World War Two
Edited By: Robert A. Guisepi
Battle of the Bulge
On Dec. 16, 1944, the Nazis launched a furious counterattack in the Ardennes. While overcast skies grounded Allied planes 24 German divisions drove a bulge 60 miles wide and 45 miles deep into the American lines. Part of this success was won by a specially trained unit that wore American uniforms and drove captured American vehicles.
Heroic resistance, however, finally halted the Germans. The 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 99th Infantry divisions held the shoulders of the bulge at Monschau and Echternach. Other brave stands were made at St. Vith by the 7th Armored Division and at Bastogne by the 101st Airborne Division and Combat Command B of the 10th Armored. On December 26 the 4th Armored Division relieved encircled Bastogne, ending the crisis. The First and Third armies eliminated the bulge during January. The Nazis lost 220,000 men and 1,400 tanks and assault guns. Allied casualties totaled 40,000.
The Battle of the Bulge was also called the BATTLE OF THE ARDENNES (Dec. 16, 1944-Jan. 16, 1945), the last German offensive on the Western Front during World War II; an unsuccessful attempt to push the Allies back from German home territory. The name Battle of the Bulge was appropriated from Winston Churchill's optimistic description, in May 1940, of the resistance that he mistakenly supposed was being offered to the Germans' breakthrough in that area just before the Anglo-French collapse; the Germans were in fact overwhelmingly successful. The "bulge" refers to the wedge that the Germans drove into the Allied lines.
After their invasion of Normandy in June 1944, the Allies moved rapidly across northern France into Belgium during the summer, but lost momentum in the autumn. In mid-December, Allied commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower's 48 divisions, distributed along a 600-mile front between the North Sea and Switzerland, were caught unprepared by a German counterthrust in the hilly and wooded Ardennes region of southern Belgium. While Allied aircraft were hampered by bad weather, Gen. Gerd von Rundstedt's 5th and 6th Panzer Armies launched two parallel attacks with the eventual aim of retaking the great port of Antwerp. The 5th Army under Gen. Hasso von Manteuffel, bypassing Bastogne (which was held throughout the offensive by the U.S. 101st Airborne Division), advanced by December 24 to within four miles (six kilometres) of the Meuse River. This was the farthest point of the German drive, which was halted by Christmas by the inadequacy of supplies and by Allied resistance. General George S. Patton's 3rd Army relieved Bastogne on the 26th, and on January 3 the U.S. 1st Army began a counteroffensive. The Germans made an orderly withdrawal between January 8 and 16, having used more of their resources than they could afford on this last desperate attempt to regain the initiative in the West