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The Battle of the Bulge 

Despite what intelligence bits there were, the Allies did not believe the German's could or would launch and armed assault anywhere. How wrong they were.


Jonathan Martin


Stan Watt


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Episode credited cast:
Stan Watt Stan Watt ... Narrator


Despite what intelligence bits there were, the Allies did not believe the German's could or would launch and armed assault anywhere. How wrong they were.

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Documentary | War



Release Date:

1998 (USA) See more »

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Unexpected Consequences.
7 June 2017 | by rmax304823See all my reviews

It's a brief documentary, amount to only some 20 minutes, so I hope no one is anticipating a lot of detail. In the Fall and Winter of 1944, the German army had been driven back through France after withdrawing from the beaches of Normandy. The Russians had paused their relentless rush towards the German border, at least for the moment.

The German army, efficient as ever, quickly reorganized behind the lines. Hitler planned a great counter-attack on the west, an assault led by panzers that would push through the Allied lines at their weakest point, drive north, capture the port city of Antwerp, and split the Allied armies in two -- the British under Montgomery to the north, and the Americans to the south under Bradley.

Hitler's generals pointed out, most tactfully we have to presume because by this time Hitler was half nuts, that the plan was too dicey. It assumed that winter weather would ground Allied planes. (By this time there was little left of the Luftwaffe.) And the tanks had nowhere near enough fuel to reach Antwerp. Hitler rejected their advice to curtail the thrust towards Antwerp and instead encircle and reoccupy the city of Aachen. The grand gesture would be applied. Of course Hitler was wrong and German forces after an initial thrust through a thick forest were pushed back to their starting point.

Eisenhower and his generals were wrong too. The forest at Ardennes was so thick and snow-covered that no action was expected. Given this assumption, only four divisions were deployed to cover an eighty-mile front line. Two of the divisions were exhausted and depleted from combat elsewhere and their posting was designed to give them a chance to recuperate. The other two divisions were inexperienced and had been sent in order to acclimate them to the European theater and to learn what they hadn't learned in basic training. Hitler had indeed chosen the weakest part of the Allied lines. The assault came as a complete surprise.

Moreover, Eisenhower and Bradley had ignored evidence of a build up. Radio silence was strictly observed on the German side. This in itself was significant. When normal German radio traffic suddenly stops, well -- as the sociologist Erving Goffman has said, if you want them to believe that nothing is up, then give them signs that only a LITTLE something is up because it's never the case that NOTHING is up.

Moreover the assembly of German panzers and troops was conducted at night, safe from air reconnaissance, but tanks make a lot of noise and were heard by forward positions, who duly reported it up the chain of command to Eisenhower and his generals, who duly ignored it.

Two glosses.

The broad context of the Battle of the Bulge isn't mentioned in the film. Hitler had already lost the war by New Years Day, 1945. He'd have saved a great deal of trouble by shooting himself then, or even by shaving his mustache, dressing as an old lady and hobbling away into the Black Forest.

The second point is that leaders on both sides had made a fundamental error in logic. They had disregarded evidence contrary to their beliefs. Their minds were no longer "open". That particular mistake, putting the cart before the horse, isn't confined to military leaders.

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