The Battle of the Bulge was the name given to a last ditch offensive launched by Hitler during the deadly cold winter of 1944 in which 250,000 German troops were sent across an 85-mile stretch of the Allied front, from southern Belgium into Luxembourg. The German troops advanced some 50 miles into the Allied lines, along a 70 mile front, creating a deadly "bulge" pushing into Allied defenses. After bitter and bloody fighting the Battle of the Bulge ended on 25, January when the Allies regained the territory that had fallen to the Germans in early December. Over 100,000 Germans died and 76,000 Americans were killed, wounded, or captured during the Battle of the Bulge.
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Battle of the Bulge Casualties and Death Toll
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Battle of the Bulge
After the Allies had freed France and defeated Germany at Normandy on D-Day, many thought that WW2 in Europe was coming to an end. Adolf Hitler refused to accept defeat on the Western Front and started to make plans for a last ditch attack in the Ardennes region.
The Battle of the Bulge was the name given to the last desperate offensive mounted by Adolf Hitler during the snowy winter of 1944 in which 250,000 German troops were sent across an 85-mile stretch of the Allied front in the Ardennes, from southern Belgium into Luxembourg.
The Ardennes Forest was the least protected region on the Western Front because the Allies believed that the rugged terrain would be difficult to attack and hard for the German tanks to get through. The problem was that the Germans also realized this...
The Ardennes sector was held on an 70-mile front by only six American divisions and considered a 'quiet sector' suitable for resting units that had been battered in heavy fighting and where inexperienced, raw recruits were introduced to the front line.
The initial German attack force consisted of over 200,000 troops, 1,000 tanks and assault guns, including the new 70-ton Tiger II tanks, and 1,900 pieces of artillery supported by 2,000 aircraft including Messerschmitts. In the opening stages of the Battle of the Bulge, the Germans greatly outnumbered the Allies with less than 80,000 men, 250 pieces of armor and just 400 artillery guns.
The German code name for the operation was Autumn Mist (Unternehmen Herbstnebel)
During the course of the month-long Battle of the Bulge, about 500,000 German, 600,000 American and 55,000 British troops became involved.
Adolf Hitler's goal was to was to split the American and British line in half and cut off Allied supplies that were distributed to the Allied forces through the port of Antwerp in Belgium.
Hitler's ultimate purpose was to force the Allies in the Western Front to negotiate a peace in the Axis Powers’ favor allowing Hitler to fully focus on the Eastern Front.
The Battle of the Bulge attack began on 16 December 1944 when the American defensive forces in the 'quiet sector' were caught by surprise, distracted by pre-occupation with offensive plans, over-confidence and a lack of quality aerial reconnaissance together with some clever deception measures employed by the Germans.
The German panzer divisions broke through weak Allied lines along a 70-mile front in Belgium's Ardennes forest. The Ardennes sector was held on an 80-mile front by only six American divisions who were badly outnumbered.
The German plan was to mount a rapid advance and surprise the Allies with an overwhelming force of German troops and tanks. An important goal was to capture the town of Bastogne where several important roads converged.
The Battle of St. Vith (16–21 December 1944) resulted in the US 106th Division at the Schnee Eiffel being hopelessly outnumbered and surrounded by German troops. 6,000 American troops are forced to surrender following the Battle of St. Vith.
The Siege of Bastogne (20–27 December 1944) began as the 101st Airborne Division and the US 10th and 19th Armored Divisions were completely encircled by the German XLVII Panzer Corps. The Americans were ordered to die or surrender. US General Anthony McAuliffe replied to the Germans "Nuts!" and gained his famous nickname.
General Anthony “Nuts” McAuliffe troops managed to hold out until more US troops arrived but the 101st Airborne Division's suffered heavy casualties. 341 men were killed, 1,691 wounded, and 516 missing.
The United States 2nd and 99th Divisions held fast at Elsenborn and Malmedy in Belgium even though bad weather conditions over the Ardennes limited Allied air support to counter the German advances.
The stubborn résistance of the American soldiers at the Battle of Elsenborn Ridge (December 16, 1944) bought enough time for the First US Army to organize itself and it was was the only sector of the US front lines during the Battle of the Bulge where the Germans failed to advance.
On December 17, 1944, the second day of the Battle of the Bulge, eighty-four American prisoners of war were executed by members of the 1st SS Panzer Division in what became known as the Malmedy massacre
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, ordered General George S. Patton (3rd U.S. Army) to rescue the men at the Siege of Bastogne.
The terrible weather cleared over the Ardennes on December 23, 1944 enabling 2,000 Allied air sorties to be launched. Much needed supplies are dropped to the US forces at Bastogne.
Once they could fly, the Allied airmen were able to take out many of the German tanks and artillery on the ground as well as hitting Germna fuel depots. The Germans had no air support and are unable to respond to the air attacks and the German Tiger tanks, that drank fuel, were unable to obtain new supplies.
On Christmas Day the 2nd Panzer Division under Lieutenant-General von Lauchert, who had taken 60 miles of territory, were stopped 4 miles from the Meuse River in Belgium. The American 2nd Armored Division and the British 29th Armored Brigade they pushed the enemy back across the German frontier. German casualties totaled 3,500 troops, 81 tanks and 400 other vehicles.
The US 4th Armored Division under General Patton relieved the 101st Airborne forces at the Siege of Bastogne on December 26, 1944.
On January 8, 1945 the Germans began to withdraw and by January 25, 1945 were finally pushed back to the line prior to the launch of the Ardennes Offensive.
The Battle of the Bulge ended in victory for the Allies. The Germans had suffered more than 100,000 casualties and many tanks and artillery and had few forces to prevent the allies from entering Germany. WW2 was drawing towards its dreadful conclusion.
The struggle of the American troops and conditions at Bastogne were brought to life in the 2001 US TV mini-series called the 'Band of Brothers' that told the story of Easy Company of the US Army 101st Airborne division.
The 'Battle of the Bulge' was a 1965 movie starring Henry Fonda, Robert Shaw and Charles Bronson.
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