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The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
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4 minutes reading time (786 words)

Counterattack: Montgomery and the Battle of the Bulge

Counter-Attack

Kindle Edition by Robert Oulds  

'Victors write history', is a disputed truism that today could be more accurately rendered as 'Movie makers create history'. Certainly, Hollywood has done an excellent job of presenting the Battle of the Bulge as an exclusively American victory.

The military historian Robert Oulds's new kindle book 'Counterattack: Montgomery and the Battle of the Bulge' is a much needed factual evaluation of Hitler's last desperate throw of the dice. In 1918 General Erich Ludendorff launched the Kaiserschlacht offensive intending to destroy the British army and force France to sue for peace. At the very least it was to divide and weaken the allies. Hitler seems to have been incapable of learning from anyone's mistakes devised operation Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein to divide the western allies and allow him to transfer forces east to strengthen the war against Russia. The Ardennes Offensive lasted 44 days starting 16th December 1944 and concluding on 28th January 1945 with the German army's total failure.

Montgomery had alerted Eisenhower to allied weaknesses in the Ardennes in November 1944. The warning was unheeded and when the Germans' unleashed their onslaught the allies were ill prepared. Indeed, the 12th Army Group had been split in two dispersing its strength.

In response Eisenhower gave Montgomery overall command of all American forces north of the Bulge.

The attempts to write Montgomery out of the leading role are based, it seems, on two factors. Firstly a deep seated resentment in some sections of the US military about Montgomery's record and successes. in some, General Patton and to a lesser extent General Bradley, this evidenced as Anglophobia. Sadly confirmed by US officer and Military Historian Hugh Marshall Cole. Secondly, On 7th January 1945 Montgomery held a press conference to talk about the battle and stop the reports in the British press that were criticising Eisenhower's handling of the war. It was well intentioned and he fulsomely praised American troops and their bravery. However he did not name US commanders, apart from Eisenhower, and that was an unforgivable insult to the prickly US generals.

It was not a view shared by all. 

Fulsome praise came from the American Major General Matt Ridgway. He was the commander of the US XVIII Airborne Corps. He wrote to Montgomery and his letter read,

'It has been an honoured privilege and a very great personal pleasure to have served, even so briefly, under your distinguished leadership. To the gifted professional guidance you at once gave me, was added your own consummate courtesy and consideration. I am deeply grateful for both. My warm and sincere good wishes will follow you and with them the hope of again serving you in pursuit of a common goal.'

After the war Hasso von Manteuffel, who commanded the 5th Panzer Army in the Ardennes, Said of Montgomery's contribution to the battle in the Ardennes: "The operations of the American 1st Army had developed into a series of individual holding actions. Montgomery's contribution to restoring the situation was that he turned a series of isolated actions into a coherent battle fought according to a clear and definite plan. It was his refusal to engage in premature and piecemeal counter-attacks which enabled the Americans to gather their reserves and frustrate the German attempts to extend their breakthrough."

Ultimately Montgomery concluded that victory was not possible without the stubborn defence of the American soldiers especially at various towns in the path of the German thrusts notably Saint Vith and Bastogne. These not only drew German strength away from the dash for Antwerp where it was most needed but also deprived the panzers of important road links compelling the enemy to take long diversions further slowing down the advance. Ultimately, the Sixth Panzer Army was effectively destroyed as a viable fighting unit as it was worn down against the forces under Montgomery's control. The Ardennes Offensive was not an effective lightning war and time ran out for Hitler.

Robert Oulds book is a master class in researching, assembling facts and presenting them logically and cogently for the reader. His contention that Montgomery's played a, probably the, decisive role in the allied victory is based on solid research and set out in a superbly crafted concise book that covers all aspects of the battle. The tactics, weapons, armies, the key commanders, and the strategy that Montgomery used to thwart Hitler's plans. This is a long overdue reassessment of a turning point in the history of WW2 and the action of the man who made it possible.

I hope that Mr. Oulds will publish this as a print edition, perhaps together with other examples of his scholarship.

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