** World War II The Bulge northern shoulder

World War II: The Bulge Northern Shoulder (December 1944-January 1945)

Figure 1.--Here a little Dutch boy helps a Canadian motorcycle dispatch rider trying to plough through wg=hat was left of a dirt road. Notice the boy's wooden shoes. (Wooden shoes were better than leather shoes in the mud.) The photograph was taken December 11, 1944, just before the Geramans launched the Bulge offensive. The photograph suggests that weather was still fairly mild just befoire the battle. Source: Imperial War Museum. Colorized by Jake.

Unhapilly, Hitler was not finished with Belgians. Only 3 months after liberation, Hitler launched the last important German offensive of the War (December 16). He chose a weak section of the Allied line in the Belgian Ardennes. The Wacht am Rhein ('Watch on the Rhine') was the second German World War II offensive through the Ardennes. The resulting Battle of the Bulge was the last desperate German offensive of the War and the largest ground battle ever fought by the American Army. Almost all of it was fought in Belgium at great cost to Belgian civilians. The Germans secretly ammassed tactical superority in the Ardennes and broke through Allied lines. Unlike 1940, however, they no longer had the military capacity to exploit the breakout. And the offensive exposed Germany's last remaining reserves to the superior Allied firepower. Hitler's vision was to cut the British off again as he has done in 1940. He goal was to seize the all imprtant port of Antwerp just as the Allies were finally able to use it. (Montgomery had failed to reognize the imprtance of Antwerp until after Market Garden.) Antwerp in German hands would have denied the Allies the ability to supply their northern wing and would have cut off the British and Canadian forces in the Netherlands from the Americans to the south. The battle would be primarily fought by the United States Army. Some 55,000 troops of the British/Canadian forces participated on the northern shoulder of the Bulge. (British sources friendly to Montgomery give a much higher estimate.) The major force, however, was the 600,000 Americans. The Canadian unit was the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, also participated in the struggle. Three days after the Germans struck, Allied Commander, Gen. Eisenhower, temporarily placed American units north of a line between the towns of Givet and Prum (the northern shoulder of the Bulge) under the command of British Field Marshal Montgomery (December 19). Montgomery commanded the Allied 21st Army Group (British-Canadian forces) which were mostly deployed in the Netherlands north of where the Germans struck. The U.S. First and Ninth Armies were transferred to Montgomery. The Americans recall how Montgomery's arrival in their headquarters was like Christ cleansing the Temple. Montgomery ordered Lieutenant General Sir Brian Gwynne Horrocks to move sourh from the Netherlands and block the German effort to cross the Meuse. The 3rd Royal Tank Regiment was part of a joint American-British tank force that did not just defend the Meuse. They crossed the Meuse and, with support from the Royal Air Force (RAF) halted the forward advance of the 2nd Panzer Division (Decemnber 24). Montgomery has been accused of being overly cautious and generally contemptuous toward the Americans, both the soldiers and commanders. Eisenhower's plan after stopping the Germans short of the Meuse was to execute stage a pinzer movement to cut off the German salient. The Americans would strike with Patton's Third Army from the south. Montgomery with British-American force would attack from the north. Montgomery kept delaying his northern attacks, which Eisenhower had planned to begin on December 27. At the same time Montgomery renewed his demand that Eisenhower turn complete command of Allied forces over to him. Eisenhower rejected this out of hand. Montgomery had alienated American commanders beforehand, but then really damaged relations with the Americans. He claimed that American troops made great fighting men when given proper leadership! Patton is often accussed of problematic statements. Nothing he ever said was remotely close to this slap in the face of an ally. The general counterattack by Allied forces only began a week late (January 3). By which time many of the Germans had escaped from the salient. Participating British units included the 6th Airborne Division (including 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion), the 23rd Hussars, and tanks from the Fife and Forfar Yeomanry Regiment. Other British counterattacks followed (January 4).



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Created: 3:46 PM 4/7/2021
Last updated: 3:46 PM 4/7/2021