An amateur history coverage by Andrew
Battle of the Bulge: German is the latest army book released by Battlefront for Flames of War (Late War) covering the army formations, units and rules that were historically used for Winter of 1944 - 1945. However, there are so many additional interesting historical information of the various military decisions and tactics that were employed by the Germans in this last period of World War 2.
To better appreciate the various actions and decisions made by the German high command and the Fuhrer in this last offensive of the German army, some context is required to understand why Germans would initiate a battle that would cost them more manpower and resources.
By the winter of 1944, the Germans had more or less found themselves in a tenuous situation on both the eastern and western front. On the eastern front, the various German battle Kampfgruppes were able to halt and prevent any major advances of the Soviet war machine.
However, the various axis allies had not been faring as well in the face of the Soviet onslaught, with a few countries changing sides during this period. On the western front, since the invasion of the Allies off the coast of Normandy, the Germans had been forced to pull back their line ever closer to the Fatherland. Up to this point in the war, the Wehrmacht was able to hold back the Allies along the Siegfried Line.
The overstretched supply line of the Allies due to the rapid advancement of their forces during Operation Overlord, had also contributed to this resulting stalemate along the Siegfried Line. This delay and lessening of pressure from the western front, allowed the Fuhrer to consider a bold last roll of the dice - a counter-offensive along the western front to punch the Allies line.
The goal of such an act was simply to force the American and British to the negotiation table for peace (by denying further landings in Antwerp and destroying Allied forces already landed in France - ed), and thus freeing up many German divisions that can be used in the Eastern Front against the Soviet Red Army.
The Panzer Brigades
First on our review, and one of the first formation that can be played out of the new Battle of the Bulge:German book are the Panzer Brigades. Born out of urgency in the face of both the landing in Normandy by the US and the British, as well as the huge offensive by the Red Army in Operation Bagration, 14 of such panzer brigades were formed. Their main purpose was to function
as counterattack formations for the sole intention of holding the current line against the allies advancement, and to buy time for other panzer divisions to be refitted and made battle ready. Their formation would be based on the relatively successful kampfgruppen used in the eastern front, where each brigade would have a battalion of panzer and a second battalion with other mechanized or motorized infantry assets.
The 106. Panzerbrigade FHH under the command of the famous Oberst Dr Bake, were formed as a second wave of the panzer brigades. A mixture of veterans and raw recruits (indoctrinated with Nazi ideaology and facing the threat of Germany’s destruction) formed the manpower to of the brigade. Such brigades are given the latest weapons from Germany’s factory and thrust straight into the midst of battle. The 106. Panzerbrigade FHH then took part in an early action on the 8th September 1944 to disrupt the US forces around Mairy-Mainville. The attack didnt go as planned due to a difference in the responses of the US troops against the night shock and speed attack common to the kampfgruppen in the eastern front. Soon the 106. Panzerbrigade find themselves returning to their start line. The 106. Panzerbrigade ended up not participating much in the main Ardennes offensive, but found themselves fulfilling the exact role for which they were planned and organized for - stopping the many advances of the US army at many parts of the line and becoming Hitler’s Fire brigade in putting out the many holes and push of the Allies forces on the western front.
The 111., 112., And 113. Panzerbrigade, were also to have a role to play in the days leading up to the Ardennes offensive despite not having a direct involvement in it. In the September of 1944, Hitler had planned for an offensive involving the aforementioned panzerbrigades, alongside another three panzerbrigades, three panzerdivisions and three panzergrenadier divisions to prevent General Patton’s US Third Army from joining up with the US Seventh Army and to halt General Patton’s charge towards Germany.
However, most of the formation were already caught up in operations and actions in holding Germany's line against the US attacks and were unable to commit to the attack on the planned date, resulting in delay. The constant probe and attack by the allies at this time also resulted in holes in the German lines, where the panzerbrigades were caught in, resulting in loss of materials and manpower in the resulting fight. The three panzerbrigade would then be embroiled into the Arracourt battles, which only resulted in an overall stalemate as man and material were poured into the meat- grinder, with little to no grounds gained in the process. Despite this, the three panzerbrigades had managed to halt Patton’s thrust towards Germany and further stabilize the German line in the area.
All these achievements were done within a month of their formations’ inception and battle ready status on 12th September and at the cost of all three panzer brigades being gutted by the battles and absorbed into other units at the end of September.
All this interesting action by the panzerbrigades even before the Ardennes Offensive starts proper. In the next part, we will start to talk more about the various formation that actually took part in the Ardennes offensive, inclusive of units that are part of the 5. Panzerarmee, 6. Panzerarmee and 7. Armee.
NEXT WEEK: German recruit Andrew covers the second part of the Ardennes offensive from an amateur historian's viewpoint!
Andrew is an educator and aspiring Flames of War gamer starting his foray into historical gaming in Singapore.