Just read this article on the Battle of Kasserine Pass

America's Most Humiliating Defeat

The author made the following statement regarding British help during the battle:

As at the Battle of the Bulge, it wouldn’t be the last time that the British helped “tidy up” an American disaster.

I seem to recall the 3rd Army riding to the rescue, not the British. He implies there might have been other times too. Any idea what this author is talking about? TIA

  • 3
    Reading "tidy up" as "bail out" is quite a bit of a stretch. The author merely credited FM Alexander with salvaging a disoragniased retreat under the command of the incompetent Fredendall (who got fired), but attributes the turning of the tide to joint Anglo-American reinforcements. Whatever analogy he intended with the Battle of the Bulge must be on the same level, so not a "bail out" or "rescue" like you're interpreting. In general, it's best to stick to the what a source actually says.
    – Semaphore
    Jan 24 '19 at 10:57
  • Have you read much about the Battle of the Bulge? Jan 24 '19 at 16:21
  • 4
    It's worth remembering that allies work together for a common goal. A great general uses what's best for the problem, not what's going to look best for his own country. The US bailed out Great Britain many times and Great Britain returned the favor many times, also. That's one of the reasons we won.
    – Mark Olson
    Jan 24 '19 at 22:18

There was no disaster to tidy up

From purely military perspective, Battle of the Bulge was failed German offensive, and subsequent mostly US counteroffensive. Reasons why German offensive failed are quite simple: at that point of time they were inferior in number of men, number of AFV, number or aircraft and had relative shortage of fuel. It is actually surprising they managed to gather their forces (hard pressed on all fronts) to achieve slight advantage in sector selected for attack. With favorable weather that grounded Allied air support, and an advantage in quality of AFV (arguably in the quality of some units too) , they achieved certain penetration, but their offensive quickly stalled when US reinforcements started coming in and weather improved.

What makes this battle a "disaster" is not things that really happened, but what could have been. This was first and only time in the war that American forces faced large scale German offensive somewhat reminiscent to early war Blitzkrieg victories. Germans had equal or slightly bigger numbers, air advantage was temporarily gone, and some US units suddenly got in the state of shock and paralysis, all too familiar to British, French or Soviets. This didn't last long, it was late 1944, not 1940 or 1941, but it sufficiently shook Us military establishment to understand that US military machine is not invulnerable. What-if scenarios appeared, questioning what could have been if German forces were slightly more numerous and better protected from air . This become even more interesting as Cold War approached, and Soviet armored doctrine was very similar to German.

As for British participation in the battle (especially during German offensive), it was relatively marginal and certainly not decisive. British forces were holding a section of front north from German penetration. Had the German offensive been more successful, they would have to retreat in order to avoid being cut off and left without supplies (Germans were aiming for Antwerp, only major port in that area). Since that didn't happen, British forces simply participated in the counteroffensive with the goal of reducing the bulge created by German offensive.

  • 2
    Totally. Not to take anything away from the tremendous courage and sacrifices by US troops (and not to erase any blame from Allied high command being caught unaware), there was little chance that the German offensive was going to move the needle very much. At best it would have been a massive operational setback and would have compromised the Allied offensive. But it wouldn't have won anything long term for the Germans - they had nothing left to exploit it with. Only Hitler's level of delusions by that time motivated this. Jan 24 '19 at 20:45
  • 2
    @ItalianPhilosopher In defense of this operation, it must be said that Germans didn't have much choice. Purely defensive German stance would prolong the war for few months, but only desperate gamble could somehow reverse the course of the war.
    – rs.29
    Jan 25 '19 at 6:17
  • I agree, and it's true that Hitler and his clique had little to lose. a normal government engaging in normal warfare would have called it quits by then though. Hitler's gang didn't have that option because they were sure to get the death penalty. but it's still useful to keep that battle's prospects in perspective. Jan 25 '19 at 18:13

During the battle of the bulge, north side of the german salient was given to Montgomery command, because for a while Eisenhower thought it would be easier to organize the battle in that way. Because american 12 group army (1st and 3rd american armies) headquarters was in the south of the salient, while 21 group army (1st canadian, 2nd british and 9th american armies) was in the north of it.
Therefore, Montgomery had to take command of 1st american army for a while, but not to help United States to control a retreat or a desperate situation, but instead it was just a tactical decision.

Source: 21st Army Group

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