A comprehensive account of the bloodiest battle in American history.
Caddick-Adams (Military History/U.K. Defence Academy; Monte Cassino: Ten Armies in Hell, 2013, etc.) points out that beginning in 1943, Hitler stopped appearing in public, and his knowledge of the world was based solely on phone, radio and written reports. The failed assassination attempt on July 20, 1944, organized by army officers, did not improve his usual paranoia and made him even less inclined to listen to military advisers. Announced in September 1944, a massive offensive was “irrational, counterintuitive, even suicidal.” It was less a counterattack than a “political game-changer that would shatter the coalition ranged against him” and prove to the nation that, despite the plot to remove him, he was still in control. As expected, his generals hated it. The buildup required withdrawing essential forces from the Russian front, denuding the remaining reserves, and creating new units of poorly equipped and inadequately trained men formerly considered too young or too old to fight. Launched on Dec. 16, 1944, it succeeded brilliantly for a week and then stalled as defenders fought with unexpected stubbornness, the terrible weather took its toll, and superior numbers, technology and logistics (the Wehrmacht depended on horse-drawn transport) won the day. As Caddick-Adams notes, “campaigns like the Ardennes remind us that in most cases to prosecute war with success ultimately you must do this on the ground…by putting your young men (and today, women) in the mud.” The author also provides a comprehensive glossary and two sections that will be of most interest to military historians: “Orders of Battle” and the “comparative rank structures” of the German, American and British forces.
Filling over 800 pages, Caddick-Adams casts a wide net, delving deep into the background, conduct, consequences and even historiography of this iconic battle, so even experienced military buffs will find plenty to ponder.