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Battle of the Bulge

Discussion in 'Western Europe' started by TacticalTank, Jan 31, 2011.

  1. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    I think most people would agree with that point of view. Certainly, Von Runstedt would agree with it... I however, think, with some luck and a fewer delays - they lost 36 hours (?) trying to break through with infantry before the armor even got started - they might well have broken out. KG Peiper passed through Stavelot on the morning of the 18th and the tail of the column was hit by the arriving 30th Division, shifted down from the Aachen area - the advance was checked at that point. What if, with better luck (or better planning - hitting the line with armor instead of infantry), they had arrived 24 or 36 hours earlier, with the bulk of LAH and the rest of the army on their heels? Nobody was there to check them. And Stavelot is where the Ardennes begins to open into flatter terrain.

    I agree with you (and Von Runstedt) that they would have eventually been beaten - this wasn't going to break the western allies and end the war - but (in my opinion) they might well have hit Antwerp, destroyed the port, created absolute chaos and set back the end of the war for a time.
     
  2. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    I think sometimes we - and yes, me especially :eek: - need to recognize that on a Forum as diverse as this one, many of us are here for different reasons.

    Regulars will know that I try to steer well clear of anything approaching 'what if?'. Which is in no way meant to deny the validity of 'what ifs' which are of real interest to many others. But for me, I'm always trying just to understand what did happen, why it happened, and maybe a little of what it was like to be there when it was happening.

    My overall opinion of the Bulge is that, despite logistics, air support ( or lack of ), or how many MP44s were issued, etc etc......after the initial ( very severe ) shock of the attack, many small groups of brave, desperate ( or both ) US soldiers rose to the occasion and inflicted sufficient delay on the Panzer spearheads to allow the Allied machine to lumber into action and create inevitable defeat. But that's my opinion.

    Anyhow, to show even-handedness, Cole also - on p.667 - says the following...

    'It is known that Peiper's supply officer had a map of American POL installations, but this did Peiper little good.....between 17-19 December American supply troops successfully evacuated over three million gallons of POL from the Spa-Stavelot area.'


    And on that note, maybe I really had better bow out of this thread....;) ( except just to say that the flatter terrain actually starts quite some way past Stavelot - i nfact, just a bit further than Stoumont which is where KG Peiper definitively ran out of steam...)
     
  3. SKYLINEDRIVE

    SKYLINEDRIVE Member

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    Extremely so, if you had read anything about Peiper other then american fanboi books you might concur. He was to a big part a posterboy, most of his fellow officers despised him, and not only because of his frequent nervous breakdowns during the heat of the battle or his abusive use of stimulanzts. It is quite wellknown that all his postwar interviews were full of half truths, outright lies and manipulations. I had the chance to get a very quick glance at a first draft of Westemeiers new book, it should be available in August, afterwards we can get back to Peiper.

    You are being manipulative yourself, please tell me where Martin cited Cole confirming your thesis!!!!!! I never denied that there were some divisional commanders who tried to make last minute adjustments to the orders they had received so they could commandeer american supplies. I even mentioned Peiper as one of them. But it was never part of the original plan, Peiper, as well as the divisional commanders had no say at all in the planning of the offensive, they were handed there orders with hardly any leeway for changes. The first plans were all drafted by the OKW's armed forces operational staff under Jodl's guidance, without even Von Rundstedts knowledge. Once Hitler had made up his mind Westphal from the OB West staff and Krebs from the Army Group B staff were ordered to work out the detailed attack plans. Once again read all the books I cited now two or three times and you will find out that the big supply dumps around Liége were not on the routes of advance and there were no plans (even by divisional or lower commanders) to use the fuel and other supplies . Anyone can read the books I cited, the conclusion is always that the germans had first a problem to move the fuel to their armoured units, specially so after december 23rd when the constant air attacks closed down the rail system west of the Rhine. A second problem was that the fact that the quantities the planning staff had seen as necessary were irrealistic as they knowingly had used the wrong tables to do their calculations, they had calculated with a usage on flat terrain during roadmarches. Criticisms about unrealistic fuel quantities were always brushed aside with the argument that the frontline units could rely on captured fuel, but nobody never said where to find it or drew plans systematically organizing such pilferage.

    And you still have not cited a single valid source! What does "Peiper, the man who led the attack!" mean? Did you speak with himself??? Are you citing an interview of him? If so published by whom? Are you citing from Agte or Cuppens? D
    Please do not whine that you are treated like a pogue when you behave as one!
     
  4. SKYLINEDRIVE

    SKYLINEDRIVE Member

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    I might have gotten the wrong tone, sorry KodiakBeer, I meant to play the ball, not the player! So sorry if I should have offended you, it was silly and unwanted for. In the matter I stick to my guns though!
     
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  5. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    What do I know? Nothing apart from Martin is one of the most well mannered and knowledgeable members of this forum or any other, and never needs to be asked to quote his sources because he does so on all subjects. Bullies abound. Now thats bad manners. I of course don't give a damn and couldn't give a flying fig for bullies, give em enough rope and they'll hang emselves.
     
  6. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    urqh, I wish you would quit warning them I'm a bully, its so much more fun sneaking up on them! :)
     
  7. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    Gentlemen,

    Keep it between the ditches and mind the tone of your comments. Assume honor in your adversary's discussion in the absence of proof otherwise and respond in an appropriate manner.

    This is a good thread. I want to keep it that way.

    Carry on.
     
  8. Earthican

    Earthican Member

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    I would put the furthest advance at the river east of Habiemont and the nearest exit from the Ardennes at Ouffet. Google maps puts that at 25 kms (~15 miles) attached.

    IIRC here a company of Old Hickory teamed with the Engineers and blew another bridge in Peipers face. Things did not calm down until the Two Star Platoon Leader from the 82d Airborne arrived and assured them the paratroops were on their way.
     

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  9. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    The last bridge to be blown in the face of KG Peiper was the Lienne Bridge at Neufmoulin ( this is where Peiper allegedly made his outburst about 'the damned engineers' ). A plaque markes the spot today and again, the river seems absurdly narrow, albeit with perpendicular banks. I should mention that we are of course talking 'European distances' which in the Ardennes means narrow, winding roads and cramped little villages. Some of these roads can be quite tricky to negotiate in a car even today, let alone in a 50-ton tank.
     
  10. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    You quite mistake me. I know exactly what Peiper was and I'm not a fan of him, the Waffen SS or any other aspect of the Reich. My wife is Jewish, my father was wounded at Stavelot fighting these people - I'm not fond of Nazi's! As for the stimulant abuse, I started a thread asking for information on that very question (amphetamine use in the German Army). I strongly suspect that Peiper was indeed abusing Pervitin. And I also suspect that some of the excesses (murders of civilians for example) by his and Knittel's KG may be partially attributable to the same cause, since those acts were accompanied by some rather bizarre and paranoid claims; "The Belgians are calling in artillery strikes on us."

    Here is yet another reference to fuel, from Jens Westemeier's (not a fan!) Peiper biography, pg 108, describing a meeting/briefing of all the commanders with Mohnke: ...the situation of supplies was obvious to every commander, and considered in the overall plan. He received the answer that he should replenish the troop's supplies with American supplies. Thus, Peiper was given a card on which, among others, American replenishment facilities and fueling stations were marked.

    Strangely, even though getting low on fuel he bypassed the fuel depot at Stavelot (which was only a kilometer off his route) and clearly marked on his map. He was either stupid, or had left orders for someone behind him to collect that fuel (he never clarified this). Of course, there was nobody behind him because a battalion of American infantry (1st Bn, 117th IR, 30th ID) with some TD's took the bridge as the tail of his armor column passed through the town and cut off all the trailing elements.
     
  11. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    Yeah, he was pretty well trapped in there. The obvious answer was to simply go north, but he was low on fuel and the 30th Division arrived to block him, along with assorted armored elements on each road. He couldn't go back to Stavelot to collect fuel (though he tried) because that town was also taken. He couldn't move south or be reinforced from the south because of the bridges and the 82 Airborne moving in.

    As Skyline pointed out in another thread, those little streams are quite full and in flood in winter, and that was certainly the case in December of 44.
     
  12. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    No problem! I'm here to learn. One thing I have learned is that there is no solid answer to any question about battle. What a company commander sees (and puts in his report) may be entirely different than what the enemy commander thinks was the situation, and both those reports are usually different than what the battalion commander summarizes for higher authority - and none of it agrees with what Corporal Schmutz describes later when talking about the war.
     
  13. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Some of this may be OT and it's three pages back but ...
    Sources please.
    But it was pretty clear that attacking was only likely to hasten the end wasn't it?
    Especially given the frontages it's not at all clear that the Wester allies were the "weakest enemy".
    But of course there was. He could have attacked in the East or waited in both cases for a better opertunity.
    On the otherhand commanders often have a pretty good idea what will happen. By this point in the war a good commander should have had a good feel for his opponents. There's only so far that luck or blunder can help you as well and devising a plan where your opponent must be massivly subject to them for there to be any chance of success is not good leadership.
     
  14. Timo

    Timo Member

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    What's your source for that exact phrasing: "The Belgians are calling in artillery strikes on us."? Because from my contacts with Schnelle Gruppe Knittel veterans it became quite clear to me that they did not suspect direct radio contact between Belgians and Americans. What they did believe is that Belgian civilians were acting as informants for the Americans, including the artillery spotters SS-Untersturmführer Dröge and his men encountered on the slope of the hill above Stavelot, close to the hamlet called Renardmont.

    These suspicions where based on the the fact that at the start of the offensive, the members of the Leibstandarte had been told by their officers that Stavelot had been a hotbed of the Belgian resistance. And this is true, throughout the war Stavelot was a centre of the "Witte Brigade" resistance movement. What the SS soldiers didn't know was that most members of the resistance had fled to the west when the Leibstandarte approached Stavelot because they feared that the Germans would be able to identify those resistance fighters who had revealed themselves in September 1944 when the Germans fled the town in front of the Allied advance.

    What was left were some farmers and farm helps, but mainly old people, women and children and it is actually quite straight forward why and how these particular murders (Ferme Legrand and Maison Legaye) took place. Contrary to popular believe, which usually paints the picture that the men of the Leibstandarte were convinced that their efforts in the Ardennes could turn the war in Germany's favor, those veterans of the SS-PzAA1 I interviewed were aware from the start on December 16, 1944, that it was an offensive with very little hope for success. They advanced with very little faith in a positive outcome. This became even worse when the American Old Hickory division recaptured Stavelot behind the backs of Kampfgruppe Peiper and the Spitze (advance guard) of Schnelle Gruppe Knittel, this effectively cutting off their supply lines and way out. Just four months earlier they had met this opponent during the Mortain counteroffensive at which occassion they had been stopped, severly beaten and thrown back by the Old Hickory. Now, this division was again obstructing their offensive plans. Worse, the men of the SS-PzAA1 understood very well that Stavelot had to be taken back by the Leibstandarte. Otherwise Gruppe Peiper and the elements of Gruppe Knittel on the western bank of the Amblève River would be lost.

    With all that in mind the Schnelle Gruppe Knittel attacked the western edge of Stavelot. in the afternoon of December 19. The plan was that Kampfgruppe Sandig would attack from the east with both battlegroups aimed at capturing the bridge and clearing the town. Both attack forces bogged down in shattering artillery and infantry fire. The artillery of the Old Hickory bombed the two attack forces with over 3000 shells. Both attacks faltered, with Gruppe Knittel only managing to take a few houses at the western edge of Stavelot where they took cover. The SS-PzAA1 relied heavily on green recruits and "Göring-Spende" from the Luftwaffen, but by this time even most of the battle hardened veterans were asking themselves about the mess they were in.

    Knittel realized that the American artillery had to be silenced if his men were to stand a chance. SS-Obersturmführer Goltz ordered SS-Untersturmführer Dröge to lead his pioneer platoon up the slopes north of Stavelot, through the villages of Ster, Parfondruy and Renardmont, in search of the American guns, unaware of the fact that these were place well out of their reach near Francorchamps. Dröge believed that he could sneak up on the artillery positions and take them by surprise. He therefore ordered his men to be as silent as possible. Because they did not trust the civilian population, he issued the order to capture all civilians they encountered and take them with them at the back of the marching group. This to keep them from betraying his positions to the Americans.

    All went well untill they stumbled upon the American artillery observers position near Renardmont, which overlooked the valley, the town and all access roads. The observers immediately pulled back but not before they ordered artillery fire on their own positions. Dröge and his men withdrew under heavy artillery fire, their mission to take the artillery positions by surprise had failed. This caused immense frustration with Dröge and he took this out on the civilians. They locked them into the basement of a farm only to learn that it was to difficult to set fire to the stone building, so he took them along, collecting more civilians on the way, untill they reached the Legrand farm in Parfondruy. He forced all his prisoners and the complete Legrand family (only mister Legrand survived because he wasn't at home) into the basement and set fire to the building. After two MG's fired into the crowded room the SS-men left. Some managed to escape the burning building through a back door but 24 people died in the Legrand Farm.

    The murders in the Legaye mansion is quite a similar case. After the attack on Stavelot was halted, SS-Untersturmführer Sieber and his men tried to sneak up on the American defenders of the Stavelot railway station under the cover of darkness. They silently worked themselves from house to house until they stumbled upon the civilians who sheltered against the American artillery and the infantry fire of that afternoon. Soon after the attack failed as the Americans opened fire. Siebert pulled back and on his way back to the positions of the SS-PzAA1 at the western edge of the town he took his frustration out on the civilians in the basement of the Legaye house. After much discussion with madame Legaye, because they Germans had been shot at from the house earlier that day and the SS suspected the civilians to have been party in this, all people from the basement - 23 elderly men, women and children, were lined up and executed. The Germans took madame Legaye with them for further interrogations and she became the only survivor.

    After the war the SS veterans and their friends tried to explain their crimes by pointing out that Stavelot had always been a hotbed of resistance activity. It is a fact that a lot of resistance fighters from this town fled to the west when the Germans returned, and there's probably some truth in the accounts of veterans who wrote that civilians fired at them when they entered the town on December 18, but likely most of this fire came from Americans who were still in Stavelot after Peiper had left (he had been to focused on pushing on towards the Meuse instead of clearing the town). And even if some civilians helped the Americans, that does not excuse the massacres in the Legrand farm and the Legaye house.

    I have yet to see evidence that amphetamins played a role in this massacre and the massacre later that day in the Legaye mansion. For the moment I blame suspicions, lack of sleep (they had been on the go since the early morning of December 16) and frustration (anger) over an offensive that was doomed to fail.
     
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  15. SKYLINEDRIVE

    SKYLINEDRIVE Member

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    I would take every interview with a Waffen SS veteran with more then a pinch of salt, I´ve done my share and in every single case I have been lied to. Sorry but that´s my experience. As to the story of civilians firing on german soldiers, I still have to find a single proof of such an incident really happening, except the word of Waffen SS soldiers. The civilians were scared shitless, and both Belgians and Luxembourgers living in the region are rather peaceful, not really warrior material.
     
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  16. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Thanks for the input, Timo - it's good to see you on here again ! :)
     
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  17. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    Thanks for that very specific info. That's exactly the kind of information I've been looking for. As I'm sure you know, it's very difficult to get details on such unsavory actions from either side.

    Here's some info from the other side: Captain John Kent, A Company, 117th IR, 30th ID.

    Obviously the figure of 123 dead would apply to the entire Stavelot to Stoumont area, not just Parfonfdruy. The Battalion history says these dozen SS men were hung, but no details are given of when or where or under what circumstances. In other words, I don't know if they were summarily hung by the Division or passed along for a trial elsewhere. My father, a runner and mortar observer from company D, was with this group when they captured these men. He would never discuss it. The "difficulty" in getting these men sent back was resolved by threats from the Battalion CO, Colonel Ernest Frankland, who promised dire consequences if these men weren't returned for interrogation. Most GI's in that fight admit to summary executions of LAH troopers captured, but they are always vague about the circumstances.

    Slipdigits co-written book with Marion Sanders touches on this briefly. I've just rec'd it and it's an interesting read.

    I am eager to know anything you'd be willing to share on the LAH side of this fight, or the fight at Mortain. The German side of the story is very difficult to get, and most of the literature is post-war sanitized versions of events. I'm very slowly piecing together what I hope will be the definitive story of Old Hickory from Normandy to the Elbe. I'm trying to tell it from the point of view of the GI's and the Landsers and Waffen SS troopers from the other side.

    You can contact me directly at keithrog AT ptialaska dot net, or simply share it in this thread or the Old Hickory thread.

    Oh, and one more thing - I too have been unable to ascertain how much (if any) Pervitin may have been issued in the Ardennes. It was widely used in the Wehrmacht and supposedly in the Ardennes, but it's all second hand information. Some have suggested (with no supporting documentation whatsoever) that every trooper in the LAH was given a tube (10 or 12 tablets) of the drug early in the offensive. If that's true, I'd love to get confirmation of that fact from somebody in LAH. I hesitate to even broach the subject in a book, without some sort on confirmation.

    Anything you could share from the German side of this fight or Mortain would be greatly appreciated.
     
  18. Timo

    Timo Member

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    By all means, if you think it is fair to make such sweep statements about 17 years of research and interviews with German, American and Belgian witnesses then be my guest but I'm not inclined to take you very seriously. Veterans have duped me but in the end it wasn't rocket science. Yes, civilians were scared shitless but that does not mean that each and every single inhabitant of Stavelot and the surrounding hamlets refrained himself from aiding the Americans.
    It is difficult to establish which prisoners Frank Warnock made on December 21. I think this is actually reference to the prisoners he and Cirullo made on December 22 when they led the attack on the Grégoire mansion on the western outskirts of Stavelot. They indeed captured 18 members of 2./SS-Pz.AA1 LSSAH including company commander SS-Obersturmführer Coblenz and the seriously wounded engineer platoon commander SS-Untersturmführer Dröge. The Legaye mansion, where the other massacre took place, was across the street from the Grégoire mansion where these men were captured and Warnock and his men soon discovered the 23 executed civilians in the garden. Emotions ran high and nobody volunteered to lead the prisoners to the command post so Warnock, according to himself, had to point out a corporal and some men to perform this task. He then returned to the Burghin mansion where he informed the battalion HQ about the outcome of the attack and that the prisoners had to be interrogated about the killings. Coblenz told us that they where first led on foot towards the center of Stavelot. They had to carry the wounded Dröge with them. There a truck already loaded with sacks full of cloth, probably uniforms, was ordered to transport them further. Coblenz was laid on these sacks, further men were then piled on him so that he almost choked. He never saw Dröge again. It is impossible to establish whether or not Dröge, who was responsible for the killings in Parfondruy, was mortally wounded and died of his wounds or was executed shortly after his capture.

    About hanging them: Coblenz was tried at Dachau during the Malmédy Trial and as you know, none of these defendants were hanged. He is in fact still alive today (as far as we can be sure about that at their age). Some other prisoners of Warnock where tried by the Belgians in 1948:

    Heinz Goltz (15 years in prison)
    Ernst Kilat (12 years in prison)
    Edgar Leithold (10 years in prison)
    Kasimir Liebersbach (10 years in prison)
    Max Zagler (10 years in prison)
    Franz Scierra (10 years in prison)
    Ernst Mahl (10 years in prison)
    Richard Rosenke (10 years in prison)
    Alfred Schairer (10 years in prison)
    Heinz Tremmel (aquitted)

    Of the above listed defendants, Leithold, Führer, Rosenke and Schairer were captured by Warnock.
    I did try to piece together the actions of the SS-Pz.AA1 during the Mortain counterattack and I do have quite some first hand info from veterans which I combined with info from Hewitt's divisional history (Workhorse of the Western Front - The Story of the 30th Infantry Division) but since info from both sides is far from accurate it's a hell of a job.

    I will forward the Pervitin question to the few remaining veterans of KG Peiper and SG Knittel I know.
     
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  19. SKYLINEDRIVE

    SKYLINEDRIVE Member

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    I didn´t make any statement about your 17 years of research, I made a statement about the value of an interview with members of the Waffen SS. I didn´t even condemn or deride them! It´s without any doubt a necessity to talk to the veterans of each side and of each branch if you want to do serious historical research. Nonetheless I have made very bad experiences specially, so with Waffen SS soldiers. And I would be very careful about their statements when it comes to alleged warcrimes. Sure the Belgian as well as the Luxembourgish civilians were aiding the GI´s, it´s quite understandable, the germans were the occupiers and the American their liberators. But there we are talking about giving them food and shelter as well as in a few cases hiding lost GI´s from the Germans. But I have not yet seen any proof that civilians were engaged in any military action whatsoever during the Battle of the Bulge. Surely the Armée secréte had carried out some attacks on the retreating german troops during September 1944, the Vianden militia had been skirmishing with the germans for quite a few weeks, but that was all well before December 16th.
     
  20. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    He would not talk any specifics at all about SS PoWs. He talked a good bit, in detail, about capturing men from the Heer and he did mention capturing some SS in the chase to the Westwall.

    All he would say was that they (the men that he was close to in his troop) decided that they were not going to take any SS prisoners after the apparent massacres of civilians in December 1944. He figured most of the men in his unit (30th Recon Troop) also felt that way.

    I don't know if he ever captured any SS after that and he never mentioned doing so, even though they were still capturing large numbers of enemy combatants, especially after crossing the Rhine.

    He mentioned that just after the war ended, he helped to man roadblocks to help filter the DPs as they were heading west. He and his men had orders to pick up any SS but he says they never saw any, at least in uniform. He felt as though the SS probably were hiding from them or had taken great pains to change out of their SS uniforms.
     

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