Battle of the Bulge

Battle of the Bulge

Overview
The Battle of the Bulge (also known as the Ardennes Offensive and the Von Rundstedt Offensive) (16 December 1944 – 25 January 1945) was a major German offensive (die Ardennenoffensive), launched toward the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 through the densely forested Ardennes
Ardennes
The Ardennes is a region of extensive forests, rolling hills and ridges formed within the Givetian Ardennes mountain range, primarily in Belgium and Luxembourg, but stretching into France , and geologically into the Eifel...

 mountain region of Wallonia in Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

, hence its French name (Bataille des Ardennes), and France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 and Luxembourg
Luxembourg
Luxembourg , officially the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg , is a landlocked country in western Europe, bordered by Belgium, France, and Germany. It has two principal regions: the Oesling in the North as part of the Ardennes massif, and the Gutland in the south...

 on the Western Front
Western Front (World War II)
The Western Front of the European Theatre of World War II encompassed, Denmark, Norway, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, and West Germany. The Western Front was marked by two phases of large-scale ground combat operations...

.
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Encyclopedia
The Battle of the Bulge (also known as the Ardennes Offensive and the Von Rundstedt Offensive) (16 December 1944 – 25 January 1945) was a major German offensive (die Ardennenoffensive), launched toward the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 through the densely forested Ardennes
Ardennes
The Ardennes is a region of extensive forests, rolling hills and ridges formed within the Givetian Ardennes mountain range, primarily in Belgium and Luxembourg, but stretching into France , and geologically into the Eifel...

 mountain region of Wallonia in Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

, hence its French name (Bataille des Ardennes), and France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 and Luxembourg
Luxembourg
Luxembourg , officially the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg , is a landlocked country in western Europe, bordered by Belgium, France, and Germany. It has two principal regions: the Oesling in the North as part of the Ardennes massif, and the Gutland in the south...

 on the Western Front
Western Front (World War II)
The Western Front of the European Theatre of World War II encompassed, Denmark, Norway, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, and West Germany. The Western Front was marked by two phases of large-scale ground combat operations...

. The Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

's code name for the offensive was Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein ("Operation Watch on the Rhine"), after the German patriotic hymn Die Wacht am Rhein
Die Wacht am Rhein
"Die Wacht am Rhein" is a German patriotic anthem. The song's origins are rooted in historical conflicts with France, and it was particularly popular in Germany during the Franco-Prussian War and the First World War....

. This German offensive was officially named the Ardennes-Alsace campaign by the U.S. Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

, but it is known to the English-speaking general public simply as the Battle of the Bulge, the "bulge
Salients, re-entrants and pockets
A salient is a battlefield feature that projects into enemy territory. The salient is surrounded by the enemy on three sides, making the troops occupying the salient vulnerable. The enemy's line facing a salient is referred to as a re-entrant...

" being the initial incursion the Germans put into the Allies' line of advance, as seen in maps presented in contemporary newspapers.

The German offensive was supported by several subordinate operations known as Unternehmen Bodenplatte
Operation Bodenplatte
Operation Bodenplatte launched on 1 January 1945, was an attempt by the Luftwaffe to cripple Allied air forces in the Low Countries during the Second World War. The goal of Bodenplatte was to gain air superiority during the stagnant stage of the Battle of the Bulge, to allow the German Army and...

, Greif
Operation Greif
Operation Greif was a special false flag operation commanded by Waffen-SS commando Otto Skorzeny during the Battle of the Bulge. The operation was the brainchild of Adolf Hitler, and its purpose was to capture one or more of the bridges over the Meuse river before they could be destroyed...

, and Währung
Operation Währung
During the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, Operation Währung was a special operation conducted as part of Wacht am Rhein.A small number of German commandos infiltrated Allied lines in American uniforms...

. Germany's goal for these operations was to split the British and American Allied
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 line in half, capturing Antwerp and then proceed to encircle and destroy
Encirclement
Encirclement is a military term for the situation when a force or target is isolated and surrounded by enemy forces. The German term for this is Kesselschlacht ; a comparable English term might be "in the bag"....

 four Allied armies, forcing the Western Allies
Western Allies
The Western Allies were a political and geographic grouping among the Allied Powers of the Second World War. It generally includes the United Kingdom and British Commonwealth, the United States, France and various other European and Latin American countries, but excludes China, the Soviet Union,...

 to negotiate a peace treaty
Peace treaty
A peace treaty is an agreement between two or more hostile parties, usually countries or governments, that formally ends a state of war between the parties...

 in the Axis Powers' favour. Once accomplished, Hitler could fully concentrate on the eastern theatre of war
Eastern Front (World War II)
The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of World War II between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union, Poland, and some other Allies which encompassed Northern, Southern and Eastern Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945...

.

The offensive was planned with the utmost secrecy, minimizing radio traffic and moving troops and equipment under cover of darkness. Although Ultra suggested a possible attack and the Third U.S. Army's intelligence staff predicted a major German offensive, the Allies were still caught by surprise. This was achieved by a combination of Allied overconfidence, preoccupation with their own offensive plans, and poor aerial reconnaissance
Aerial reconnaissance
Aerial reconnaissance is reconnaissance that is conducted using unmanned aerial vehicles or reconnaissance aircraft. Their roles are to collect imagery intelligence, signals intelligence and measurement and signature intelligence...

.

Near-complete surprise against a weakly defended section of the Allied line was achieved during heavy overcast weather, which grounded the Allies' overwhelmingly superior air forces. Fierce resistance, particularly around the key town of Bastogne
Bastogne
Bastogne Luxembourgish: Baaschtnech) is a Walloon municipality of Belgium located in the province of Luxembourg in the Ardennes. The municipality of Bastogne includes the old communes of Longvilly, Noville, Villers-la-Bonne-Eau, and Wardin...

, and terrain favouring the defenders threw the German timetable behind schedule. Allied reinforcements, including General George S. Patton
George S. Patton
George Smith Patton, Jr. was a United States Army officer best known for his leadership while commanding corps and armies as a general during World War II. He was also well known for his eccentricity and controversial outspokenness.Patton was commissioned in the U.S. Army after his graduation from...

's Third Army, and improving weather conditions, which permitted air attacks on German forces and supply lines, sealed the failure of the offensive.

In the wake of the defeat, many experienced German units were left severely depleted of men and equipment as survivors retreated to the defenses of the Siegfried Line
Siegfried Line
The original Siegfried line was a line of defensive forts and tank defences built by Germany as a section of the Hindenburg Line 1916–1917 in northern France during World War I...

. For the Americans, with about 840,000 men committed and some 89,000 casualties, including 19,000 killed, the Battle of the Bulge was the largest and bloodiest battle that they fought in World War II.

Background


After the breakout from Normandy
Operation Cobra
Operation Cobra was the codename for an offensive launched by the First United States Army seven weeks after the D-Day landings, during the Normandy Campaign of World War II...

 at the end of July 1944 and the landings in southern France
Operation Dragoon
Operation Dragoon was the Allied invasion of southern France on August 15, 1944, during World War II. The invasion was initiated via a parachute drop by the 1st Airborne Task Force, followed by an amphibious assault by elements of the U.S. Seventh Army, followed a day later by a force made up...

 on 15 August 1944, the Allies advanced toward Germany more quickly than anticipated.Operation Overlord planned for an advance to the line of the Seine by D+90 (i.e., the 90th day following D-Day
D-Day
D-Day is a term often used in military parlance to denote the day on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. "D-Day" often represents a variable, designating the day upon which some significant event will occur or has occurred; see Military designation of days and hours for similar...

) and an advance to the German frontier sometime after D+120.
Troops were fatigued by weeks of continuous combat, Allied supply lines were stretched extremely thin and supplies were dangerously depleted. While the supply
Military logistics
Military logistics is the discipline of planning and carrying out the movement and maintenance of military forces. In its most comprehensive sense, it is those aspects or military operations that deal with:...

 situation improved in October, the manpower situation was still critical. Gen. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...

 and his staff chose the Ardennes
Ardennes
The Ardennes is a region of extensive forests, rolling hills and ridges formed within the Givetian Ardennes mountain range, primarily in Belgium and Luxembourg, but stretching into France , and geologically into the Eifel...

 region, held by the First Army, as an area that could be held by as few troops as possible. The Ardennes was chosen because of a lack of operational objectives for the Allies and because the terrain offered good defensive positioning, roads were lacking and the Germans were known to be using the area within Germany to the east as a rest-and-refit area for their troops.

The speed of the Allied advance coupled with an initial lack of deep-water ports presented the Allies with enormous supply problems. Over-the-beach supply operations using the Normandy landing areas and direct landing LSTs on the beaches exceeded planning expectations. The only deep-water port the Allies had captured was Cherbourg
Cherbourg-Octeville
-Main sights:* La Glacerie has a race track.* The Cité de la Mer is a large museum devoted to scientific and historical aspects of maritime subjects.* Cherbourg Basilica* Jardin botanique de la Roche Fauconnière, a private botanical garden.* Le Trident theatre...

, near the original invasion beaches, but the Germans had thoroughly wrecked and mined the harbor before it could be taken. It took the Allies many months to build up its cargo-handling capability. The Allies captured the port of Antwerp
Port of Antwerp
The port of Antwerp, in Belgium, is a port in the heart of Europe accessible to capesize ships. Antwerp stands at the upper end of the tidal estuary of the Scheldt. The estuary is navigable by ships of more than 100,000 Gross Tons as far as 80 km inland. The inland location means that the port...

, Belgium, fully intact, in the first days of September, but it was not operational until 28 November, when the estuary of the Scheldt River
Battle of the Scheldt
The Battle of the Scheldt was a series of military operations of the Canadian 1st Army, led by Lieutenant-General Guy Simonds. The battle took place in northern Belgium and southwestern Netherlands during World War II from 2 October-8 November 1944...

, which controls access to the port, was cleared of both German troops and naval mine
Naval mine
A naval mine is a self-contained explosive device placed in water to destroy surface ships or submarines. Unlike depth charges, mines are deposited and left to wait until they are triggered by the approach of, or contact with, an enemy vessel...

s. The limitations led to differences between Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...

 and Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery over whether Montgomery or American Gen. George S. Patton
George S. Patton
George Smith Patton, Jr. was a United States Army officer best known for his leadership while commanding corps and armies as a general during World War II. He was also well known for his eccentricity and controversial outspokenness.Patton was commissioned in the U.S. Army after his graduation from...

 in the south would get priority access to supplies.

German forces remained in control of several major ports on the English Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

 coast until May 1945. The extensive destruction of the French railway system prior to D-Day
D-Day
D-Day is a term often used in military parlance to denote the day on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. "D-Day" often represents a variable, designating the day upon which some significant event will occur or has occurred; see Military designation of days and hours for similar...

, successful in hampering German response to the invasion, proved equally damaging to the Allies, as it took time to repair the system of tracks and bridges. A trucking system known as the "Red Ball Express
Red Ball Express
The Red Ball Express was an enormous truck convoy system created by Allied forces to supply their forward-area combat units moving through Europe following the breakout from the D-Day beaches in Normandy. The term "Red Ball" was a railroad phrase referring to express shipping...

" operated primarily by African-American soldiers, brought supplies to front-line troops, but transportation took five times as much fuel to reach the front line near the Belgian border as was delivered. By early October the Allies suspended major offensives to improve their supply lines and availability.

Patton, Montgomery, and Gen. Omar N. Bradley each pressed for priority delivery of supplies to their respective armies so they could continue their individual lines of advance and maintain pressure on the Germans. Gen. Eisenhower, however, preferred a broad-front strategy. He gave some priority to Montgomery's northern forces, who had the short-term goal of opening the urgently needed port of Antwerp and the long-term goal of capturing the Ruhr area
Ruhr Area
The Ruhr, by German-speaking geographers and historians more accurately called Ruhr district or Ruhr region , is an urban area in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. With 4435 km² and a population of some 5.2 million , it is the largest urban agglomeration in Germany...

, the industrial heart of Germany. With the Allies paused, German Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt
Gerd von Rundstedt
Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt was a Generalfeldmarschall of the German Army during World War II. He held some of the highest field commands in all phases of the war....

 was able to reorganize the disrupted German armies into a coherent defense.

Field Marshal
Field Marshal (UK)
Field Marshal is the highest military rank of the British Army. It ranks immediately above the rank of General and is the Army equivalent of an Admiral of the Fleet and a Marshal of the Royal Air Force....

 Montgomery's Operation Market Garden
Operation Market Garden
Operation Market Garden was an unsuccessful Allied military operation, fought in the Netherlands and Germany in the Second World War. It was the largest airborne operation up to that time....

 only achieved some of its objectives, while its territorial gains left the Allied supply situation worse than before. In October the Canadian First Army fought the Battle of the Scheldt
Battle of the Scheldt
The Battle of the Scheldt was a series of military operations of the Canadian 1st Army, led by Lieutenant-General Guy Simonds. The battle took place in northern Belgium and southwestern Netherlands during World War II from 2 October-8 November 1944...

, clearing the Westerschelde by taking Walcheren
Walcheren
thumb|right|250px|Campveer Tower in Veere, built in 1500Walcheren is a former island in the province of Zeeland in the Netherlands at the mouth of the Scheldt estuary. It lies between the Oosterschelde in the north and the Westerschelde in the south and is roughly the shape of a rhombus...

 and opening the port of Antwerp to shipping. As a result, by the end of October the supply situation had eased somewhat.

Despite a lull along the front after the Scheldt battles, the German situation remained dire. While operations continued in the autumn, notably the Lorraine Campaign
Lorraine Campaign
Lorraine Campaign is a term used by U.S. Army historians to describe operations of the U.S. Third Army in Lorraine during World War II from September 1 through December 18, 1944. Official U.S. Army campaign names for this period and location are Northern France and Rhineland. The term was...

, the Battle of Aachen
Battle of Aachen
The Battle of Aachen was a battle in Aachen, Germany, which occurred between 2–21 October 1944. By September 1944, the Wehrmacht had been pushed into Germany proper, after being defeated in France by the Western Allies...

 and fighting in the Hürtgen Forest
Battle of Hurtgen Forest
The Battle of Hürtgen Forest is the name given to the series of fierce battles fought between U.S. and German forces during World War II in the Hürtgen Forest, which became the longest battle on German ground during World War II, and the longest single battle the U.S. Army has ever fought...

, the strategic situation in the west changed little. The Allies were slowly pushing towards Germany
Operation Queen
Operation Queen was an American operation during World War II at the Western Front at the German Siegfried Line. The operation was aimed against the Rur River, as a staging point for a subsequent thrust over the river to the Rhine into Germany. It was conducted by the 1st and 9th U.S...

, but no decisive breakthrough was achieved. The Western Allies already had 96 divisions at or near the front, with an estimated ten more divisions en route from the United Kingdom to the battle zone. Additional Allied airborne units remained in England. The Germans could field a total of 55 divisions.

Adolf Hitler promised his generals a total of 18 infantry and 12 armored or mechanized divisions "for planning purposes." The plan was to pull 13 infantry divisions, two parachute divisions and six panzer-type divisions from the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht
Oberkommando der Wehrmacht
The Oberkommando der Wehrmacht was part of the command structure of the armed forces of Nazi Germany during World War II.- Genesis :...

 (OKW) strategic reserve. On the Eastern Front
Eastern Front (World War II)
The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of World War II between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union, Poland, and some other Allies which encompassed Northern, Southern and Eastern Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945...

 the Soviets' Operation Bagration during the summer had destroyed much of Germany's Army Group Center (Heeresgruppe Mitte). The extremely swift operation ended only when the advancing Red Army
Soviet Army
The Soviet Army is the name given to the main part of the Armed Forces of the Soviet Union between 1946 and 1992. Previously, it had been known as the Red Army. Informally, Армия referred to all the MOD armed forces, except, in some cases, the Soviet Navy.This article covers the Soviet Ground...

 forces outran their supplies. By November it was clear that Soviet forces were preparing for a winter offensive.

Meanwhile, the Allied air offensive of early 1944 had effectively grounded the Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

 (German Air Force), leaving the German Army with little battlefield intelligence and no way to interdict Allied supplies. The converse was equally damaging; daytime movement of German forces was almost instantly noticed and interdiction of supplies combined with the bombing of the Romanian oil fields
Petrochemical industry in Romania
Romania was one of the largest producers of oil in World War II. The oil extracted from Romania was essential for the German war campaigns. The petrochemical industry near Ploieşti was bombed heavily by American bombers. After the war, a heavy reconstruction and expansion was done under the...

 starved Germany of oil and gasoline.

One of the few advantages held by the German forces in November 1944 was that they were no longer defending all of Western Europe. Their front lines in the west had considerably shortened and were much closer to the German heartland. This dramatically improved their supply problems despite Allied control of the air. Additionally, their extensive telephone and telegraph network meant that radios were no longer necessary for communications, which lessened the effectiveness of Ultra intercepts. Nevertheless, some 40—50 decrypt messages were sent per day by ULTRA. They recorded the quadrupling of German fighter forces and noticed that the camouflaging name given to the German build up—Jägeraufmarsch—was synonymous with an offensive operation. ULTRA also picked up communiqués regarding extensive rail and road movements in the region. In addition, ULTRA picked up German orders that movements should be made on time.

Drafting the offensive


German leader Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 felt his armies still might be able to defend Germany successfully if they could find a way to neutralize the Western Front
Western Front (World War II)
The Western Front of the European Theatre of World War II encompassed, Denmark, Norway, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, and West Germany. The Western Front was marked by two phases of large-scale ground combat operations...

. Hitler believed he could split the Allied forces and force the Americans and British to settle for a separate peace, independent of the Soviet Union. Success in the west would give the Germans time to design and produce more advanced weapons (such as jet aircraft
Jet aircraft
A jet aircraft is an aircraft propelled by jet engines. Jet aircraft generally fly much faster than propeller-powered aircraft and at higher altitudes – as high as . At these altitudes, jet engines achieve maximum efficiency over long distances. The engines in propeller-powered aircraft...

, new U-boat
U-boat
U-boat is the anglicized version of the German word U-Boot , itself an abbreviation of Unterseeboot , and refers to military submarines operated by Germany, particularly in World War I and World War II...

 designs and super-heavy tank
Super-heavy tank
Super-heavy tanks are armored vehicles of very large size, generally over 75 tonnes. Programs have been initiated on several occasions with the aim of creating an invincible vehicle for penetrating enemy formations without fear of being destroyed in combat; however, only a few examples have ever...

s) and permit the concentration of forces in the east. After the war ended, this assessment was generally viewed as unrealistic, given Allied air superiority throughout Europe and their ability to continually disrupt German offensive operations.

Given the reduced manpower of their land forces at the time, the Germans believed the best way to seize the initiative would be to attack in the West against the smaller Allied forces rather than against the vast Soviet armies. Even the encirclement
Encirclement
Encirclement is a military term for the situation when a force or target is isolated and surrounded by enemy forces. The German term for this is Kesselschlacht ; a comparable English term might be "in the bag"....

 and destruction of entire Soviet armies, an unlikely outcome, would still have left the Soviets with a numerical superiority.

Several senior German military officers, including Field Marshal Walter Model
Walter Model
Otto Moritz Walter Model was a German general and later field marshal during World War II. He is noted for his defensive battles in the latter half of the war, mostly on the Eastern Front but also in the west, and for his close association with Adolf Hitler and Nazism...

 and von Rundstedt, expressed concern as to whether the goals of the offensive could be realized. They offered alternative plans, but Hitler would not listen. The plan banked on unfavorable weather, including heavy fog and low-lying clouds, which would minimize the Allied air advantage. Hitler originally set the offensive for late November, before the anticipated start of the Russian winter offensive
Vistula-Oder Offensive
The Vistula–Oder Offensive was a successful Red Army operation on the Eastern Front in the European Theatre of World War II; it took place between 12 January and 2 February 1945...

.

In the west supply problems began to significantly impede Allied operations, even though the opening of the port of Antwerp in late November improved the situation somewhat. The positions of the Allied armies stretched from southern France all the way north to the Netherlands. German planning for the counteroffensive rested on the premise that a successful strike against thinly-manned stretches of the line would halt Allied advances on the entire Western Front.

Several plans for major Western offensives were put forward, but Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (High Command of the Armed Forces, or OKW) quickly concentrated on two. A first plan for an encirclement maneuver called for a two-pronged attack along the borders of the U.S. forces around Aachen
Aachen
Aachen has historically been a spa town in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Aachen was a favoured residence of Charlemagne, and the place of coronation of the Kings of Germany. Geographically, Aachen is the westernmost town of Germany, located along its borders with Belgium and the Netherlands, ...

, hoping to encircle the Third and Ninth
U.S. Ninth Army
The Ninth United States Army was one of the main U.S. Army combat commands used during the campaign in Northwest Europe in 1944 and 1945. It was commanded from its inception by Lieutenant General William Simpson...

 Armies and leave the German forces back in control of the excellent defensive grounds where they had fought the U.S. to a standstill
Battle of Hurtgen Forest
The Battle of Hürtgen Forest is the name given to the series of fierce battles fought between U.S. and German forces during World War II in the Hürtgen Forest, which became the longest battle on German ground during World War II, and the longest single battle the U.S. Army has ever fought...

 just weeks before. A second plan called for a classic blitzkrieg
Blitzkrieg
For other uses of the word, see: Blitzkrieg Blitzkrieg is an anglicized word describing all-motorised force concentration of tanks, infantry, artillery, combat engineers and air power, concentrating overwhelming force at high speed to break through enemy lines, and, once the lines are broken,...

 attack through the weakly defended Ardennes Mountains--mirroring the successful German offensive there during the Battle of France
Battle of France
In the Second World War, the Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, which ended the Phoney War. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb , German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, to cut off and...

 in 1940—aimed at splitting the armies along the U.S.–British lines and capturing Antwerp. This plan was named Wacht am Rhein or "Watch on the Rhine", after a popular German patriotic song
Die Wacht am Rhein
"Die Wacht am Rhein" is a German patriotic anthem. The song's origins are rooted in historical conflicts with France, and it was particularly popular in Germany during the Franco-Prussian War and the First World War....

; this name also deceptively implied the Germans would be adopting a defensive posture in the Western Front.

Hitler chose the second plan, believing a successful encirclement would have little impact on the overall situation and finding the prospect of splitting the Anglo-American armies more appealing. The disputes between Montgomery and Patton were well known, and Hitler hoped he could exploit this perceived disunity. If the attack were to succeed in capturing Antwerp, four complete armies would be trapped without supplies behind German lines.

Both plans centered on attacks against the American forces. Hitler believed the Americans were incapable of fighting effectively, and that the American home front was likely to crack upon hearing of a decisive American loss.

Tasked with carrying out the operation were Generalfeldmarschall
Generalfeldmarschall
Field Marshal or Generalfeldmarschall in German, was a rank in the armies of several German states and the Holy Roman Empire; in the Austrian Empire, the rank Feldmarschall was used...

 (Field Marshal) Walther Model, the commander of German Army Group B
Army Group B
Army Group B was the name of three different German Army Groups that saw action during World War II.-Battle for France:The first was involved in the Western Campaign in 1940 in Belgium and the Netherlands which was to be aimed to conquer the Maas bridges after the German airborne actions in Rotterdam...

 (Heeresgruppe B), and Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt
Gerd von Rundstedt
Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt was a Generalfeldmarschall of the German Army during World War II. He held some of the highest field commands in all phases of the war....

, the overall commander of the German Army Command in the West
OB West
The German Army Command in the West The German Army Command in the West The German Army Command in the West (Oberbefehlshaber West (German: initials OB West) was the overall command of the Westheer, the German Armed Forces on the Western Front during World War II. It was directly subordinate to...

 (Oberbefehlshaber West
OB West
The German Army Command in the West The German Army Command in the West The German Army Command in the West (Oberbefehlshaber West (German: initials OB West) was the overall command of the Westheer, the German Armed Forces on the Western Front during World War II. It was directly subordinate to...

), who had moved his base of operations to Kransberg Castle
Kransberg Castle
Kransberg Castle is situated on a steep rock near Kransberg , a village with about 800 inhabitants in the Taunus mountains in the German province of Hesse. The medieval building, which acquired its current appearance in the late 19th century, served military and intelligence purposes in World War...

.

Model and von Rundstedt both believed aiming for Antwerp was too ambitious, given Germany's scarce resources in late 1944. At the same time they felt that maintaining a purely defensive posture (as had been the case since Normandy) would only delay defeat, not avert it. They thus developed alternative, less ambitious plans that did not aim to cross the Meuse River
Meuse River
The Maas or Meuse is a major European river, rising in France and flowing through Belgium and the Netherlands before draining into the North Sea...

; Model's being Unternehmen Herbstnebel
Operation Herbstnebel (Northwest Europe)
Unternehmen Herbstnebel was an offensive planned by German Field Marshal Walter Model and his Army Group B operational staff in late 1944 during World War II...

 (Operation Autumn Mist) and von Rundstedt's Fall Martin
Fall Martin
Fall Martin was a plan created by Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt in late 1944 during World War II. The plan envisaged a two-pronged attack aimed at the Allied forces in eastern Belgium and Luxembourg....

 ("Plan Martin"). The two field marshals combined their plans to present a joint "small solution" to Hitler, who rejected it in favor of his "big solution".Die Ardennenoffensive was also named Runstedtoffensive, but von Rundstedt strongly objected "to the fact that this stupid operation in the Ardennes is sometimes called the 'Rundstedt Offensive'. This is a complete misnomer. I had nothing to do with it. It came to me as an order complete to the last detail. Hitler had even written on the plan in his own handwriting 'not to be altered'".

Planning


OKW decided by mid-September, at Hitler's insistence, that the offensive would be mounted in the Ardennes, as was done in 1940
Battle of France
In the Second World War, the Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, which ended the Phoney War. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb , German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, to cut off and...

. Many German generals objected, but the offensive was planned and carried out anyway. In 1940 German forces had passed through the Ardennes in three days before engaging the enemy, but the 1944 plan called for battle in the forest itself. The main forces were to advance westward to the Meuse River, then turn northwest for Antwerp and Brussels
Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

. The close terrain of the Ardennes would make rapid movement difficult, though open ground beyond the Meuse offered the prospect of a successful dash to the coast.

Four armies were selected for the operation. First was the Sixth SS Panzer Army, under SS Gen. Sepp Dietrich
Sepp Dietrich
Josef "Sepp" Dietrich was a German SS General. He was one of Nazi Germany's most decorated soldiers and commanded formations up to Army level during World War II. Prior to 1929 he was Adolf Hitler's chauffeur and bodyguard but received rapid promotion after his participation in the murder of...

--newly created on 26 October 1944, it incorporated the most senior and the most experienced formation of the Waffen-SS
Waffen-SS
The Waffen-SS was a multi-ethnic and multi-national military force of the Third Reich. It constituted the armed wing of the Schutzstaffel or SS, an organ of the Nazi Party. The Waffen-SS saw action throughout World War II and grew from three regiments to over 38 divisions, and served alongside...

: the 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler as well as the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend. The 6th SS Panzer Army was designated the northernmost attack force, having its northernmost point on the pre-attack battlefront nearest the German town of Monschau
Monschau
Monschau is a small resort town in the Eifel region of western Germany, located in the district Aachen, North Rhine-Westphalia.-Geography:The town is located in the hills of the North Eifel, within the Hohes Venn – Eifel Nature Park in the narrow valley of the Rur river.The historic town center...

. It was entrusted with the offensive's primary objective—capturing Antwerp.

The Fifth Panzer Army
German Fifth Panzer Army
The 5th Panzer Army, also known as Panzer Group West and Panzer Group Eberbach was a panzer army which saw action in the Western front and North Africa...

 under Gen. Hasso von Manteuffel
Hasso von Manteuffel
Hasso-Eccard Freiherr von Manteuffel was a German soldier and liberal politician of the 20th century.He served in both world wars, and during World War II was a distinguished general...

 was assigned to the middle attack route with the objective of capturing Brussels.

The Seventh Army
German Seventh Army
The 7th Army was a World War I and World War II field army of the German land forces.-Origins:The 7th Army was activated in Stuttgart on August 25, 1939 with General Friedrich Dollmann in command. At the outbreak of the war, the 7th Army defended the German border and manned the Westwall in the...

, under Gen. Erich Brandenberger
Erich Brandenberger
Adolf Robert Erich Brandenberger was a German General der Panzertruppe. He was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves....

, was assigned to the southernmost attack, having its southernmost point on the pre-attack battlefront nearest the Luxembourg town of Echternach
Echternach
Echternach is a commune with city status in the canton of Echternach, which is part of the district of Grevenmacher, in eastern Luxembourg. Echternach lies near the border with Germany, and is the oldest town in Luxembourg....

, with the task of protecting the flank. This Army was made up of only four infantry divisions, with no large-scale armored formations to use as a spearhead unit. As a result, they made little progress throughout the battle.

Also participating in a secondary role was the Fifteenth Army
German Fifteenth Army
The 15th Army was a World War II field army.The 15th Army was activated on January 15, 1941 with General Curt Haase in command. First seeing service in France, the army was involved in the protection of the Channel coast from a possible Allied invasion...

, under Gen. Gustav-Adolf von Zangen
Gustav-Adolf von Zangen
Gustav-Adolf von Zangen was a German general and the commander of the German 15th Army in the Netherlands in 1944 during World War II. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves...

. Recently brought back up to strength and re-equipped after heavy fighting during Market Garden
Operation Market Garden
Operation Market Garden was an unsuccessful Allied military operation, fought in the Netherlands and Germany in the Second World War. It was the largest airborne operation up to that time....

, it was located on the far north of the Ardennes battlefield and tasked with holding U.S. forces in place, with the possibility of launching its own attack given favorable conditions.

For the offensive to be successful, four criteria were deemed critical: the attack had to be a complete surprise; the weather conditions had to be poor to neutralize Allied air superiority and the damage it could inflict on the German offensive and its supply lines; the progress had to be rapid—-the Meuse River, halfway to Antwerp, had to be reached by day 4; and Allied fuel supplies would have to be captured intact along the way because the Wehrmacht was short on fuel. The General Staff estimated they only had enough fuel to cover one-third to one-half of the ground to Antwerp in heavy combat conditions.

The plan originally called for just under 45 divisions, including a dozen panzer
Panzer Division
A panzer division was an armored division in the army and air force branches of the Wehrmacht as well as the Waffen-SS of Nazi Germany during World War II....

 and panzergrenadier
Panzergrenadier
is a German term for motorised or mechanized infantry, as introduced during World War II. It is used in the armies of Austria, Chile, Germany and Switzerland.-Forerunners:...

 divisions forming the armored spearhead
Armored spearhead
An armored spearhead is a formation of armored fighting vehicles, mostly tanks, that form the front of an offensive thrust during a battle. The idea is to concentrate as much firepower into a small front as possible, so any defenders in front of them will be overwhelmed...

 and various infantry units to form a defensive line as the battle unfolded. By this time, however, the German Army suffered from an acute manpower shortage and the force had been reduced to around 30 divisions. Although it retained most of its armor, there were not enough infantry units because of the defensive needs in the East. These 30 newly rebuilt divisions
Division (military)
A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. In most armies, a division is composed of several regiments or brigades, and in turn several divisions typically make up a corps...

 used some of the last reserves of the German Army. Among them were Volksgrenadier
Volksgrenadier
Volksgrenadier was the name given to a type of German Army division formed in the Autumn of 1944 after the double loss of Army Group Center to the Soviets in Operation Bagration and the Fifth Panzer Army to the Allies in Normandy. The name itself was intended to build morale, appealing at once to...

 units formed from a mix of battle-hardened veterans and recruits formerly regarded as too young or too old to fight. Training time, equipment and supplies were inadequate during the preparations. German fuel supplies were precarious—those materials and supplies that could not be directly transported by rail had to be horse-drawn to conserve fuel, and the mechanized and panzer divisions would depend heavily on captured fuel. As a result, the start of the offensive was delayed from 27 November to 16 December.

Before the offensive the Allies were virtually blind to German troop movement. During the liberation of France, the extensive network of the French resistance
French Resistance
The French Resistance is the name used to denote the collection of French resistance movements that fought against the Nazi German occupation of France and against the collaborationist Vichy régime during World War II...

 had provided valuable intelligence about German dispositions. Once they reached the German border, this source dried up. In France, orders had been relayed within the German army using radio messages enciphered by the Enigma machine
Enigma machine
An Enigma machine is any of a family of related electro-mechanical rotor cipher machines used for the encryption and decryption of secret messages. Enigma was invented by German engineer Arthur Scherbius at the end of World War I...

, and these could be picked up and decrypted by Allied code-breakers headquartered at Bletchley Park
Bletchley Park
Bletchley Park is an estate located in the town of Bletchley, in Buckinghamshire, England, which currently houses the National Museum of Computing...

, to give the intelligence known as ULTRA. In Germany such orders were typically transmitted using telephone and teleprinter
Teleprinter
A teleprinter is a electromechanical typewriter that can be used to communicate typed messages from point to point and point to multipoint over a variety of communication channels that range from a simple electrical connection, such as a pair of wires, to the use of radio and microwave as the...

, and a special radio silence
Radio silence
In telecommunications, radio silence is a status in which all fixed or mobile radio stations in an area are asked to stop transmitting for safety or security reasons.The term "radio station" may include anything capable of transmitting a radio signal....

 order was imposed on all matters concerning the upcoming offensive. The major crackdown in the Wehrmacht after the 20 July plot to assassinate Hitler resulted in much tighter security and fewer leaks. The foggy autumn weather also prevented Allied reconnaissance aircraft from correctly assessing the ground situation.

For these reasons Allied High Command considered the Ardennes a quiet sector, relying on assessments from their intelligence services that the Germans were unable to launch any major offensive operations this late in the war. What little intelligence they had led the Allies to believe precisely what the Germans wanted them to believe-–that preparations were being carried out only for defensive, not offensive, operations. In fact, because of the Germans' efforts, the Allies were led to believe that a new defensive army was being formed around Düsseldorf
Düsseldorf
Düsseldorf is the capital city of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia and centre of the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region.Düsseldorf is an important international business and financial centre and renowned for its fashion and trade fairs. Located centrally within the European Megalopolis, the...

 in the northern Rhine, possibly to defend against British attack. This was done by increasing the number of flak batteries
Artillery battery
In military organizations, an artillery battery is a unit of guns, mortars, rockets or missiles so grouped in order to facilitate better battlefield communication and command and control, as well as to provide dispersion for its constituent gunnery crews and their systems...

 in the area and the artificial multiplication of radio transmissions in the area. The Allies at this point thought the information was of no importance. All of this meant that the attack, when it came, completely surprised the Allied forces. Remarkably, the U.S. Third Army intelligence chief, Col. Oscar Koch
Oscar Koch
Oscar W. Koch was a brigadier general in the U.S. Army and the Third Army intelligence officer while the army was commanded by General George S...

, the U.S. First Army intelligence chief and the SHAEF intelligence officer all correctly predicted the German offensive capability and intention to strike the U.S. VIII Corps area. These predictions were largely dismissed by the U.S. 12th Army Group.

Because the Ardennes was considered a quiet sector, economy-of-force considerations led it to be used as a training ground for new units and a rest area for units that had seen hard fighting. The U.S. units deployed in the Ardennes thus were a mixture of inexperienced troops (such as the raw U.S. 99th and 106th "Golden Lions" Divisions), and battle-hardened troops sent to that sector to recuperate (the 2nd Infantry Division
U.S. 2nd Infantry Division
The 2nd Infantry Division is a formation of the United States Army. Its current primary mission is the defense of South Korea in the initial stages of an invasion from North Korea until other American units can arrive...

).

Two major special operations
Special operations
Special operations are military operations that are considered "special" .Special operations are typically performed independently or in conjunction with conventional military operations. The primary goal is to achieve a political or military objective where a conventional force requirement does...

 were planned for the offensive. By October it was decided that Otto Skorzeny
Otto Skorzeny
Otto Skorzeny was an SS-Obersturmbannführer in the German Waffen-SS during World War II. After fighting on the Eastern Front, he was chosen as the field commander to carry out the rescue mission that freed the deposed Italian dictator Benito Mussolini from captivity...

, the German commando who had rescued the former Italian dictator Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....

, was to lead a task force of English-speaking German soldiers in "Operation Greif". These soldiers were to be dressed in American and British uniform
Uniform
A uniform is a set of standard clothing worn by members of an organization while participating in that organization's activity. Modern uniforms are worn by armed forces and paramilitary organizations such as police, emergency services, security guards, in some workplaces and schools and by inmates...

s and wear dog tags
Dog tag (identifier)
A dog tag is the informal name for the identification tags worn by military personnel, named such as it bears resemblance to actual dog tags. The tag is primarily used for the identification of dead and wounded and essential basic medical information for the treatment of the latter, such as blood...

 taken from corpses and POWs
Prisoner of war
A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict...

. Their job was to go behind American lines and change signposts, misdirect traffic, generally cause disruption and seize bridges across the Meuse River between Liège and Namur
Namur (city)
Namur is a city and municipality in Wallonia, in southern Belgium. It is both the capital of the province of Namur and of Wallonia....

. By late November, another ambitious special operation was added: Col. Friedrich August von der Heydte was to lead a Fallschirmjäger (paratrooper) Kampfgruppe
Kampfgruppe
In military history and military slang, the German term Kampfgruppe can refer to a combat formation of any kind, but most usually to that employed by the German Wehrmacht and its allies during World War II and, to a lesser extent, in World War I...

 in Operation Stösser
Operation Stösser
Operation Stösser was a paratroop drop into the American rear in the Hohes Veen area during the Battle of the Bulge. Their objective was to take and hold the "Baraque Michel" crossroads until the arrival of the 12th SS Panzer Division. The operation was led by Oberst Friedrich August Freiherr von...

, a night-time paratroop drop behind the Allied lines aimed at capturing a vital road junction near Malmedy
Malmedy
Malmedy is a municipality of Belgium. It lies in the country's Walloon Region, Province of Liège. It belongs to the French Community of Belgium, within which it is French-speaking with facilities for German-speakers. On January 1, 2006 Malmedy had a total population of 11,829...

.

German intelligence had set 20 December as the expected date for the start of the upcoming Soviet offensive, aimed at crushing what was left of German resistance on the Eastern Front and thereby opening the way to Berlin. It was hoped that Soviet leader Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

 would delay the start of the operation once the German assault in the Ardennes had begun and wait for the outcome before continuing.

After the 20 July plot attempt on Hitler's life, and the close advance of the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

, Hitler and his staff had been forced to abandon the Wolfsschanze
Wolfsschanze
Wolf's Lair is the standard English name for Wolfsschanze, Adolf Hitler's first World War II Eastern Front military headquarters, one of several Führerhauptquartier or FHQs located in various parts of Europe...

 headquarters in East Prussia
East Prussia
East Prussia is the main part of the region of Prussia along the southeastern Baltic Coast from the 13th century to the end of World War II in May 1945. From 1772–1829 and 1878–1945, the Province of East Prussia was part of the German state of Prussia. The capital city was Königsberg.East Prussia...

, in which they had coordinated much of the fighting on the Eastern Front. After a brief visit to Berlin, Hilter travelled on his Führersonderzug (train) to Giessen on 11 December, taking up residence in the Adlerhorst
Adlerhorst
Adlerhorst was a World War II bunker complex in Germany, located within Kransberg Castle , Wetterau in the Taunus mountains in the province of Hesse...

 command complex, co-located with OB West's base at Kransberg Castle. Believing in omens and the successes of his early war campaigns that had been planned at Kransberg, this was the site from which he had overseen the successful 1940 campaign against France and the Low Countries
Low Countries
The Low Countries are the historical lands around the low-lying delta of the Rhine, Scheldt, and Meuse rivers, including the modern countries of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and parts of northern France and western Germany....

.

Von Rundstedt set up his operational headquarters near Limburg
Limburg
Limburg may refer to:A province divided between Belgium and the Netherlands as consequence of the Treaty of London* Province of Limburg , a former province of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands...

, close enough for the generals and Panzer Corps commanders who were to lead the attack to visit Adlerhorst on 11 December, travelling there in an SS-operated bus convoy. With the castle acting as overflow accommodation, the main party was settled into the Adlerhorst's Haus 2 command bunker, including Gen. Alfred Jodl
Alfred Jodl
Alfred Josef Ferdinand Jodl was a German military commander, attaining the position of Chief of the Operations Staff of the Armed Forces High Command during World War II, acting as deputy to Wilhelm Keitel...

, Gen. Wilhelm Keitel
Wilhelm Keitel
Wilhelm Bodewin Gustav Keitel was a German field marshal . As head of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht and de facto war minister, he was one of Germany's most senior military leaders during World War II...

, Gen. Blumentritt
Günther Blumentritt
Günther Blumentritt was a German officer in World War I, who became a Staff Officer under the Weimar Republic and went on to serve as a general for Nazi Germany during World War II...

, von Manteuffel and S.S. Gen. Sepp Dietrich
Sepp Dietrich
Josef "Sepp" Dietrich was a German SS General. He was one of Nazi Germany's most decorated soldiers and commanded formations up to Army level during World War II. Prior to 1929 he was Adolf Hitler's chauffeur and bodyguard but received rapid promotion after his participation in the murder of...

. Von Rundstedt then ran through the battle plan, while Hitler made one of his stoic speeches.

In a personal conversation on 13 December between Walther Model and Friedrich von der Heydte
Friedrich August Freiherr von der Heydte
Dr. jur. Dr. rer. pol. Friedrich August Freiherr von der HeydteIn German a Doctor of Law is abbreviated as Dr. iur. or Dr. jur. and a Doctorate of Economics is abbreviated as Dr. rer. pol....

, who was put in charge of Operation Stösser
Operation Stösser
Operation Stösser was a paratroop drop into the American rear in the Hohes Veen area during the Battle of the Bulge. Their objective was to take and hold the "Baraque Michel" crossroads until the arrival of the 12th SS Panzer Division. The operation was led by Oberst Friedrich August Freiherr von...

, von der Heydte gave Operation Stösser less than a 10% chance of succeeding. Model told him it was necessary to make the attempt: "It must be done because this offensive is the last chance to conclude the war favorably."

Initial German assault



On 16 December 1944, at 5:30 A.M., the Germans began the assault with a massive, 90-minute artillery barrage using 1,600 artillery pieces across an 80 miles (128.7 km) front on the Allied troops facing the 6th SS Panzer Army. The Americans' initial impression was that this was the anticipated, localized counterattack resulting from the Allies' recent attack in the Wahlerscheid sector to the north, where the 2nd Division had knocked a sizable dent in the Siegfried Line
Siegfried Line
The original Siegfried line was a line of defensive forts and tank defences built by Germany as a section of the Hindenburg Line 1916–1917 in northern France during World War I...

. In the northern sector Dietrich
Sepp Dietrich
Josef "Sepp" Dietrich was a German SS General. He was one of Nazi Germany's most decorated soldiers and commanded formations up to Army level during World War II. Prior to 1929 he was Adolf Hitler's chauffeur and bodyguard but received rapid promotion after his participation in the murder of...

's 6th SS Panzer Army assaulted Losheim Gap
Losheim Gap
The Losheim Gap is a long, narrow valley at the western foot of the Schnee Eifel, on the border of Belgium and Germany. Most accounts of World War II describing the Battle of the Bulge focus on the attack by the Germans around Battle of Bastogne and the Battle of St. Vith, while the Germans'...

 and Elsenborn Ridge
Elsenborn Ridge
The Elsenborn Ridge is a ridge line east of the town of Elsenborn, Belgium in the Ardennes forest that was the blocking line on the northern shoulder of the Battle of the Bulge. Their area was the main line of advance for Hitler's prized 12th SS Hitlerjugend. Units of V Corps of the First U.S...

 in an effort to break through to Liège
Liège
Liège is a major city and municipality of Belgium located in the province of Liège, of which it is the economic capital, in Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium....

.

Heavy snowstorms engulfed parts of the Ardennes area. While having the desired effect of keeping the Allied aircraft grounded, the weather also proved troublesome for the Germans because poor road conditions hampered their advance. Poor traffic control led to massive traffic jams and fuel shortages in forward units.

In the center, von Manteuffel
Hasso von Manteuffel
Hasso-Eccard Freiherr von Manteuffel was a German soldier and liberal politician of the 20th century.He served in both world wars, and during World War II was a distinguished general...

's Fifth Panzer Army attacked towards Bastogne
Bastogne
Bastogne Luxembourgish: Baaschtnech) is a Walloon municipality of Belgium located in the province of Luxembourg in the Ardennes. The municipality of Bastogne includes the old communes of Longvilly, Noville, Villers-la-Bonne-Eau, and Wardin...

 and St. Vith, both road junctions of great strategic importance. In the south, Brandenberger
Erich Brandenberger
Adolf Robert Erich Brandenberger was a German General der Panzertruppe. He was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves....

's Seventh Army pushed towards Luxembourg
Luxembourg
Luxembourg , officially the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg , is a landlocked country in western Europe, bordered by Belgium, France, and Germany. It has two principal regions: the Oesling in the North as part of the Ardennes massif, and the Gutland in the south...

 in its efforts to secure the flank from Allied attacks. Only one month before 250 members of the Waffen-SS had unsuccessfully tried to recapture the town of Vianden with its castle from the Luxembourgish resistance
German occupation of Luxembourg in World War II
The German occupation of Luxembourg in World War II was the period in the history of Luxembourg after it was used as a transit territory to attack France by outflanking the Maginot Line. Plans for the attack had been prepared by 9 October 1939, but execution was postponed several times...

 during the Battle of Vianden
Battle of Vianden
The Battle of Vianden took place November 19, 1944 in the small town of Vianden in northern Luxembourg, and was one of the most important battles of the Luxembourgish resistance against Nazi Germany during World War II...

.

Attack on the northern shoulder


The battle for Elsenborn Ridge
Elsenborn Ridge
The Elsenborn Ridge is a ridge line east of the town of Elsenborn, Belgium in the Ardennes forest that was the blocking line on the northern shoulder of the Battle of the Bulge. Their area was the main line of advance for Hitler's prized 12th SS Hitlerjugend. Units of V Corps of the First U.S...

 was a decisive component of the Battle of the Bulge, deflecting the strongest armored units of the German advance. The attack was led by one of the best equipped German divisions on the western front, the 1st SS Panzer Division
1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler
The Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler was Adolf Hitler's personal bodyguard. Initially the size of a regiment, the LSSAH eventually grew into a divisional-sized unit...

 (LSSAH). The division made up the lead unit for the entire German 6th Panzer Army. SS
Waffen-SS
The Waffen-SS was a multi-ethnic and multi-national military force of the Third Reich. It constituted the armed wing of the Schutzstaffel or SS, an organ of the Nazi Party. The Waffen-SS saw action throughout World War II and grew from three regiments to over 38 divisions, and served alongside...

 Obersturmbannführer
Obersturmbannführer
Obersturmbannführer was a paramilitary Nazi Party rank used by both the SA and the SS. It was created in May 1933 to fill the need for an additional field grade officer rank above Sturmbannführer as the SA expanded. It became an SS rank at the same time...

 Joachim Peiper
Joachim Peiper
Joachim Peiper , more often known as Jochen Peiper, was a field officer in the Waffen-SS during World War II, convicted of war crimes in Belgium and accused of war crimes in Italy. He was Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler's personal adjutant . In 1945, he was an SS-Standartenführer, the Waffen-SS's...

 led Kampfgruppe
Kampfgruppe
In military history and military slang, the German term Kampfgruppe can refer to a combat formation of any kind, but most usually to that employed by the German Wehrmacht and its allies during World War II and, to a lesser extent, in World War I...

 Peiper, consisting of 4,800 men and 600 vehicles, was charged with leading the main effort.


The attacks by the Sixth SS Panzer Army's infantry units in the north fared badly because of unexpectedly fierce resistance by the U.S. 2nd and 99th Infantry Divisions. On the first day, an entire German battalion of 500 men was held up for 10 hours at the small village of Lanzerath
Battle of Lanzareth ridge
The Battle of Lanzerath Ridge during World War II was fought on December 16, 1944, the first day of the Battle of the Bulge near the town of Lanzerath, Belgium. It was fought between 18 men belonging to two American reconnaissance squads, four U.S. Forward Artillery Observers, and a battalion of...

, through which passed a key route through the Losheim Gap
Losheim Gap
The Losheim Gap is a long, narrow valley at the western foot of the Schnee Eifel, on the border of Belgium and Germany. Most accounts of World War II describing the Battle of the Bulge focus on the attack by the Germans around Battle of Bastogne and the Battle of St. Vith, while the Germans'...

. To preserve the quantity of armor available, the infantry of the 9th Fallschirmjaeger Regiment, 3rd Fallschirmjaeger Division
3rd Parachute Division (Germany)
The 3rd Parachute Division was a German military unit that was active during World War II. Its formation began in October 1943 in France near Reims. From February 1944 near Brest...

, had been ordered to clear the village first. A single 18-man Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon
ISTAR
ISTAR stands for Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance. In its macroscopic sense, ISTAR is a practice that links several battlefield functions together to assist a combat force in employing its sensors and managing the information they gather.Information is collected on...

 from the 99th Infantry Division along with four Forward Air Controllers held up the battalion of about 500 German paratroopers until sunset, about 4:00 p.m, causing 92 casualties among the Germans.

This created a bottleneck in the German advance. Kampfgruppe Peiper, at the head of the SS
Waffen-SS
The Waffen-SS was a multi-ethnic and multi-national military force of the Third Reich. It constituted the armed wing of the Schutzstaffel or SS, an organ of the Nazi Party. The Waffen-SS saw action throughout World War II and grew from three regiments to over 38 divisions, and served alongside...

 Oberstgruppenführer
Oberstgruppenführer
Oberst-Gruppenführer was the highest commissioned SS rank with the exception of Reichsführer-SS, which was a special rank held by Heinrich Himmler...

 Sepp Dietrich’s Sixth Panzer Army had been designated to take the Losheim-Losheimergraben road, but it was closed by two collapsed overpasses. Peiper did not begin his advance until nearly 4:00 pm, more than 16 hours behind schedule.

Kampfgruppe Peiper reached Bucholz Station in the early morning of 17 December and quickly captured portions of the 3rd Battalion of the 394th Infantry Regiment. They shortly afterward seized a U.S. fuel depot at Büllingen
Büllingen
Büllingen is a largely German language-speaking municipality located in the Belgian province of Liège. On January 1, 2006 Büllingen had a total population of 5,385. The total area is 150.49 km² which gives a population density of 36 inhabitants per km²....

, where they paused to refuel before continuing westward. To the north, the 277th Volksgrenadier Division attempted to break through the defending line of the U.S. 99th Infantry Division and positions of 2nd Infantry Division. The 12th SS Panzer Division
12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend
The 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend was a German Waffen SS armoured division during World War II. The Hitlerjugend was unique because the majority of its junior enlisted men were drawn from members of the Hitler Youth, while the senior NCOs and officers were generally veterans of the Eastern...

, reinforced by additional infantry (Panzergrenadier and Volksgenadier) divisions, took the key road junction at Losheimergraben
Büllingen
Büllingen is a largely German language-speaking municipality located in the Belgian province of Liège. On January 1, 2006 Büllingen had a total population of 5,385. The total area is 150.49 km² which gives a population density of 36 inhabitants per km²....

 just north of Lanzerath and attacked the twin villages of Rocherath and Krinkelt.
Their intention was to control the twin villages of Rocherath-Krinkelt which would clear a path to the high ground of Elsenborn ridge. Occupation of this dominating terrain would allow control of the roads to the south and west and ensure supply to Kampfgruppe Peiper's armored task force. The stiff American defense prevented the Germans from reaching the vast array of supplies near the cities of Liège
Liège
Liège is a major city and municipality of Belgium located in the province of Liège, of which it is the economic capital, in Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium....

 and Spa
Spa, Belgium
Spa is a municipality of Belgium. It lies in the country's Walloon Region and Province of Liège. It is situated in a valley in the Ardennes mountain chain, some southeast of Liège, and southwest of Aachen. As of 1 January 2006, Spa had a total population of 10,543...

, Belgium and the road network west of the Elsenborn Ridge leading to the Meuse River
Meuse River
The Maas or Meuse is a major European river, rising in France and flowing through Belgium and the Netherlands before draining into the North Sea...

. However, after more than ten days of intense battle, they were able to push the Americans out of the villages, but were unable to dislodge them from Elsenborn Ridge
Elsenborn Ridge
The Elsenborn Ridge is a ridge line east of the town of Elsenborn, Belgium in the Ardennes forest that was the blocking line on the northern shoulder of the Battle of the Bulge. Their area was the main line of advance for Hitler's prized 12th SS Hitlerjugend. Units of V Corps of the First U.S...

, where elements of the V Corps of the First U.S. Army prevented the German forces from reaching the road network to their west.

The 99th Infantry Division as a whole, outnumbered five to one, inflicted casualties in the ratio of eighteen to one. The division lost about 20% of its effective strength, including 465 killed and 2,524 evacuated due to wounds, injuries, fatigue, or trench foot. German losses were much higher. In the northern sector opposite the 99th, this included more than 4,000 deaths and the destruction of sixty tanks and big guns. Historian John S.D. Eisenhower
John Eisenhower
John Sheldon Doud Eisenhower is the son of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and his wife Mamie. He is a retired United States Army officer and the author of several books of military history. He served as the U.S...

 wrote, "...the action of the 2nd and 99th Divisions on the northern shoulder could be considered the most decisive of the Ardennes campaign."

Kampfgruppe Peiper drives west


Driving to the south-east of Elsenborn, Kampfgruppe Peiper entered Honsfield, where they encountered one of the 99th Division's rest centers, clogged with confused American troops. They killed many, destroyed a number of American armored units and vehicles, and took several dozen prisoners who were murdered by elements of his force. Peiper easily captured the town and 50000 gal of fuel for his vehicles. Peiper then advanced north-west towards Büllingen, keeping to the plan to move west, apparently unaware he had nearly taken the town and unknowingly bypassed an opportunity to flank and trap the entire 2nd and 99th Division. Peiper turned south to detour around Hünningen, choosing a route designated Rollbahn
Rollbahn
A rollbahn is a German word designating a runway. This may be:* A one lane road, for example, in the Second World War it described key routes designated by the German Wehrmacht, for example, the route Moscow-Minsk-Brest A rollbahn is a German word designating a runway. This may be:* A one lane...

 D, as he had been given latitude to choose best route west.

Malmedy massacre



At 12:30 on 17 December, Kampfgruppe
Kampfgruppe
In military history and military slang, the German term Kampfgruppe can refer to a combat formation of any kind, but most usually to that employed by the German Wehrmacht and its allies during World War II and, to a lesser extent, in World War I...

 Peiper was near the hamlet of Baugnez, on the height halfway between the town of Malmedy
Malmedy
Malmedy is a municipality of Belgium. It lies in the country's Walloon Region, Province of Liège. It belongs to the French Community of Belgium, within which it is French-speaking with facilities for German-speakers. On January 1, 2006 Malmedy had a total population of 11,829...

 and Ligneuville, when they encountered elements of the 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion, U.S. 7th Armored Division. After a brief battle the lightly armed Americans surrendered. They were disarmed and, with some other Americans captured earlier (approximately 150 men), sent to stand in a field near the crossroads under light guard. About fifteen minutes after Peiper's advance guard passed through, the main body under the command of SS Sturmbannführer
Sturmbannführer
Sturmbannführer was a paramilitary rank of the Nazi Party equivalent to major, used both in the Sturmabteilung and the Schutzstaffel...

 Werner Pötschke
Werner Pötschke
Werner Herman Gustav Pötschke was a German SS officer during World War II, eventually rising to the rank of Sturmbannführer.-Early life:Pötschke was born in Brussels in Belgium on 6 March 1914...

 arrived. Accounts of the killing vary, but 84 of the POWs
Prisoner of war
A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict...

 were murdered. A few survived, and news of the killings of prisoners of war raced through Allied lines. Following the end of the war, soldiers and officers of Kampfgruppe Peiper, including Joachim Peiper and SS general Sepp Dietrich, were tried for the incident at the Malmedy massacre trial
Malmedy massacre trial
The Malmedy massacre trial was held in May–July 1946 in the Dachau concentration camp to try the German Waffen-SS soldiers accused of the Malmedy massacre of December 17, 1944. The highest-ranking defendant was the former SS general, Sepp Dietrich...

.

Germans advance west


The fighting continued and, by the evening, the spearhead had pushed north to engage the U.S. 99th Infantry Division, and Kampfgruppe Peiper arrived in front of Stavelot
Stavelot
Stavelot is a Walloon municipality located in the Belgian province of Liège. On January 1, 2006, Stavelot had a total population of 6,671. The total area is 85.07 km² which gives a population density of 78 inhabitants per km².-History:...

. Peiper was already behind the timetable, because it had taken 36 hours to advance from Eifel
Eifel
The Eifel is a low mountain range in western Germany and eastern Belgium. It occupies parts of southwestern North Rhine-Westphalia, northwestern Rhineland-Palatinate and the south of the German-speaking Community of Belgium....

 to Stavelot; the same advance had taken just nine hours in 1940. As the Americans fell back, they blew up bridges and emptied fuel dumps, delaying the Germans and denying them critically needed fuel.

Kampfgruppe Peiper attacked Stavelot on 18 December but was unable to capture the town before the Americans evacuated a large fuel depot. Three tanks attempted to take the bridge, but the lead vehicle was disabled by a mine. Then sixty grenadiers ran forward but they were stopped by concentrated American defensive fire. After a fierce tank battle the next day, the Germans finally entered the village when U.S. engineers failed to blow the bridge.

Capitalizing on his success and not wanting to lose more time, Peiper rushed an advance group toward the vital bridge at Trois-Ponts
Trois-Ponts
Trois-Ponts is a municipality of Belgium. It lies in the country's Walloon Region and Province of Liege. On January 1, 2006 Trois-Ponts had a total population of 2,445. The total area is 68.90 km² which gives a population density of 35 inhabitants per km². It is situated at the confluence of the...

, leaving the bulk of his strength in Stavelot. When they reached it at 1130 on 18 December, retreating U.S. engineers blew it up in their faces. Peiper detoured north towards the village of La Gleize
La Gleize
La Gleize is a village and section of the Belgian Municipality of Stoumont, situated in the Walloon Region in the province of Liège.Common before the full merger of Commons in 1977, La Gleize is located on a rocky outcrop overlooking the valley of Amblève in the Ardennes region.-Hamlets:Moulin du...

 and Cheneaux. At Cheneaux, the advance guard was attacked by American fighter-bombers, destroying two tanks and five halftracks, blocking the narrow road. The group got moving again at dusk at 1600 and was able to return to its original route at around 1800. Of the two bridges now remaining between Kampfgruppe Peiper and the Meuse, the bridge over the Lienne was blown by the Americans as the Germans approached. Peiper turned north and halted his forces in the woods between La Gleize and Stoumont
Stoumont
Stoumont is a municipality of Belgium. It lies in the country's Walloon Region and Province of Liege. On January 1, 2006 Stoumont had a total population of 3,006. The total area is 108.45 km² which gives a population density of 28 inhabitants per km²....

. He learned the Stoumont was strongly held and that the Americans were bringing up strong reinforcements from Spa.

To Peiper's south, the advance of Kampfgruppe Hansen had stalled. SS Oberführer Mohnke ordered Schnellgruppe Knittel
Gustav Knittel
Gustav Knittel was an SS-Sturmbannführer in the 1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler who was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and a convicted war criminal.- Early life :...

, which had been designated to follow Hansen, to instead move forward to support Peiper. SS Sturmbannführer Knittel crossed the bridge at Stavelot around 1900 against American forces trying to retake the town. Knittel pressed forward towards La Gleize, and shortly afterward the Americans recaptured Stavelot. Peiper and Knittel both faced the prospect of being cut off.

German advance halted


At dawn on 19 December, Peiper surprised the American defenders of Stoumont by sending infantry from the 2nd SS Panzergrenadier Regiment in an attack and a company of Fallschirmjäger to infiltrate their lines. He followed this with a Panzer attack, gaining the eastern edge of the town. An American tank battalion arrived but, after a two-hour tank battle, Peiper finally captured Stoumont at 1030. Knittel joined up with Peiper and reported the Americans had recaptured Stavelot to their east. Peiper ordered Knittel to retake Stavelot. Assessing his own situation, he determined that his Kampfgruppe did not have sufficient fuel to cross the bridge west of Stoumont and continue his advance. He maintained his lines west of Stoumont for a while, until the evening of 19 December when he withdrew them to the village edge. On the same evening the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division under Maj. Gen. James Gavin
James M. Gavin
James Maurice "Jumpin' Jim" Gavin was a prominent Lieutenant General in the United States Army during World War II...

 arrived and deployed at La Gleize and along Peiper's planned route of advance. German efforts to reinforce Peiper were unsuccessful. Kampfgruppe Hansen was still struggling against bad road conditions and stiff American resistance on the southern route. Schnellgruppe Knittel was forced to disengage from the heights around Stavelot. Kampfgruppe Sandig, which had been ordered to take Stavelot, launched another attack without success. Sixth Panzer Army SS-Oberstgruppenführer
Oberstgruppenführer
Oberst-Gruppenführer was the highest commissioned SS rank with the exception of Reichsführer-SS, which was a special rank held by Heinrich Himmler...

 Sepp Dietrich
Sepp Dietrich
Josef "Sepp" Dietrich was a German SS General. He was one of Nazi Germany's most decorated soldiers and commanded formations up to Army level during World War II. Prior to 1929 he was Adolf Hitler's chauffeur and bodyguard but received rapid promotion after his participation in the murder of...

 ordered Hermann Prieß, commanding officer of the 1st SS Panzer Corps, to increase its efforts to back Peiper’s Kampfgruppe, but Prieß was unable to break through.

Small units of the U.S. 2nd Battalion of the 119th Regiment attacked the dispersed units of Kampfgruppe Peiper during the morning of 21 December, but were pushed back and a number captured, including their battalion commander, Maj. Hal McCown. Peiper learned that German reinforcements were to be concentrated in La Gleize and withdrew his forces eastward, leaving wounded Americans and Germans in the Froidcourt castle. Attempting to withdraw from Cheneux, American paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division engaged the Germans in fierce house-to-house fighting. The Americans shelled Kampfgruppe Peiper on 22 December, and although the Germans had run out of food and had virtually no fuel, they continued to fight. A Luftwaffe resupply mission went badly when SS-Brigadeführer
Brigadeführer
SS-Brigadeführer was an SS rank that was used in Nazi Germany between the years of 1932 and 1945. Brigadeführer was also an SA rank....

 Wilhelm Mohnke
Wilhelm Mohnke
SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke was one of the original 120 members of the SS-Staff Guard "Berlin" formed in March 1933. From those ranks, Mohnke rose to become one of Adolf Hitler's last remaining generals.Mohnke saw action with the 1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler in France, Poland...

 insisted the grid coordinates supplied by Peiper were wrong, parachuting supplies into American hands in Stoumont.

In La Gleize Peiper set up defenses waiting for German relief. When the relief force was unable to penetrate the Allied lines, on 23 December he decided to break through back to the German lines. The men of the Kampfgruppe
Kampfgruppe
In military history and military slang, the German term Kampfgruppe can refer to a combat formation of any kind, but most usually to that employed by the German Wehrmacht and its allies during World War II and, to a lesser extent, in World War I...

 were forced to abandon their vehicles and heavy equipment, although most of what remained of the unit was able to escape.

Operation Stösser



Operation Stösser was a paratroop drop into the American rear in the High Fens area. Their objective was the "Baraque Michel" crossroads. It was led by Oberst
Oberst
Oberst is a military rank in several German-speaking and Scandinavian countries, equivalent to Colonel. It is currently used by both the ground and air forces of Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark and Norway. The Swedish rank överste is a direct translation, as are the Finnish rank eversti...

 Friedrich August Freiherr von der Heydte
Friedrich August Freiherr von der Heydte
Dr. jur. Dr. rer. pol. Friedrich August Freiherr von der HeydteIn German a Doctor of Law is abbreviated as Dr. iur. or Dr. jur. and a Doctorate of Economics is abbreviated as Dr. rer. pol....

, one of the heroes of the Battle of Crete
Battle of Crete
The Battle of Crete was a battle during World War II on the Greek island of Crete. It began on the morning of 20 May 1941, when Nazi Germany launched an airborne invasion of Crete under the code-name Unternehmen Merkur...

.

It was the German paratroopers' only nighttime drop during World War II. Von der Heydte was given only eight days to prepare prior to the assault. He was not allowed to use his own regiment because their movement might alert the Allies to the impending counterattack. Instead, he was provided with a Kampfgruppe of 800 men. The II Parachute Corps was tasked with contributing 100 men from each of its regiments. In loyalty to their commander, 150 men from von der Hydte's own unit, the 6th Parachute Regiment, went against orders and joined him. They had little time to establish any unit cohesion
Unit cohesion
Unit cohesion is a military concept, defined by one former United States Chief of staff in the early 1980s as "the bonding together of soldiers in such a way as to sustain their will and commitment to each other, the unit, and mission accomplishment, despite combat or mission stress"...

 or train together.

The parachute drop was a complete failure. Von der Heydte ended up with a total of around 300 troops. Too small and too weak to counter the Allies, they abandoned plans to take the crossroads and instead converted his mission to reconnaissance. With only enough ammunition for a single fight, they withdrew towards Germany and attacked the rear of the American lines. Only about 100 of his weary men finally reached the German rear.

Wereth 11


Another, much smaller massacre was committed in Wereth, Belgium, approximately 1000 yards northeast of Saint-Vith, on 17 December 1944. Eleven black American soldiers, after surrendering, were tortured and then shot by men of the 1st SS Panzer Division, belonging to Kampfgruppe Knittel
Gustav Knittel
Gustav Knittel was an SS-Sturmbannführer in the 1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler who was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and a convicted war criminal.- Early life :...

. The perpetrators were never punished for this crime and recent research indicates that men from Third Company of the Reconnaissance Battalion as responsible.

Attack in the center



The Germans fared better in the center (the 20 miles (32.2 km) Schnee Eifel sector) as the Fifth Panzer Army attacked positions held by the U.S.28th and 106th Infantry Divisions. The Germans lacked the overwhelming strength that had been deployed in the north, but still possessed a marked numerical and material superiority over the very thinly spread 28th and 106th divisions. They succeeded in surrounding two largely intact regiments (422nd and 423rd) of the 106th Division in a pincer movement
Pincer movement
The pincer movement or double envelopment is a military maneuver. The flanks of the opponent are attacked simultaneously in a pinching motion after the opponent has advanced towards the center of an army which is responding by moving its outside forces to the enemy's flanks, in order to surround it...

 and forced their surrender, a tribute to the way Manteuffel's new tactics had been applied. The official U.S. Army history states: "At least seven thousand [men] were lost here and the figure probably is closer to eight or nine thousand. The amount lost in arms and equipment, of course, was very substantial. The Schnee Eifel battle, therefore, represents the most serious reverse suffered by American arms during the operations of 1944–45 in the European theater."

Battle for St. Vith


In the center the town of St. Vith, a vital road junction, presented the main challenge for both von Manteuffel's and Dietrich's forces. The defenders, led by the 7th Armored Division and including the remaining regiment of the 106th U.S. Infantry Division, with elements of the 9th Armored Division and 28th U.S. Infantry Division, all under the command of Gen. Bruce C. Clarke
Bruce C. Clarke
General Bruce Cooper Clarke was a commander of Continental Army Command from 1958–1960 and Commander, U.S. Army Europe from 1960-1962. He also commanded the U.S...

, successfully resisted the German attacks, significantly slowing the German advance. At Montgomery's orders St. Vith was given up on 21 December; U.S. troops fell back to entrenched positions in the area, presenting an imposing obstacle to a successful German advance. By 23 December, as the Germans shattered their flanks, the defenders' position became untenable and U.S. troops were ordered to retreat west of the Salm River. Since the German plan called for the capture of St. Vith by 18:00 on 17 December, the prolonged action in and around it dealt a major setback to their timetable.

Meuse River bridges



To protect the river crossings on the Meuse at Givet, Dinant and Namur, Montgomery ordered those few units available to hold the bridges on 19 December. This led to a hastily assembled force including rear-echelon troops, military police and Army Air Force personnel. The British 29th Armored Brigade
British 29th Armoured Brigade
- History :Created in 1940 it served mainly with the 11th Armoured Division, notably in the Battle of Normandy and the campaign in Western Europe.- Component Units :*22nd Dragoons - Until Jan '41...

, which had turned in its tanks for re-equipping, was told to take back their tanks and head to the area. XXX Corps in Holland began their move to the area on 20 December.

Aside from the difficulties in the northern and southern sectors, the German advance in the center was the most successful. Fifth Panzer Army was spearheaded by the 2nd Panzer Division while Panzer Lehr Division came up from the south, leaving Bastogne to other units. The Ourthe River was passed at Ourtheville on 21 December. Lack of fuel held up the advance for one day, but on 23 December the offensive was resumed towards the two small towns of Hargimont and Marche
Marche-en-Famenne
Marche-en-Famenne is a Walloon municipality located in the Belgian province of Luxembourg. It is the unofficial capital of the Famenne region, sandwiched between the Condroz, former land of the Condrusi, to the north and the Ardennes to the south....

. Hargimont was captured the same day, but Marche was strongly defended by the American 84th Division. Gen. Lüttwitz
Heinrich Freiherr von Lüttwitz
Heinrich Diepold Georg Freiherr von Lüttwitz was a German general of the Panzer troops, serving during World War II...

, commander of the XXXXVII Panzerkorps, ordered the Division to turn westwards towards Dinant and the Meuse, leaving only a blocking force at Marche. Although advancing only in a narrow corridor, 2nd Panzer Division was still making rapid headway, leading to jubilation in Berlin. Headquarters now freed up the 9th Panzer Division for Fifth Panzer Army, which was deployed at Marche.

On 22/23 December the woods of Foy-Notre-Dame were reached, only a few kilometers ahead of Dinant. However, the narrow corridor caused considerable difficulties, as constant flanking attacks threatened the division. On 24 December the furthest penetration was reached. Panzer Lehr Division took the town of Celles
Celles
Celles is the name of several places*In Belgium:**Celles, Hainaut is a municipality located in the province of Hainaut.**Celles, Houyet is a village in the municipality of Houyet, province of Namur...

, while a bit farther north, parts of 2nd Panzer Division were in sight of the Meuse near Dinant at Foy-Notre-Dame. A hastily assembled Allied blocking force on the east side of the river, however, prevented the German probing forces from approaching the Dinant bridge. By late Christmas Eve the advance in this sector was basically stopped, as Allied forces threatened the narrow corridor held by the 2nd Panzer Division.

Operation Greif and Operation Währung


For Operation Greif, Otto Skorzeny successfully infiltrated a small part of his battalion of disguised, English-speaking Germans behind the Allied lines. Although they failed to take the vital bridges over the Meuse, their presence caused confusion out of all proportion to their military activities, and rumors spread quickly. Checkpoints were set up all over the Allied rear, greatly slowing the movement of soldiers and equipment. Military police at these checkpoints grilled troops on things that every American was expected to know, such as the identity of Mickey Mouse
Mickey Mouse
Mickey Mouse is a cartoon character created in 1928 by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks at The Walt Disney Studio. Mickey is an anthropomorphic black mouse and typically wears red shorts, large yellow shoes, and white gloves...

's girlfriend, baseball scores, or the capital of a particular US state--though some could not remember or did not know.

The tightened security nonetheless made things very hard for the German infiltrators, and some of them were captured. Even during interrogation they continued their goal of spreading disinformation
Disinformation
Disinformation is intentionally false or inaccurate information that is spread deliberately. For this reason, it is synonymous with and sometimes called black propaganda. It is an act of deception and false statements to convince someone of untruth...

; when asked about their mission, some of them claimed they had been told to go to Paris to either kill or capture Gen. Eisenhower. Security around the general was greatly increased, and he was confined to his headquarters. Because these prisoners had been captured in American uniform, they were later executed by firing squad
Execution by firing squad
Execution by firing squad, sometimes called fusillading , is a method of capital punishment, particularly common in the military and in times of war.Execution by shooting is a fairly old practice...

. This was the standard practice of every army at the time, although its legality was ambiguous under the Geneva Convention, which merely stated soldiers had to wear uniforms that distinguished them as combatants. In addition, Skorzeny deemed that such an operation would be well within the rules of warfare as long as his men were wearing their German uniforms when firing weapons. Skorzeny and his men were fully aware of their likely fate, and most wore their German uniforms underneath their Allied ones in case of capture. Skorzeny was tried by an American tribunal in 1947, but was acquitted and moved to Spain and later South America.

In Operation Währung a small number of German agents infiltrated Allied lines in American uniforms. These agents were then to use an existing Nazi intelligence network to attempt to bribe rail and port workers to disrupt Allied supply operations. This operation, however, was a failure.

Attack in the south



Further south on Manteuffel's front, the main thrust was delivered by all attacking divisions crossing the River Our, then increasing the pressure on the key road centers of St. Vith and Bastogne. The more experienced 28th Infantry Division put up a much more dogged defense than the inexperienced (or "green") soldiers of the 106th infantry division. The 112th Infantry Regiment (the most northerly of the 28th Division's regiments), holding a continuous front east of the Our, kept German troops from seizing and using the Our River bridges around Ouren for two days, before withdrawing progressively westwards.


The 109th and 110th Regiments of the 28th Division, however, fared worse, as they were spread so thinly that their positions were easily bypassed. Both offered stubborn resistance in the face of superior forces and threw the German schedule off by several days. The 110th's situation was by far the worst, as it was responsible for an 11-mile front while its 2nd Battalion was withheld as the divisional reserve. Panzer columns took the outlying villages and widely separated strongpoints in bitter fighting, and advanced to points near Bastogne within four days. The struggle for the villages and American strongpoints, plus transport confusion on the German side, slowed the attack sufficiently to allow the 101st Airborne Division
101st Airborne Division
The 101st Airborne Division—the "Screaming Eagles"—is a U.S. Army modular light infantry division trained for air assault operations. During World War II, it was renowned for its role in Operation Overlord, the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944, in Normandy, France, Operation Market Garden, the...

 (reinforced by elements from the 9th and 10th Armored Divisions) to reach Bastogne by truck on the morning of 19 December. The fierce defense of Bastogne, in which American paratroopers particularly distinguished themselves, made it impossible for the Germans to take the town with its important road junctions. The panzer columns swung past on either side, cutting off Bastogne on 20 December but failing to secure the vital crossroads.

In the extreme south, Brandenberger's three infantry divisions were checked by divisions of the U.S. VIII Corps after an advance of 4 miles (6.4 km); that front was then firmly held. Only the 5th Parachute Division
5th Parachute Division (Germany)
The 5. Fallschirmjäger-Division was a fallschirmjäger division of the German military during the Second World War, active from 1944 to 1945.The division was formed in France in early 1944, commanded by Gustav Wilke...

 of Brandenberger's command was able to thrust forward 12 miles (19.3 km) on the inner flank to partially fulfill its assigned role. Eisenhower and his principal commanders realized by 17 December that the fighting in the Ardennes
Ardennes
The Ardennes is a region of extensive forests, rolling hills and ridges formed within the Givetian Ardennes mountain range, primarily in Belgium and Luxembourg, but stretching into France , and geologically into the Eifel...

 was a major offensive and not a local counterattack, and they ordered vast reinforcements to the area. Within a week 250,000 troops had been sent. Gen. Gavin of the 82nd Airborne Division arrived on the scene first and ordered the 101st to hold Bastogne while the 82nd would take the more difficult task of facing the SS Panzer Divisions; it was also thrown into the battle north of the bulge, near Elsenborn Ridge.

Siege of Bastogne


By the time the senior Allied commanders met in a bunker in Verdun on 19 December, the town of Bastogne and its network of 11 hard-topped roads leading through the mountainous terrain and boggy mud of the Ardennes region were to have been in German hands for several days. By the time of that meeting, two separate westbound German columns that were to have bypassed the town to the south and north, the 2nd Panzer Division and Panzer-Lehr-Division of XLVII Panzer Corps, as well as the Corps' infantry (26th Volksgrenadier Division
26th Infantry Division (Germany)
The 26th Infantry Division was a pre-Second World war German Infantry Division of the 1st mobilisation wave . It was mobilised for World War II on September 26, 1939, disbanded September 10, 1944 near Radom, reformed as the 26th Volksgrenadier Division The 26th Infantry Division (26....

), coming due west had been engaged and much slowed and frustrated in outlying battles at defensive positions up to ten miles from the town proper-—and were gradually being forced back onto and into the hasty defenses built within the municipality. Moreover, the sole corridor that was open (to the southeast) was threatened and it had been sporadically closed as the front shifted, and there was expectation that it would be completely closed sooner than later, given the strong likelihood that the town would soon be surrounded.
Gen. Eisenhower, realizing that the Allies could destroy German forces much more easily when they were out in the open and on the offensive than if they were on the defensive, told his generals, "The present situation is to be regarded as one of opportunity for us and not of disaster. There will be only cheerful faces at this table." Patton, realizing what Eisenhower implied, responded, "Hell, let's have the guts to let the bastards go all the way to Paris. Then, we'll really cut 'em off and chew 'em up." Eisenhower, after saying he was not that optimistic, asked Patton how long it would take to turn his Third Army (located in northeastern France) north to counterattack. Patton replied that said he could attack with two divisions within 48 hours, to the disbelief of the other generals present. However, before he had gone to the meeting Patton had ordered his staff to prepare three contingency plans for a northward turn in at least corps strength. By the time Eisenhower asked him how long it would take, the movement was already underway. On 20 December, Eisenhower removed the First and Ninth U.S. Armies from Gen. Bradley's 12th Army Group and placed them under Montgomery's 21st Army Group
British 21st Army Group
The 21st Army Group was a British headquarters formation consisting primarily of British and Canadian forces. The Army Group was an important Allied force in the European Theatre of World War II. It was established in London during July 1943 under the command of Supreme Headquarters Allied...

.


By 21 December the Germans had surrounded Bastogne
Bastogne
Bastogne Luxembourgish: Baaschtnech) is a Walloon municipality of Belgium located in the province of Luxembourg in the Ardennes. The municipality of Bastogne includes the old communes of Longvilly, Noville, Villers-la-Bonne-Eau, and Wardin...

, which was defended by the 101st Airborne Division
101st Airborne Division
The 101st Airborne Division—the "Screaming Eagles"—is a U.S. Army modular light infantry division trained for air assault operations. During World War II, it was renowned for its role in Operation Overlord, the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944, in Normandy, France, Operation Market Garden, the...

 and Combat Command B of the 10th Armored Division. Conditions inside the perimeter were tough--most of the medical supplies and medical personnel had been captured. Food was scarce, and by 22 December artillery ammunition was restricted to 10 rounds per gun per day. The weather cleared the next day, however, and supplies (primarily ammunition) were dropped over four of the next five days.

Despite determined German attacks, however, the perimeter held. The German commander, Lt. Gen. Heinrich Freiherr von Lüttwitz
Heinrich Freiherr von Lüttwitz
Heinrich Diepold Georg Freiherr von Lüttwitz was a German general of the Panzer troops, serving during World War II...

, requested Bastogne's surrender. When Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe
Anthony McAuliffe
General Anthony Clement "Nuts" McAuliffe was the United States Army general who commanded the 101st Airborne Division troops defending Bastogne, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II...

, acting commander of the 101st, was told of the Nazi demand to surrender, in frustration he responded, "Nuts!" After turning to other pressing issues, his staff reminded him that they should reply to the German demand. One officer, Lt. Col. Harry Kinnard
Harry Kinnard
Harry William Osborne Kinnard II was an American military officer who, during the Vietnam War, pioneered the airmobile concept of sending troops into battle using helicopters. Kinnard retired from the military as a lieutenant-general.Kinnard grew up in Dallas, Texas...

, noted that McAuliffe's initial reply would be "tough to beat." Thus McAuliffe wrote on the paper, which was typed up and delivered to the Germans, the line he made famous and a morale booster to his troops: "NUTS!" That reply had to be explained, both to the Germans and to non-American Allies.Nuts can mean several things in American English
American English
American English is a set of dialects of the English language used mostly in the United States. Approximately two-thirds of the world's native speakers of English live in the United States....

 slang. In this case it signified rejection, and was explained to the Germans as meaning "Go to Hell!"


Both 2nd Panzer and Panzer Lehr moved forward from Bastogne after 21 December, leaving only Panzer Lehr's 901st Regiment to assist the 26th Volksgrenadier Division in attempting to capture the crossroads. The 26th VG received one panzergrenadier regiment from the 15th Panzergrenadier Division on Christmas Eve for its main assault the next day. Because it lacked sufficient troops and those of the 26th VG Division were near exhaustion, the XLVII Panzer Corps concentrated its assault on several individual locations on the west side of the perimeter in sequence rather than launching one simultaneous attack on all sides. The assault, despite initial success by its tanks in penetrating the American line, was defeated and all the tanks destroyed. The next day, 26 December, the spearhead of Gen. Patton's 4th Armored Division broke through and opened a corridor to Bastogne.

Allied counteroffensive


On 23 December, the weather conditions started improving, allowing the Allied air forces to attack. They launched devastating bombing raids on the German supply points in their rear, and P-47 Thunderbolt
P-47 Thunderbolt
Republic Aviation's P-47 Thunderbolt, also known as the "Jug", was the largest, heaviest, and most expensive fighter aircraft in history to be powered by a single reciprocating engine. It was heavily armed with eight .50-caliber machine guns, four per wing. When fully loaded, the P-47 weighed up to...

s started attacking the German troops on the roads. Allied air forces also helped the defenders of Bastogne, dropping much-needed supplies—medicine, food, blankets, and ammunition
Ammunition
Ammunition is a generic term derived from the French language la munition which embraced all material used for war , but which in time came to refer specifically to gunpowder and artillery. The collective term for all types of ammunition is munitions...

. A team of volunteer surgeon
Surgery
Surgery is an ancient medical specialty that uses operative manual and instrumental techniques on a patient to investigate and/or treat a pathological condition such as disease or injury, or to help improve bodily function or appearance.An act of performing surgery may be called a surgical...

s flew in by military glider
Military glider
Military gliders have been used by the military of various countries for carrying troops and heavy equipment to a combat zone, mainly during the Second World War. These engineless aircraft were towed into the air and most of the way to their target by military transport planes, e.g...

 and began operating in a tool room.

By 24 December, the German advance was effectively stalled short of the Meuse. Units of the British XXX Corps were holding the bridges at Dinant, Givet, and Namur and U.S. units were about to take over. The Germans had outrun their supply lines, and shortages of fuel and ammunition were becoming critical. Up to this point the German losses had been light, notably in armor, which was almost untouched with the exception of Peiper's losses. On the evening of 24 December, General Hasso von Manteuffel
Hasso von Manteuffel
Hasso-Eccard Freiherr von Manteuffel was a German soldier and liberal politician of the 20th century.He served in both world wars, and during World War II was a distinguished general...

 recommended to Hitler's Military Adjutant a halt to all offensive operations and a withdrawal back to the West Wall. Hitler rejected this.

However disagreement and confusion at the Allied command prevented a strong response, throwing away the opportunity for a decisive action. In the centre, on Christmas Eve, the 2nd Armored Division attempted to attack and cut off the spearheads of the 2nd Panzer Division at the Meuse, while the units from the 4th Cavalry Group kept the 9th Panzer Division at Marche busy. As result, parts of the 2nd Panzer Division were cut off. Panzer Lehr tried to relieve them, but was only partially successful, as the perimeter held. For the next two days the perimeter was strengthened. On 26 and 27 December the trapped units of 2nd Panzer Division made two break-out attempts, again only with partial success, as major quantities of equipment fell into Allied hands. Further Allied pressure out of Marche finally led the German command to the conclusion, that no further offensive action towards the Meuse was possible.

In the south Patton's Third Army was battling to relieve Bastogne. At 16:50 on 26 December, the lead element, Company D, 37th Tank Battalion of the 4th Armored Division
U.S. 4th Armored Division
The 4th Armored Division of the United States Army was an armored division that compiled a distinguished career in the European theater of World War II. Unlike many other World War II U.S. armored divisions, the 4th never adopted an official divisional nickname or slogan...

, reached Bastogne, ending the siege.

German counterattack


On 1 January, in an attempt to keep the offensive going, the Germans launched two new operations. At 09:15, the Luftwaffe launched Unternehmen Bodenplatte (Operation Baseplate), a major campaign against Allied airfields in the Low Countries
Low Countries
The Low Countries are the historical lands around the low-lying delta of the Rhine, Scheldt, and Meuse rivers, including the modern countries of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and parts of northern France and western Germany....

. Hundreds of planes attacked Allied airfields, destroying or severely damaging some 465 aircraft. However, the Luftwaffe lost 277 planes, 62 to Allied fighters and 172 mostly because of an unexpectedly high number of Allied flak guns, set up to protect against German V-1
V-1 flying bomb
The V-1 flying bomb, also known as the Buzz Bomb or Doodlebug, was an early pulse-jet-powered predecessor of the cruise missile....

 flying bomb
Flying bomb
A flying bomb is a manned or unmanned aerial vehicle or aircraft carrying a large explosive warhead, a precursor to contemporary cruise missiles...

 attacks, but also by friendly fire
Friendly fire
Friendly fire is inadvertent firing towards one's own or otherwise friendly forces while attempting to engage enemy forces, particularly where this results in injury or death. A death resulting from a negligent discharge is not considered friendly fire...

 from the German flak guns that were uninformed of the pending large-scale German air operation. The Germans suffered heavy losses at an airfield named Y-29, losing 24 of their own planes while downing only one American plane. While the Allies recovered from their losses in just days, the operation left the Luftwaffe weak and ineffective for the remainder of the war.

On the same day, German Army Group G
Army Group G
The German Army Group G fought on the Western Front of World War II and was a component of OB West.When the Allied invasion of Southern France took place, Army Group G had eleven divisions with which to hold France south of the Loire...

 (Heeresgruppe G) and Army Group Upper Rhine
Army Group Oberrhein (Germany)
The Upper Rhine High Command , also incorrectly referred to as Army Group Upper Rhine , was a short-lived headquarters unit of the German Armed Forces created on the Western Front during World War II. The Upper Rhine High Command was formed on 26 November 1944 and was inactivated on 25 January 1945...

 (Heeresgruppe Oberrhein) launched a major offensive against the thinly stretched, 70 miles (112.7 km) line of the Seventh U.S. Army. This offensive, known as Unternehmen Nordwind
Operation Nordwind
Operation North Wind was the last major German offensive of World War II on the Western Front. It began on 1 January 1945 in Alsace and Lorraine in northeastern France, and it ended on 25 January.-Objectives:...

 (Operation North Wind), was the last major German offensive of the war on the Western Front. The weakened Seventh Army had, at Eisenhower's orders, sent troops, equipment, and supplies north to reinforce the American armies in the Ardennes, and the offensive left it in dire straits.

By 15 January, Seventh Army's VI Corps
U.S. VI Corps
The VI Corps was activated as VI Army Corps in August 1918 at Neufchâteau, France, serving in the Lorraine Campaign. Constituted in the Organized Reserves in 1921, it was allotted to the Regular Army in 1933 and activated on 1 August 1940 at Fort Sheridan, Illinois...

 was fighting on three sides in Alsace
Alsace
Alsace is the fifth-smallest of the 27 regions of France in land area , and the smallest in metropolitan France. It is also the seventh-most densely populated region in France and third most densely populated region in metropolitan France, with ca. 220 inhabitants per km²...

. With casualties mounting, and running short on replacements, tanks, ammunition, and supplies, Seventh Army was forced to withdraw to defensive positions on the south bank of the Moder River on 21 January. The German offensive drew to a close on 25 January. In the bitter, desperate fighting of Operation Nordwind, VI Corps, which had borne the brunt of the fighting, suffered a total of 14,716 casualties. The total for Seventh Army for January was 11,609. Total casualties included at least 9,000 wounded. First, Third and Seventh Armies suffered a total of 17,000 hospitalized from the cold.A footnote to the U.S. Army's official history volume "Riviera to the Rhine" makes the following note on U.S. Seventh Army casualties: As elsewhere, casualty figures are only rough estimates, and the figures presented are based on the postwar "Seventh Army Operational Report, Alsace Campaign and Battle Participation, 1 June 1945" (copy CMH), which notes 11,609 Seventh Army battle casualties for the period, plus 2,836 cases of trench foot and 380 cases of frostbite, and estimates about 17,000 Germans killed or wounded with 5,985 processed prisoners of war. But the VI Corps AAR for January 1945 puts its total losses at 14,716 (773 killed, 4,838 wounded, 3,657 missing, and 5,448 nonbattle casualties); and Albert E. Cowdrey and Graham A. Cosmas, "The Medical Department: The War Against Germany," draft CMH MS (1988), pp. 54-55, a forthcoming volume in the United States Army in World War II series, reports Seventh Army hospitals processing about 9,000 wounded and 17,000 "sick and injured" during the period. Many of these, however, may have been returned to their units, and others may have come from American units operating in the Colmar area but still supported by Seventh Army medical services.

Allies prevail





While the German offensive had ground to a halt, they still controlled a dangerous salient in the Allied line. Patton's Third Army in the south, centered around Bastogne, would attack north, Montgomery's forces in the north would strike south, and the two forces planned to meet at Houffalize
Houffalize
Houffalize is a Walloon municipality of Belgium located in the province of Luxembourg.-History:On 1 January 2007 the municipality, which covers 166.58 km², had 4,802 inhabitants, giving a population density of 28.8 inhabitants per km²....

.

The temperature during January 1945 was extremely low. Weapons had to be maintained and truck engines run every half hour to prevent their oil from congealing. The offensive went forward regardless.

Eisenhower wanted Montgomery to go on the counter offensive on 1 January, with the aim of meeting up with Patton's advancing Third Army and cutting off most of the attacking Germans, trapping them in a pocket. However, Montgomery, refusing to risk underprepared infantry in a snowstorm for a strategically unimportant area, did not launch the attack until 3 January, by which time substantial numbers of German troops had already managed to successfully fall back, but at the cost of losing most of their heavy equipment.

At the start of the offensive, the First and Third U.S. Armies were separated by about 25 miles (40.2 km). American progress in the south was also restricted to about a kilometer a day. The majority of the German force executed a successful fighting withdrawal and escaped the battle area, although the fuel situation had become so dire that most of the German armor had to be abandoned. On 7 January 1945, Hitler agreed to withdraw forces from the Ardennes, including the SS panzer divisions, thus ending all offensive operations. However, considerable fighting went on for another 3 weeks; the Battle of the Bulge was not officially over until 28 January.

Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

, addressing the House of Commons following the Battle of the Bulge said, "This is undoubtedly the greatest American battle of the war and will, I believe, be regarded as an ever-famous American victory".

Controversy at high command



As the Ardennes crisis developed, Montgomery assumed command of the American First and Ninth Armies (which, until then, were under Bradley's command). This operational change in command was approved by Eisenhower, as the northern armies had lost all communications with Bradley, who was based in Luxembourg

On the same day as Hitler's withdrawal order, 7 January, Montgomery held a press conference at Zonhoven in which he said he had "employed the whole available power of the British group of armies; this power was brought into play very gradually ... Finally it was put into battle with a bang ... you thus have the picture of British troops fighting on both sides of the Americans who have suffered a hard blow." He stated he had "headed off ... seen off ... and ... written off" the Germans. "The battle has been the most interesting, I think possibly one of the most interesting and tricky battles I have ever handled." Montgomery also gave credit to the "courage and good fighting quality" of the American troops, characterizing a typical American as a "very brave fighting man who has that tenacity in battle which makes a great soldier", and went on to talk about the necessity of Allied teamwork, and praised Eisenhower, stating, "Teamwork wins battles and battle victories win wars. On our team, the captain is General Ike." Despite these remarks, the overall impression given by Montgomery, at least in the ears of the American military leadership, was that he had taken the lion's share of credit for the success of the campaign, and had been responsible for rescuing the besieged Americans.

His comments were interpreted as self-promoting, particularly his claiming that when the situation "began to deteriorate," Eisenhower had placed him in command in the north. Patton and Eisenhower both felt this was a misrepresentation of the relative share of the fighting played by the British and Americans in the Ardennes (for every British soldier there were thirty to forty Americans in the fight), and that it belittled the part played by Bradley, Patton and other American commanders. In the context of Patton's and Montgomery's well-known antipathy, Montgomery's failure to mention the contribution of any American general beside Eisenhower was seen as insulting. Indeed, General Bradley and his American commanders were already starting their counterattack by the time Montgomery was given command of 1st and 9th U.S. Armies. Focusing exclusively on his own generalship, Montgomery continued to say he thought the counteroffensive had gone very well but did not explain the reason for his delayed attack on 3 January. He later attributed this to needing more time for preparation on the northern front. According to Winston Churchill, the attack from the south under Patton was steady but slow and involved heavy losses, and Montgomery claimed to be trying to avoid this situation.

Montgomery subsequently recognized his error and later wrote: "I think now that I should never have held that press conference. So great were the feelings against me on the part of the American generals that whatever I said was bound to be wrong. I should therefore have said nothing." Eisenhower commented in his own memoirs: "I doubt if Montgomery ever came to realize how resentful some American commanders were. They believed he had belittled them—and they were not slow to voice reciprocal scorn and contempt."

Bradley and Patton both threatened to resign unless Montgomery's command was changed. Eisenhower, encouraged by his British deputy Arthur Tedder
Arthur Tedder, 1st Baron Tedder
Marshal of the Royal Air Force Arthur William Tedder, 1st Baron Tedder, GCB was a senior British air force commander. During the First World War, he was a pilot and squadron commander in the Royal Flying Corps and he went on to serve as a senior officer in the Royal Air Force during the inter-war...

, had decided to sack Montgomery. However, intervention by Montgomery's and Eisenhower's Chiefs of Staff
Chief of Staff
The title, chief of staff, identifies the leader of a complex organization, institution, or body of persons and it also may identify a Principal Staff Officer , who is the coordinator of the supporting staff or a primary aide to an important individual, such as a president.In general, a chief of...

, Maj. Gen. Freddie de Guingand
Freddie de Guingand
Major-General Sir Francis Wilfred de Guingand KBE, CB, DSO , better known as Freddie de Guingand, was a British Army officer who served with Montgomery from El Alamein to the surrender of the Wehrmacht in the West...

, and Lt. Gen. Walter Bedell Smith
Walter Bedell Smith
Walter Bedell "Beetle" Smith was a senior United States Army general who served as General Dwight D. Eisenhower's chief of staff at Allied Forces Headquarters during the Tunisia Campaign and the Allied invasion of Italy...

, moved Eisenhower to reconsider and allowed Montgomery to apologize.

The German commander of the 5th Panzer Army, Hasso von Manteuffel
Hasso von Manteuffel
Hasso-Eccard Freiherr von Manteuffel was a German soldier and liberal politician of the 20th century.He served in both world wars, and during World War II was a distinguished general...

 said of Montgomery's leadership:

The operations of the American 1st Army had developed into a series of individual holding actions. Montgomery's contribution to restoring the situation was that he turned a series of isolated actions into a coherent battle fought according to a clear and definite plan. It was his refusal to engage in premature and piecemeal counter-attacks which enabled the Americans to gather their reserves and frustrate the German attempts to extend their breakthrough.

Aftermath


Casualty estimates from the battle vary widely. The official U.S. account lists 80,987 American casualties, while other estimates range from 70,000 to 108,000. According to the U.S. Department of Defense
United States Department of Defense
The United States Department of Defense is the U.S...

 the American forces suffered 89,500 casualties including 19,000 killed, 47,500 wounded and 23,000 missing. An official report by the United States Department of the Army
United States Department of the Army
The Department of the Army is one of the three military departments within the Department of Defense of the United States of America. The Department of the Army is the Federal Government agency which the United States Army is organized within, and it is led by the Secretary of the Army who has...

 lists some 108,347 casualties including 19,246 killed, 62,489 wounded and 26,612 captured and missing. The Battle of the Bulge was the bloodiest of the battles that U.S. forces experienced in World War II; the 19,000 American dead were unsurpassed by those of any other engagement. British losses totaled 1,400. The German High Command's official figure for the campaign was 84,834 casualties, and other estimates range between 60,000 and 100,000.

The Allies pressed their advantage following the battle. By the beginning of February 1945, the lines were roughly where they had been in December 1944. In early February, the Allies launched an attack all along the Western front: in the north under Montgomery toward Aachen; in the center, under Courtney Hodges
Courtney Hodges
General Courtney Hicks Hodges was an American military officer, most prominent for his role in World War II, in which he commanded the First United States Army in Northwest Europe.-Early life and military career:...

; and in the south, under Patton. Montgomery's behavior during the months of December and January, including the press conference on 7 January where he appeared to downplay the contribution of the American generals, further soured his relationship with his American counterparts through the end of the war.

The German losses in the battle were critical in several respects: the last of the German reserves were now gone, the Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

 had been shattered and the remaining German forces in the West were being pushed back to the defenses of the Siegfried Line
Siegfried Line
The original Siegfried line was a line of defensive forts and tank defences built by Germany as a section of the Hindenburg Line 1916–1917 in northern France during World War I...

.

According to Stanley Sandler, "The initial success of Hitler's Ardennes offensive, launched 16 December 1944, prompted Churchill to ask Stalin on 6 January 1945 for Soviet assistance to relieve the pressure, by way of an immediate offensive." On Friday, 12 January, the Soviets began a massive Vistula–Oder Offensive, planned to begin on the 20th.

During World War II, most US black troops still served only as truck drivers and as stevedores. In the midst of the Battle of the Bulge, General Eisenhower was severely short of replacement troops for existing military units—all of which were totally white in composition. Consequently, he made the decision to allow African American soldiers to pick up a weapon and join the white military units to fight in combat for the first time. More than 2,000 black soldiers had volunteered to go to the front. This was the first step toward a desegregated United States military.

Dramatizations


Films
  • Battleground, a 1949 film about the Siege of Bastogne.
  • Attack!
    Attack (1956 film)
    Attack, also known as Attack!, is a 1956 American war film. It was directed by Robert Aldrich and starred Jack Palance, Eddie Albert, Lee Marvin, William Smithers, Robert Strauss, Richard Jaeckel, Buddy Ebsen and Peter van Eyck...

    , a 1956 film.
  • Battle of the Bulge (film)
    Battle of the Bulge (film)
    Battle of the Bulge is a widescreen war film produced in Spain that was released in 1965. It was directed by Ken Annakin. It starred Henry Fonda, Robert Shaw, Telly Savalas, Robert Ryan, Dana Andrews and Charles Bronson...

    , a 1965 all-star film of the battle.
  • Patton
    Patton (film)
    Patton is a 1970 American biographical war film about U.S. General George S. Patton during World War II. It stars George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Michael Bates, and Karl Michael Vogler. It was directed by Franklin J. Schaffner from a script by Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund H...

    , a 1970 film about the life of George S. Patton.
  • A Midnight Clear
    A Midnight Clear
    A Midnight Clear is a 1992 American war film directed by former actor Keith Gordon with an ensemble cast featuring Ethan Hawke, Gary Sinise, Peter Berg, Kevin Dillon, and Arye Gross...

    , a 1992 film about an intelligence unit surrounded during the early days of the Battle of the Bulge.
  • Saints and Soldiers
    Saints and Soldiers
    Saints and Soldiers is a 2003 drama-war film featuring Corbin Allred, Alexander Niver, Kirby Heyborne, Lawrence Bagby and Peter Holden.It is based loosely around events taking place shortly after the Malmedy massacre during the Battle of the Bulge where several US soldiers and a downed British...

    , a 2004 film about the Malmedy massacre.


Television
  • Band of Brothers, Part Six: Bastogne, and Part Seven: The Breaking Point
  • Decoration Day
    Decoration Day (film)
    Decoration Day is a 1990 film based on a novel by John William Corrington of the same title. The award-winning made-for-TV movie was directed by Robert Markowitz and filmed on location in Georgia.-Plot:...

    , a 1990 TV film about the fictional repercussions of an incident during the battle that involves an African-American soldier.


Games
  • Battle of the Bulge (game), various wargames simulating the battle.
  • Call of Duty: United Offensive
    Call of Duty: United Offensive
    Call of Duty: United Offensive is an expansion pack for the first-person shooter computer game, Call of Duty. It was developed by Gray Matter Interactive, with contributions from Pi Studios, and published by Activision...

    , the American campaign is set during the Battle of the Bulge.
  • Medal of Honor: Spearhead, a campaign takes place in Bastogne during the Battle.
  • Medal of Honor: European Assault
    Medal of Honor: European Assault
    Medal of Honor: European Assault is the 6th installment in the long running Medal of Honor series. European Assault was released for PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube in June 2005. The game's story was written by John Milius, the writer of Apocalypse Now...

    , the final campaign is set at the start of the Battle.
  • Bulge '44 (HPS Simulations), An operational level strategy wargame, covering many scenarios, both historic and alternative.
  • Axis and Allies
    Axis & Allies (2004 video game)
    Axis & Allies , also called Axis & Allies RTS, is a real-time strategy World War II computer game developed by TimeGate Studios and published by Atari. The game was released on November 2, 2004. It is based on the popular board game Axis & Allies from Milton Bradley and also on TimeGate's Kohan...

    , a mission takes place in Bastogne where the player commands the 101 Airborne
  • R.U.S.E.
    R.U.S.E.
    R.U.S.E. is a real-time strategy video game developed by Eugen Systems and published by Ubisoft which was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360, in September 2010. R.U.S.E. is a strategy game with systems, intended to be superior to a brute force approach. Instead these...

     A mission takes place around defending the town of Bastogne.

See also

  • German occupation of Luxembourg in World War II
    German occupation of Luxembourg in World War II
    The German occupation of Luxembourg in World War II was the period in the history of Luxembourg after it was used as a transit territory to attack France by outflanking the Maginot Line. Plans for the attack had been prepared by 9 October 1939, but execution was postponed several times...

  • Operation Frühlingserwachen
    Operation Frühlingserwachen
    Operation Frühlingserwachen was the last major German offensive launched during World War II. The offensive was launched in Hungary on the Eastern Front...

     Operation Spring Awakening

External links