If the German’s had won at the Bulge,,,,,,

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jdarocha
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If the German’s had won at the Bulge,,,,,,

Post by jdarocha » Mon Dec 28, 2015 4:21 pm

There are a couple of Battle of the Bulge scenarios in the Panzer Corps series, and having played them, I am wondering what the German’s were thinking in planning this offensive action in December 1944. I know that their main objective was to split the allied forces by taking Antwerp. But what would that have accomplished in the long run? Patton’s army was close by and would have eventually broken through the German flank, so even if the German’s had achieved their primary objective they would not have been able to sustain it for very long – so why bother? If the German’s had been successful, even highly successful in the Ardennes Offensive would it have changed the outcome of the war? No, so what was the point?
Thanks Halder

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Re: If the German’s had won at the Bulge,,,,,,

Post by charge62 » Mon Dec 28, 2015 7:51 pm

If you change your premise the answer is pretty clear. What were the Germans thinking? The senior officers in the west were cut out of the planning by Hitler. So what was Hitler thinking? Hitler, living in his little delusional world, was hoping to recapture the success of 1940. During his planning he disregarded terrain, the degraded nature of troop training, and his own incompetence. And don't overlook that it was Hitler who kept the available fuel (yes, the Germans had enough - barely - for the battle plan) in the rear and didn't tell the transport units that the fuel was stockpiled for an offensive.

The best source for Battle of the Bulge is the remarkable Dark December by Robert E. Merriam. You can disregard the dreadful movie Battle of the Bulge, hardly a fact in it.

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Re: If the German’s had won at the Bulge,,,,,,

Post by robman » Mon Dec 28, 2015 8:40 pm

Political leaders are almost always hostage to their past successes. As I understand it, Hitler's goal was ultimately political: to inflict a military reverse on the Western Allies sufficiently stunning to bring them to the negotiating table. As charge62 points out, this would have replicated the (partial) success of 1940. Although the 1940 offensive failed--remarkably, even in hindsight--to bring the Brits to the table, Hitler never gave up hoping that they would see reason. Barbarossa was premised on a similar premise: the shock of the offensive would cause the Soviet regime to collapse, and a weak successor regime would cut a deal with Germany as the Soviets had in 1918. Again, this didn't happen, but it is again remarkable, even in hindsight, that it did not. By late 1944, however, such a "shock and awe" strategy was delusional: there was no longer any possible negotiated settlement that could have included the survival of the Nazi regime.

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Re: If the German’s had won at the Bulge,,,,,,

Post by proline » Mon Dec 28, 2015 9:48 pm

As others have said, it seems doubtful that even a major success would have made the Western Allies agree to leave the Nazis in power and it certainly wouldn't have brought any real doubt on the ultimate allied victory- the allied economy was many times larger than the German one at that point.

One possible effect it might have had though is creating friction between the east and west. A big western allied setback would have allowed the soviets to march deeper into western Europe by the end of the war and it may have angered the soviets that the west wasn't doing its share of the work. Put those two together and Stalin may have reconsidered his previous deals for post-war Europe and tried to hold onto additional territory. That might have been enough to start WW3...

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Re: If the German’s had won at the Bulge,,,,,,

Post by BiteNibbleChomp » Mon Dec 28, 2015 10:18 pm

I've always thought that Wacht AM Rhien failed because of the weather clearing up a few days earlier than the Germans would have liked, allowing the British and US air forces to rain death on the panzers.

So, assuming the sky clears a week later (the 30th instead of the 23rd), and Hitler releases even a little bit of extra fuel, the Germans could possibly have captured a nearby Allied supply dump. With the extra supplies, the tanks can keep driving forward for another couple of days, while the infantry can capture Bastogne.

By about the 28th, the Germans would probably have reached line near Namur. At this point, Hitler would probably keep ordering them towards Antwerp, but if the commanders ignored his orders, it would be more logical for them to drive back and engage Patton's forces, while quietly withdrawing the tanks to the East (they still have two or three days before the USAAF returns).

What use the five Panzer divisions find in the east can never be known, but if they aren't wasted in the Spring Awakening attack, they (alongside some SS infantry) probably would have helped delay the Russian attacks for a month.

Result: Germany survives another six or eight weeks, or perhaps a very unequal negotiated settlement with the Western Allies (probably involving handing over Hitler and other top Nazis).

- BNC
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Re: If the German’s had won at the Bulge,,,,,,

Post by captainjack » Tue Dec 29, 2015 8:58 am

I got the impression that the French and British had decided in 1940 that a negotiated peace would not be enough and that the only acceptable outcome was defeat of Germany followed by reconstruction of the entire state (which fortunately appears to have worked quite well). My understanding is that American policy was also aimed at unconditional surrender. A German success in the Battle of the Bulge would not be likely to change these views, although it would have changed who was where in the later parts of the war. BiteNibbleChomp mentions a few divisions, which doesn't sound much unless they are in just the right place at the right time.

For example, according to Last Days of the Reich by James Lucas, Klagenfurt in Austria was occupied by elements of the 8th Army only 3 hours before Tito's troops reached it, and there was a fair bit of tension before Tito called back his substantial partisan forces. Lucas mentions plans to invade Istria and includes the sentence: "The prospect of war with Jugoslavia was very real". I understand that these 8th Army troops came from Italy, rather than the Western front but would they have been used for this if there had been a major set back in Luxembourg?

So to me, a more successful Battle of the Bulge would probably have ended with several Austrian provinces (at least Carinthia) incorporated into Yugoslavia (presumably separating in the 1990s) and probably with East Germany being a bit larger than it was. The political plans for joint rule of Berlin had been agreed some time before (in 1943 if I remember correctly - though I have no handy reference books on this). So while you'd expect the Russians might have taken advantage of being there to get a bigger share of power, it would have been a very big risk to completely overturn existing agreements.

But that's a bit dull, so my Xmas present to a modder with time on their hands.....

Option B (Panzer Corps 1946)
Victory in the Bulge buys enough time for the five new Maus Panzer Division Panzer Divisions to be deployed, with a prototype battalion of Ratte and air cover from the flying saucers launched from inside the Earth's core, using Glocken weapons to cause mass destruction all round. Go on, you know you want to do it. I'm pretty sure that Puma has created some saucer icons (I haven't looked at the site for a while, but I'm sure I have seen a Glocke and possibly even a Ratte somewhere).

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Re: If the German’s had won at the Bulge,,,,,,

Post by BiteNibbleChomp » Tue Dec 29, 2015 9:18 am

captainjack wrote:BiteNibbleChomp mentions a few divisions, which doesn't sound much unless they are in just the right place at the right time.
30 divisions, including 6 Panzer. A good number of these were SS troops too. Considering Fall Weiss used 53, it is a significant amount.

Had these stayed hidden away they could have busted the Allied attack on the Rhine bridge in MArch, or caused some VERY significaqnt disruption on the Ostfront (doubt it would slow Stalin down for any more than a month though, but it would weaken his forces and likely his place on the negotiating table)

- BNC
Creator of American Civil War mod for Strategic Command WWI!
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Re: If the German’s had won at the Bulge,,,,,,

Post by captainjack » Tue Dec 29, 2015 8:49 pm

BiteNibbleChomp wrote:30 divisions, including 6 Panzer. A good number of these were SS troops too. Considering Fall Weiss used 53, it is a significant amount.
In my defence, I hadn't read your post properly!

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Re: If the German’s had won at the Bulge,,,,,,

Post by BiteNibbleChomp » Tue Dec 29, 2015 9:51 pm

captainjack wrote:
BiteNibbleChomp wrote:30 divisions, including 6 Panzer. A good number of these were SS troops too. Considering Fall Weiss used 53, it is a significant amount.
In my defence, I hadn't read your post properly!
I have 23 Ground Defense!

- BNC
Creator of American Civil War mod for Strategic Command WWI!
Discuss here: http://www.matrixgames.com/forums/tm.asp?m=4504986
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Re: If the German’s had won at the Bulge,,,,,,

Post by grenadier98 » Wed Dec 30, 2015 11:59 pm

As others have mentioned, I think the goal was to split up the union between the allies. There were a lot of friction between the allies, not only between the western alies and the Sovjet Union, but also between the military leaders of the western allies themself. Also I doubt, that it would have ever come close to a split up. But the WWI lance-corporal obviously had different thoughts, as he often had and misjuged his opponents over and over again and again. Btw I've seen a quite interesting lecture on youtube at the US Army War College titled "Why Hitler lost the war". That's also preety much what I think of this subject as well.
Regarding the German Winter Offensive in the West. I think even if it would have been so succesfull that in the aftermath and following operations of it all western froces would have been kicked out of Europe, the Red Army would still have won in the east.

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Re: If the German’s had won at the Bulge,,,,,,

Post by Vorskl » Thu Dec 31, 2015 4:57 am

IMHO the point of this attack was rather political than military: the hope of Reich was to inflict heavy casualties on the American troops and thus push Washington towards signing a separate peace. It's exactly the tactic Japanese employed in the Pacific theater after they lost all strategic initiative after Midway.

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Re: If the German’s had won at the Bulge,,,,,,

Post by jdarocha » Fri Jan 01, 2016 2:33 pm

Thanks to all for the replies, it certainly has helped me understand the Ardennes Offensive better. Two quick follow up questions if I may. If the German forces used in the Bulge where redirected East against the Russians where could they most effectively be used; another Eastern Offensive, a strong fighting withdrawal, a breakout manuever somewhere? And; I am under the impression that the quality of the German troops used in the Ardennes Offesnive of 1944 where overall poor (e.g. volkssturm) - thoughts?
Much thanks
Halder

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Re: If the German’s had won at the Bulge,,,,,,

Post by robman » Fri Jan 01, 2016 9:17 pm

It's hard for me to imagine how the course of the war would have been significantly altered by some alternative use of the forces committed to the Ardennes Offensive. By the end of 1944, the Soviets had broken the back of the Wehrmacht in the East. Alternative deployments or strategies would have altered the time and place of some of the fighting, but not the final outcome, and probably would not have postponed defeat by more than a few weeks. I suspect that the last window of opportunity for a significantly different outcome was the Generals' Plot in the summer of 1944. If that had succeeded, the new regime would still have been forced to accept unconditional surrender, but as a practical matter Hitler's immediate successors would have been in a much better position to negotiate the details of capitulation in 1944 than in 1945, after effective control over all German territory had been lost. It's impossible to say how much of a difference this would have made to the postwar settlement; by 1944, the partition of Europe was inevitable, but the formal partition of Germany might have been avoided somehow.

I don't know the answer to the second question, but entirely by coincidence I started Beevor's "Ardennes 1944" last night!
Last edited by robman on Fri Jan 01, 2016 10:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: If the German’s had won at the Bulge,,,,,,

Post by BiteNibbleChomp » Fri Jan 01, 2016 10:07 pm

Halder wrote: I am under the impression that the quality of the German troops used in the Ardennes Offesnive of 1944 where overall poor (e.g. volkssturm) - thoughts?
Much thanks
Halder
Some of the divisions were SS ones, which are basically the best German troops in the war, and a rather large amount of Tiger IIs and other stuff.

If used in the East they might have been able to reopen the link to Konigsberg and let the garrison and/or civilians escape the town. Or been used to destroy the momentum of the Soviet attack on Seelow (though they couldn't have changed the final outcome)

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Re: If the German’s had won at the Bulge,,,,,,

Post by wargovichr » Fri Jan 01, 2016 10:47 pm

Dunkirk was the battle that would determine that Germany would not defeat Britain.
Stalingrad was the battle that determined Germany would not win the war.
Kursk was the battle that determined Germany would lose the war.
ANY major offensive by Germany after that point was doomed to failure now that the "sleeping (economic) giants" -- the US and Russia -- were aroused. In addition there were the additional major mistakes by Germany: failure to push the submarine war, failure to expedite fighter deployment of the Me-262 for air superiority, Hitler's disastrous "no retreat" rule, too many competing over-complex wasteful weapon systems (rail guns, guided rockets, super heavy tanks, the Atlantic Wall, amongst others, etc.).
It's interesting what decisions were made as a result of progressive Allied (Britain, the US, Russia) major meetings.
These allies had agreed at the Casablanca Conference (1943) that Germany should submit to "unconditional surrender."
So the Ardennes offensive required denuding troops from the inexorably worsening eastern front (Russia), surprising the western allies, bad winter weather, capture of allied fuel dumps, significant degrading off Allied forces, capture of Antwerp (major Allied supply port), and political dissolution of US and British military cooperation. A very, very tall order and near insane gamble. Of course, at this time Hitler was perhaps neurologically impaired, unhealthy, drug dependent and very mad...on top of a gambler's heart (worked against smaller, poorly led adversaries early in the war). As Germany progressively lost the war, Hitler, full of hate, vowed destruction of his own people if they could not win. He was very successful at that.
So, as mentioned the Allies had already declared unconditional surrender, they meant it. Germany was very lucky it was not the recipient of the first atomic weapons!
Even if the Ardennes offensive had been successful, the stauch Allies...the US and Britain...would not have broken. Russia needed the US/British western front and the western allies needed Russia's eastern front.The war's end would have been delayed but unless intact German western front forces could be transferred back to the eastern front, Germany's end would have happened, but perhaps Russia would have fully occupied Germany possibly, an even worse fate to Hitler and Germany than any surrender to the western allies.
Interesting counterfactual to consider how post-war Germany would have been occupied and/or divided if Ardennes would have been successful, but like I said, Germany occupied solely by Russia or obliterated by western nuclear holocaust?
Hitler, the mad man, a fan of Richard Wagner, got his Gotterdammerung.

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Re: If the German’s had won at the Bulge,,,,,,

Post by charge62 » Fri Jan 01, 2016 11:32 pm

If the forces had been directed East, the best they could have hoped to accomplish was delaying the Russians. If for example, the '44 attempt to kill Hitler had succeeded AND the generals (not Jodl and Keitel, but the fighting generals) had emerged on top over the SS, then such an attempt to delay the Russians would have been a vital part in putting the Western Allies in a terrible bind. There were German generals (and a surprising number of the soldiers) who would have willingly fought to delay the Russians, while their brothers in arms were surrendering in the West. In such a circumstance, Eisenhower would have found himself in a terrible bind. Keep killing Germans even when they were surrendering or not advance at all until his political masters rendered a decision.

German Army (Heer) training standards fell sharply beginning in 1944 (perhaps earlier) and grew steadily weaker thereafter. Good tanks, Panthers and Royal Tigers were given to half-trained men. Senior leaders (as in the bulge) were a mix of political appointees (those Hitler considered loyal to himself) and experienced generals who had been broken to heel (unwilling to stand up to anyone anymore). One of the few factual elements in the movie Battle of the Bulge is how green the SS tankers were.

Another aspect of the German shortcomings at the time is the inexperience at all levels involved in planning and leading the attack. King Tigers weigh a great deal, yet Hitler counted on frozen bogs to support their weight. Really? Where were the combat commanders to tell him he was wrong? Then, once the Tigers began getting stuck, why didn't they command level leaders adapt? Maybe if they had waited until February, then the bogs may have been truly solid, but don't bet on it. Bogland can be highly unpredictable and one patch might be frozen solid and to significant depth, while right next to it another forms only a skin of ice. Experienced German panzer troops and leaders would have known and planned for such problems. If they were caught by surprise, they would have adapted intelligently.

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Re: If the German’s had won at the Bulge,,,,,,

Post by jdarocha » Sat Jan 02, 2016 4:32 pm

Excellent information. Thanks to all!
Halder

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Re: If the German’s had won at the Bulge,,,,,,

Post by Jesdel » Sun Jan 26, 2020 2:55 pm

At the end of the day, it came down to Hitler's delusions. That said, there was SOME logic to the idea....just that victory likely wasn't plausible. Had Germany captured Antwerp, the possible outcomes in Hitler's eyes were:
1. Eliminating the Western Allies primary port for supplies (Antwerp), thusby putting the Western Allies advance to a halt and maybe even forcing a retreat.
2. Given Germany access to vital supplies, which was in dire need as they lost Romania and their oil fields.
3. Splitting and ending the alliance of the Western Allies.

As foolish as it was to embark on this operation, in Hitler's eyes, the outcome of the war was inevitable. Instead of postponing the inevitable collapse of the Nazis, Hitler decided to throw everything he had into the 'chance' of giving Germany hope for a better outcome. At this point in the war, the Nazis knew their best chance was to get a peace deal that allowed them to stay in power.

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Re: If the German’s had won at the Bulge,,,,,,

Post by proline » Tue Jan 28, 2020 6:50 am

jdarocha wrote:
Mon Dec 28, 2015 4:21 pm
what was the point?
You could ask this question of any and all German actions during WW2. The British empire was invulnerable as its navy was massively superior to the German one and its economy was far larger. Throw in the USSR and the USA and the Allied economy was several times larger. In the circumstances of fighting an enemy with a massive economy and invulnerable territories, any victory earned is of no long-term benefit no matter how decisive that victory may be (fall of France, Pearl Harbor).

So why did the nazis do it? Because humans sometimes do really dumb and evil things. Usually that has to do with a human leader putting personal interests ahead of the national interest and/or putting short-term goals ahead of long-term ones. Hitler promised his people that success would come easy because that was the easiest way for him to come to power. Once he got power, he was painted into a corner where he couldn't seem weak by not taking over the world, but didn't have the means to actually take over the world.

For a modern day analogy, why does Trump always shoot himself in the foot? Why would he blackmail the Ukraine on the very day the special investigation into the election meddling finally fizzled out? Because he puts the personal kickbacks of his service to Russia and China ahead of the effect on his country, and because the short-term goal of saying whatever he needs to say to win the presidency conflicted with the long-term goal of setting himself up to be an effective president.

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Re: If the German’s had won at the Bulge,,,,,,

Post by faos333 » Fri Jan 31, 2020 11:51 am

Having read all the above historical / hypothetical discussion, which is really very interesting, I would like to my personal thoughts on this.

Strategically, Bulge proved a failure, only to lose precious resources for Germany.
Lets say it was a success and magically the German advance occupied Antwerp.
This, would result in frictions between the Allies and delays.
The end result of this, would be delaying the allies final push to Germany.
However, this could not end the war in west, with a separate peace treaty and the allies would continue the war.

The historical irony, being that a larger part or worse the whole of Germany would be occupied by the Soviet army!

The other question as put by our discussion, is what IF these Bulge forces were directed towards the East?
My guess is that they would much more helpful, delaying the Soviets, and maybe less territories lost to them.

As a conclusion, Bulge is a battle, that we like to play in strategic games such as Panzercorps, because it is by nature a huge and interesting TACTICAL challenge.

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