GRANDPA & THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE
My maternal grandfather Joseph Weger was born in the Ukraine (Kiev). His uncle, a Komisar, was disaffected with Lenin. So in 1922, this uncle put Grandpa Joe, age 8, and his sister Mary, age 6, on a train with a one way ticket to Poland. Grandpa grubbed his way along for several years in Poland until he found his way to Germany / Austria. He stayed there a few years, but eventually found his way to the USA. In early 1945, after winning 2 purple hearts in the US Army, he was picked among 5 others to serve in the British unit stationed near the eastern front near Russia. No battles were then ongoing on the Eastern front. Grandpa Joe was selected due to his unique fluency in German, Polish, Ukrainian and Russian to communicate with Russian / Ukrainian forces who were called upon in January 1945 by the USA to invade Poland en route to Germany on the east. Grandpa's fluency in German also made him ideal to translate intercepts of German military radio traffic.
His redeployment with this British force was part of a military strategy, he explained to me, to use Russian / Ukrainian forces to pull off German troops from the Western line. The Nazis by a surprise attack had trapped almost the entire US European force. The Nazis were en route to a great surprise victory which could have let them win the war against the US Forces, and turn all their attention to defeat the Russians. This battle in the Western front was known later as the Battle of the Bulge.
This hoped-for assault from the East by the Russians / Ukrainians would force the Germans to pull men out of the Battle of the Bulge in order to defend the German homeland.
Later, Grandpa Joe became a bartender -- as his war wounds in his legs made him fit for little else.
But many a customer never knew the man who poured their drinks had a role, not an insignificant one, in the most important battle of WWII that saved the American force in Europe. For the Germans were on the verge of wiping out the American forces in Europe in the surprise Battle of the Bulge. However, at a critical moment, the Russians and Ukrainians were asked by the USA to attack from the East, opening up the bulge that let the American forces escape the noose they had found themselves in, thanks to a blunder by American generals in Europe. Five men, including Grandpa Joe, were the crucial conduit of information that saved the butts of all those men encircled by the Nazis on the Western front.
DETAILS OF THE EASTERN FRONT ATTACK TO LET U.S. FORCES BREAK FREE IN WEST
As the articles below show, the Russians agreed to help the Allies in the Battle of the Bulge by moving up their Eastern assault from the 20th of January to January 12th - eight days earlier. If you do a timeline of events (see below), you will see precisely how critical this eight-days acceleration of the Russian attack was to the victory in the west in the Battle of the Bulge. This perhaps is not mentioned very often because the American request 'backfired' in that the Russians ended up at the doorstep of Berlin in a matter of a few weeks. So here are some specifics:
Although it came sometime after the start of the German Ardennes offensive [i.e., battle of the bulge, 12/16/44 to 1/25/45] the Soviets launched a massive attack on January 12 into the German forces in Poland in a drive to reach the Oder River and Berlin. The Soviets had been planning to launch the attack, known as the Vistula-Oder offensive on the 20th but moved up the start date after the western allies asked the Soviet's to relieve the pressure from the German attack in Belgium.
DIRE STATUS OF BATTLE OF THE BULGE 1/13/1945 - 1 DAY AFTER RUSSIAN OFFENSIVE ON 1/12/1945
But as late as January 13, 1945, a British intelligence officer reviewed the Ardennes battle respectfully: ‘The enemy can claim to have wrested the initiative from the Allies.
‘He has provided his people with a tonic which they sorely needed, and took their minds off the gloomy situation at the end of a disastrous year. He has gained time. Against this, however, the cost was tremendous for the results achieved.’
BATTLE OF BULGE STARTED IN DIRE CIRCUMSTANCES :
On Dec. 19, 1944, Dwight Eisenhower and his senior staff met with Gens. Omar Bradley and George Patton. The Americans were suffering in the opening of the Battle of the Bulge. The Germans had achieved complete surprise and threatened to drive through the Ardennes forest, cross the river Meuse and capture American supply depots.
Ongoing operations left Eisenhower with no reserves to deploy. The weather was terrible, and American air superiority, which could have equalized the situation, had been eliminated. For the first time since D-Day, June 6, the G.I.s were facing a foe that was more numerous, more mobile and better equipped than they were.
Russian Assault - January 12th -- Immediate Results in Leo Barron, Patton at the Battle of the Bulge - book:
"Joseph Stalin...ordered ...the attack... on January 12th. Since the Wehrmacht no longer had a strategic reserve thanks to the Battle of the Bulge, it did not have the capability to counter-attack and destroy any major Soviet penetration. ...Army Group A was then powerless to stop Marshal Zukhov when they attacked on the morning of January 12th. As a result, the German armies on the Eastern front...retreated hundreds of miles, ceding Poland to the Russian horde."
PIVOTAL RUSSIAN ADVANCE ON GERMANY ON JAN 12TH. http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1753.html
On January 8, German troops withdrew from the tip of the "bulge." Their losses were critical. The last of the German reserves were gone, the Luftwaffe had been broken, and the German army in the west was being pushed back. Most importantly, the Eastern Front was now ripe for the taking by the Soviets. With the majority of its air power and men lost, Germany had few forces left to defend the Third Reich.
"Battle of Berlin" Wikipedia:
Starting on 12 January 1945, the Red Army breached the German front as a result of the Vistula–Oder Offensive and advanced westward as much as 40 kilometres (25 miles) a day through East Prussia, Lower Silesia, East Pomerania, and Upper Silesia, temporarily halting on a line 60 km (37 mi) east of Berlin along the Oder River.
JAN 28th -16 Days After Russian Assault on East - Battle of Bulge Won By Allies
By 28th January, the German Army was finally pushed back to its initial positions on 16 December 44, beyond the Siegfried Line.