Date of Award

Spring 3-20-2019

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

School

Humanities

Committee Chair

Dr. Andrew Wiest

Committee Chair School

Humanities

Committee Member 2

Dr. Susannah Ural

Committee Member 2 School

Humanities

Committee Member 3

Dr. Allison Abra

Committee Member 3 School

Humanities

Abstract

This study of the Second World War examines the tactics employed by the 80th Infantry Division of the United States Army in the European Theater of Operations in 1944 and 1945. Early historiography portrays American units as brave but less sophisticated than their German adversaries. However, recent scholarship praises American combat capabilities. Drawing largely upon official Army records and firsthand accounts from American soldiers, this thesis argues that the 80th Infantry Division developed into a highly effective fighting force in the European Theater when it properly employed the concept of combined arms (the coordination of infantry, artillery, and armor) on the battlefront with some exceptions. This study uses three examples from the 80th Division’s combat record that show the importance of combined arms and the sophistication of American fighting forces late in World War II: the closing of the Falaise Pocket, the crossing of the Moselle River, and in the Battle of the Bulge. This study fills a key historiographical gap in scholars’ understanding of the capabilities of American military forces in World War II. High- and low-level studies exist of armies and companies, but little analysis has been awarded to the divisions. It is crucial to understand division level combat because changes in WWII doctrine, to include the implementation of combined arms, were “codified, refined, and disseminated” at this echelon of command.1 In the end, this work provides a more complete picture of the way in which the United States Army fought the war against Hitler’s Wehrmacht.

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