The One Battle That Crushed Adolf Hitler Forever
Fourth, flexibility is everything. As bad the Battle of the Bulge was, it could have been a lot worse. Once the Allies recovered from the shock, they moved quickly to stop and then roll back the German penetration. The 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions were moved into the path of the offensive (the 101st reached the vital crossroads of Bastogne just in time), while Patton moved his divisions with remarkable rapidity to strike the German southern flank. Despite bad blood between American and British commanders, Field Marshal Montgomery deployed British troops in an example of coalition warfare that worked.
In today's era of military micromanagement, one wonders how quickly the U.S. military could rescue an American force from defeat. Or would it take months for the Pentagon to plan it, the White House to approve it, the State Department to convince the rest of the world that it was justified and Congressional Republicans or Democrats to denounce it?
Finally, the Battle of the Bulge showed just what the American soldier was capable of. Hitler's plan rested on his belief that Americans were weak and soft and relied on abundant equipment, rather than soldierly skill and valor. There were cases where GIs panicked. But most American soldiers fought bravely.
Just as Hitler was wrong, so was the Taliban, who believed Americans were too weak to fight where the tough Soviet Army had failed. They were also wrong. Whatever the follies of America's Afghan war, lack of valor or toughness was not one of them.
As the Bulge proved, brave soldiers can make up for failed strategy. But only at an immense cost.
Michael Peck is a contributing writer at Foreign Policy Magazine and a writer for the War is Boring defense blog. Follow him on Twitter: @Mipeck1.
Image: Creative Commons.
This first appeared back in 2015.