Routes thru the Ardennes in 1940 vs 1944

Rock SgtDan

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Can someone direct me to an analysis comparing the routes & logistics assumptions & timetables made by the Germans in each case? Where they used "lessons learned" from 1940 in 1944? Is there any personal memoir or US combat analysis that mentions whether the US response in 1944 considered the 1940 action in responding what was going on?
 

RandyT0001

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I can't point to a particular book that makes a straight comparison of the 1940 vs. 1944 Ardennes offensives but I know that the US army did study the German attack and during the various training exercises under the 2nd Army in Tennessee emphasis was placed on creating roadblocks using tanks and engineering units to stop armored thrusts along roads by defenders. They studied German tactics and developed defenses against it and then copied it and improved upon it for their own use.

My thoughts about it,

Differences between 1940 Ardennes and 1944 Ardennes


  1. Germans had more fuel in 1940
  2. German tanks used less fuel per mile in 1940
  3. German tanks were smaller, better able to navigate on the road in 1940
  4. Germany had air supremacy and used it to assist the ground forces in 1940
  5. German panzer forces had better communications than their enemies, British and French in 1940.
  6. The British and French assumed that no tanks, none, could navigate through the Ardennes and, therefore, left the sector unprotected in 1940.
  7. The German attack timetable was dictated by lack of fuel and supplies in 1944
  8. German tanks used more fuel, required more maintenance, and were bigger necessitating the use of ‘better’ grade of roads in 1944
  9. German air power was ineffective and the attack relied on bad weather to keep Allied air power grounded and out of the fight in 1944
  10. The Americans stationed defenders on the Ardennes sector, typically new or rebuilding units, but units that had substantial logistics trains and attached auxiliary units in 1944
  11. The retreating American forces clogged the roads so much in the first few days with engineering roadblocks, pockets of resistance, and traffic jams that the Germans were unable to advance quickly, being unable to dislodge the Americans from the roads so their panzers could advance to breakout
  12. Allied forces were well led, better coordinated, more mobile and responsive with counter-attacks to the German offense in 1944
 

Rock SgtDan

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I don't suppose the Allies had much in the way of AAR for the 1940 Blitz, since the ground was occupied by the enemy. So maybe nothing more than Michelin maps where the Engineers translated their road grade into "tank tons" capacity to guess at what roads might be utilized.
 

RandyT0001

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St. Vith Battleground
St Vith 16 Dec.jpg
Best to worst roads
Solid red in double black lines
Dashed red in double black lines
No red in double black lines
Thick black line (about minimum width, pavement, gravel for tracked vehicles)
Thin black line with dash black line

Railroad
Dashed black in double black lines

The square grid lines are 1km grid.

The engineering battalion of the relieved division that was located in the Ardennes around St Vith just before the start of the battle stayed behind to continue repairs on the roads, bridges, intersections, culverts, etc., that the division's vehicles had damaged during the preceding months they were there. They knew which were the good roads, where the back roads were, and where to set up the roadblocks to delay if not stop the German advance. While some elements of the 106th division routed, clogging the roads; others stood their ground and put up resistance to delay the Germans as the vanguard of the 7th Armored division arrived.
 
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After watching a documentary the road networks were being crossed as opposed to used to go in the required direction.

God only knows how huge tanks could go down woods roads or up snow in fog and expect to do anything but run out of fuel.

Even Hitler's most trusted General's Model being one thought the plan as near madness.
 

The Purist

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I believe either Peter Elstob ("Hitler's Last Offensive") or Charles B Mac Donald ("A Time for Trumpets", "Bastogne: The Roadblock") make the point that the road net, in general, runs NE to SW, which helped in 1940. In 1944, with Antwerp and Brussels being the objective, the Germans were advancing, at times, perpendicular to the better routes through the woods.

I doubt the allies took the time to do an analysis of the French campaign when suddenly faced with the German attack on 16 December. What made the US response so quick was, in part, the fact that the senior US commanders knew each other very well, having served together since WWI or even been classmates (or very close together in graduation years). This 'informal' means of transferring entire divisions worked so well that by the time the allied conference was held on 19 Dec, the German advantage in men and tanks had already been erased, even if the men and kit was where it was needed (yet).

I have a few pics of the roads/terrain near Clervaux, Wiltz, La Gleize and Stoumont but attempts to upload have failed (too large, 1.27 mb)). This is strange because at another history site the same pics were automatically reduces to just a dozen kb in the upload process.
 
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Eagle4ty

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A much overlooked action was the split of authority from Brdaley to that of Montgomery in the north and Bradley in the south made by Eisenhower early in the battle. Say what you will about Montgomery, but he immediately realized the battle would be one of attrition and containing a north-northwest push by the Germans as well as the point that an American heavy response would be better than an immediate joint forces counterattack. The transfer of the 1st Army (Hodges) and the em[ployment of the 82nd ABn Div & assoc units to Montgomery's command was instrumental in the eventual failure of the German's major emphasis of effort - the northern shoulder. Combined with the German's initial orders to bypass centers of resistance [EXC: St. Vith which was an absolutely necessity and the strength of its defense], it would lead to an early but seldom realized failure of the offensive from its very start.
 
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At that point I think Hitler started to use astrology as his main weapon.
 

The Purist

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Here are a few pics of terrain and a few other items of interest in the Ardennes taken between 15 and 20 Dec 2018. The weather was very similar to what we all have read about. Wet ground, with rain or wet snow and fog. I arrived late afternoon in Trois Vierges on the 15th and made a quick trip to Clervaux just before sunset. The 16th brought heavy wet snow but snow melts quickly with temps near zero C and high humidity. Cold temps do not really begin until late Dec or early Jan. I'll post more once I organise some more pics into specific sectors of the campaign. Note the shot penetration on the lower right of the turret on the Clervaux Sherman (M4a3 (76)) as well as the deflection gouge upper right of the mantlet.
 

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RandyT0001

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January 1945 was supposed to be a record setting cold weather for the Ardennes during the US push of the Germans back out of the Bulge.
 

The Purist

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While logic told me I should head to the Bastogne area on the 17th the sky was clear and I had La Gleize and Stoumont on my mind so I headed north. I made quick pause in Trois Ponts to check the location of the bridges that played such a critical role in movement of 1st SS Panzer. The bridge east of town showed the banks of the Ambleve are steep and the bed is soft so any heavy vehicles would need a bridge. The terrain by the bridge on the north side of town (towards Stavelot) is worse. The road along the Ambleve near Trois Ponts is dominated by wooded heights north and south.

La Gleize does not appear to have grown much since the war. Some of the building are newer, of course, and the village has expanded a bit west on the N33 but not by much. Stoumont (later) has more changes. Anyway,... La Gleize has its famous King Tiger and quite a good museum despite the small size of the village. I believe the current position of the Mk VI is hex J24 or J25 as the ground drops quickly to the south of the tank. Making maps fit the hex grid does alter the terrain somewhat (as will be seen later in Stoumont). The road leading from La Gleize to Stoumont, even today, may not stand up to heavy tank treads. You can make out the woods where the KG spent the night before heading for Stoumont. The view back into town is (a rough guess) from Hex S12 or S13 with the Tiger across the square behind the Church (K22).

Note that the N33 west out of town has a very steep embankment on the north side. On the KGP II maps it is an elevation change and a 'slope'. As can be seen, the elevation change is quite steep and may not, even today, be passable to vehicles (or maybe when the ground is 'soft'? bog check?). No big deal,... the woods north of the road here still exist.

One last thought on La Gleize. If you stand north of the church or on the upper level of the N33 in the village you cannot help but notice that despite its position above the Ambleve, the village is overlooked on three sides by higher ground. Only along the route back to Trois Ponts does the ground drop sharply away. Not a great spot for anyone advancing west against opposition
 

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The Purist

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Stoumont has grown more than La Gleize as there are a number of private homes along the north side of the N33 heading east from the town entrance as far as G28 and then further east along both the north and south sides. Approaching from the east we start near the edge town near hex F22/F23 on a blind corner with the ground rising slightly. Further east at roughly hex F27 the ground drops away towards the Ambleve to the south or begins to climb towards the heights to the north (from hex I28). To the east the road slowly falls away towards Peiper's HQ and the forest leading La Gleize. West of the dirt track is a modern day sports field so most of the barbed wire is gone. You can see parts of Roua to the north as well.

In the town itself the Church is the dominating feature but I am not sure about it being on a level above the buildings to the north. The road (today) is quite level as you proceed up the main street (shrug). That said, the ground behind the church (narrow road) does drop away somewhat as you proceed north into the town. Walking up the sunken lane to about K25 you get a good view of the fields east of the town. Again, most of the barbed wire is no longer present east of the sports field.

Turning around to the church you see (zoomed in somewhat) that most of the ground level of the building is actually obscured by the elevated field and hedge. This makes the hill terrain all the more curious. Then again, the LOS rules need to fit the map (or vice versa) so the hill may have been a compromise. Note the stone farm/house (Harkeman's House) is no longer in hex J21 but there is building to its south (more modern). Today there is a substantial farm (complete with angry dog) on the other side of the sunken lane that would take up L21-23, M22-23. All this aside the steeple would give an excellent line of sight over the open fields to the east if not for the mist/fog present at the time.

Note the high ground west of the Ambleve in the immediate background behind the church.
 

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