not to last, especially as they lacked the vital fuel they needed to keep their tanks and vehicles going. As Allied resistance stiffened and improving weather allowed the Allied Air Forces to join the action, the German attack ground to a halt.
A year later, he must have felt pretty good about his chances: The Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, had paved the way for a series of other Nazi defeats in France and neighboring countries; meanwhile, the Soviet Army was hammering away on the eastern front. Hitler's army was caught in a vice, and the screws were tightening. Ultimately, however, Ike lost. Exploiting the weakly-defended Ardennes forest, the Nazis carved out a triangular slice of former Allied territory in Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany. By then, the Americans and Germans had respectively suffered around 81, and , casualties. Hitler had thought this attack might force the western Allies out of mainland Europe, allowing him to concentrate on beating the Soviets.