Battle of the Bulge
In December 1944 Adolf Hitler launched his last ditch offensive through the Ardennes region aimed at splitting the Allied forces. The Battle of the Bulge, as this would become known, was the largest battle fought by the Americans in World War Two with 600,000 US troops taking part in the battle. It was to be a costly affair, with the Americans losing 81,000 men while the Germans lost 100,000 killed, wounded and captured.
In the early morning fog on 16th December 1944 the German Army launched what was to be Hitler's last throw of the dice when they attacked across the German frontier against the untried American forces holding the 'quite' Ardennes sector of the western front. Three German Armies: The Sixth Panzer Army, led by SS-Oberst-Gruppenführer Sepp Dietrich; The Fifth Panzer Army, led by General der Panzertruppe Hasso von Manteuffel; and The Seventh Army, led by General der Panzertruppe Erich Brandenberger. The Sixth Panzer Army was to lead the attack in the north and smash through the weak American lines to drive on Antwerp; the Fifth Panzer Army was to attack the centre of the American forces, capture the strategic road and rail centre of St Vith and then drive on to Brussels; and the Seventh Army was to attack on the southern flank to create a buffer zone preventing American reinforcements from attacking the Fifth Panzer Army. The Fifteenth Army, commanded by General der Infanterie Gustav-Adolf von Zangen, was to be held in reserve to counter any Allied attack when they took place.
The American forces were take completely by surprise; they had received little intelligence that such an attack would take place and the US Divisions holding the line were in the main untried. The low cloud and fog meant that the Allies superior air force could not be used, which was particularly important as their tank-busting Typhoons and Mustang fighters could not be used against the German tanks. Though the weather was typical for the Ardennes in winter, the ground was hard enough for military vehicles to cross and this suited the armoured attack that the Germans launched. In the north they were initally successful with Kampfgruppe Peiper breaking through the American line and driving westwards. This initial success was not to last however, as the Germans had based their attack on a massive armoured onslaught. This required large amounts of fuel to maintain it and the Germans did not possess the necessary quantities required; they thus relied on capturing the fuel stocks in the Allied supply dumps. This they failed to do and, although the Germans had advanced 60 miles in the first two days, by 18th December their attack had lost momentum. The weather started to clear on 22nd December 1944 enabling the Allies to bring their air power into action and the following day the American forces launched a counter-attack.
On Christmas Eve sixteen German Me-262’s made the first jet aircraft attack when they bombed the Allied railheads in an attempt to disrupt the Allied supply lines. However, lacking fuel for their armoured vehicles, this success in the air was meaningless. SS-Standartenführer Joachim Peiper's men that had led the armoured thrust into the American lines simply ran out of fuel and had to abandon their tanks to walk back to Germany.
The fighting was particularly ferocious through the Christams and New Year period as they Germans strove to break the American resistance. This combined with the intense cold and rain, which often resulted in snow, made conditions particulary arduous.
In the vicinity of Bastogne the US 101st 'Screaming Eagles' Airborne Division had been sent forward by truck to reinforce the defences. As Christmas approached they became embroiled in a battle of survival as the German armoured thrust enveloped the town. Cut off they held on tenaciously in the hope that relief would come. The relief when it did come came in the form of General Patton's Third Army.
Join one of our Expert guides on a tour of the Battle of the Bulge battlefields, follow the battle and see how it developed.
Follow in the footsteps of 277th Volksgrenadier Division as they assault against the 393rd Infantry Regiment of the US 99th 'Checkerboard' Infantry Division in the opening phase of the Battle of the Bulge. Follow the route taken by SS-Standartenführer Joachim Peiper's men in their inital thrust of the Battle of the Bulge as they drove westwards through the American lines. Visit the places associated with the battle in the northern sector including the Dragon's Teeth at Hollerath, Krinkelt, Lanzerath, Baugnez, Malmedy, Stavlot, La Gleize and Stoumont.
Explore the battlefield of the centre battle where Manteuffel's Fifth Army attacked the US 28th and 106th Infantry Divisions. Visitng the sites associated with the fighting in the centre including St Vith and Houffalaize.
Visit the area around Bastogne and the sites of the defence of that town by the US 101st Airborne Division. Including those associated with Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment - The Band of Brothers. Retrace the route taken by General Patton's Third Army as they swung northwards to relieve the beleagured defenders of Bastogne.
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