Part Two: At the German Border
Some Thing(s) to Think About While Reading
Chapter 6: Metz and the Hurtgen Forest (November 1 – December 15, 1944)
In November of 1944, the Allied command decided to keep up the offensive begun in the fall of that year. This top-down decision turned the effort into a battle of attrition with junior officers and NCOs at the forefront. Thousands of American, British, and German lives would be lost in the murky shadows of the Hurtgen Forest without any significant gain in territory or the ultimate goal of bringing the war to a speedy close. Patton’s pursuit of Metz was no less costly but eventually successful and of tactical importance in that it affected the positioning of German troops along the Western Front.
- According to Ambrose, what group of young men bore the brunt of the battle of Northwest Europe? How did he describe them? Do you think these type of men are more likely to enlist during a war or when their nation is at peace? Explain your answer. (See pg. 159)
- What problem,witnessed by the British General Horrocks, was widespread in the American Army? Was this a common problem in the British Army at that time?
- What had the British learned from their experiences in World War I that prevented the problem mentioned above from being repeated by their command during World War II?
- How did this behavior by American command affect battle strategies and outcomes? (See pp. 165 – 167)
- Conditions in the Hurtgen Forest took terrible physical and psychological tolls on American and German troops. Note examples of panic, despair and cruelty on pages 167 – 170.
- Did volunteer and specialized units such as the Rangers view themselves differently than units made up of draftees? If so, how?(See pp. 173 – 177)
Chapter 7: The Ardennes (December 16 – 19, 1944)
In May of 1940 the Germans had charged through the Ardennes overwhelming any French resistance to a decisive victory. Hitler hoped to repeat this triumph and use the Ardennes in 1944 as a means to drive the Allies back to the sea. Against his generals’ wishes he ordered the Wehrmacht out of its defensive positions along the Siegfried Line and into the Ardennes.
- What role did Allied intelligence play in the opening salvo of the German attack in the Ardennes? (See pp. 180 – 184)
- Who determined the direction of warfare for the German troops? (See pp. 184 – 186) How did this compare to strategic decision making in the Allied forces? (See pp. 198 – 201)
- What factors contributed to optimism amongst the German ranks as they prepared for their offensive in the Ardennes? (See pp. 188 – 190)
- Read Captain Roland’s quote regarding the efforts of GIs during the initial days of the Battle of the Bulge on page 209. Were their actions reminiscent of actions in the hedgerows? How so?
Chapter 8: The Ardennes (December 20 – 23, 1944)
Retreating American troops were reinforced with new divisions whose orders were to dig in and hold the line. Eisenhower moved men and equipment into the Ardennes in unprecedented numbers; Patton prepared to cut off German supply lines on the southern end of "the Bulge" while elite airborne divisions moved into the center and northern tip, the 101st into Bastogne and the 82nd to Elsenborn. Soldiers, the cold, fog, and snow were about to collide and decide the conclusion of the Battle of the Bulge.
- What was the purpose of the German battalion under the leadership of Otto Skorzeny? (See pp. 218 – 220)
- Was Skorzeny’s battalion effective? How so?
- Despite encircling the 10th Armored and 101st Airborne at Bastogne, the Germans were not able to move further west. What was one significant factor contributing to their being stuck? (See pp. 220 – 224)
- What does the encounter between Lt. Kischkel and the group of Americans who let him go reveal about commonalities between soldiers, regardless of country? Do you think the outcome would have been different had Kischkel answered the American Lieutenants question differently? (See pg. 225)
Chapter 9: The Holiday Season (December 24 – 31, 1944)
The American and German men caught up in the Battle of the Bulge spent Christmas as they did most other days, in foxholes, fighting the cold and each other. There was no truce or cease fire, although some managed a Christmas meal of slightly better rations. A lucky few even got a warm meal.
- The experience of Pvt. Joe Tatman and his squad outside of Bastogne on Christmas Eve highlights something surprising about a small number of German soldiers. What was surprising about the German captain? (See pg. 243)
- In your opinion, what motivated the cover-up of the Leopoldville Christmas Eve disaster? (See pp. 244 – 246)
Answer Key to Study Guide Questions.
Key Facts and Terms
Battle of Attrition – Neither side has a clear advantage. Losses of men, equipment, and supplies determine the victor.
Metz – a heavily fortified city that was given to Germany following the Franco-Prussian War. Returned to France following World War I, Metz was taken by Germany during World War II.
The Ardennes – region of dense forest and hills in Belgium, Luxembourg and France.
The Eifel – German region to the East of the Ardennes.
The Waffen SS – the military unit of the SS (Schutzstaffell). The SS were the guards of the Nazi party (National Socialist German Workers Party). The Waffen SS were combat units formed in 1940.
The Boche – an insulting term for German soldiers during both World War I and World War II. Similar to calling someone a blockhead or hard-headed.
Battle of the Bulge – common name given to the Battle of the Ardennes due to the appearance of a bulge at the point where the Germans broke through the American line.
Bastogne – town in Belgium where the seven main roads of the Ardennes region converge.
This post is part of the series: Study Guides: Citizen Soldiers by Stephen E Ambrose
- World War II Study Guide: Citizen Soldiers
- Study Guide for Citizen Soldiers (Chapters 3-5)
- Study Guide for Citizen Soldiers: Chapters 6-9.
- Soldiers of World War II: A Study Guide for Citizen Soldiers: Chapters 10-13
- World War II Study Guide for Citizen Soldiers: Chapters 14 – 19