|US Soldier on watch during the Battle of the Bulge.|
Here at the Memorial, our primary focus is to educate the public about the importance and impact of the Normandy Invasion. However, we also want to educate the public about the impact of World War II and how the success of the D-Day landings made possible for all other advances made during the war. Another crucial battle to take place just months after the Invasion was the Battle of the Bulge.
|Soldiers in line for a hot meal.|
January 2015 marks the 70th Anniversary of the end of the Battle of the Bulge, the last major attempt by Adolph Hitler to push back the Allied Forces and keep them out of Germany. The battle actually began December 16, 1944, but the battle was not officially over until January 25, 1945.
By this point in the war, the Allied Forces were gaining the advantage quickly in Europe. From June 6th to December 16th, they had reached the eastern side of France, stretching their forces from the North to the South, rapidly encroaching on the German border. As mentioned previously, Hitler launched the German Army Ardennes offensive between Aachen and Bastogne on December 16, 1945, gathering together as many able bodied men as possible, about 200,000 across the line.
The American’s were taken aback by the sheer magnitude of the German bombardment, with the German’s firing everything they had at the Allies, forcing the Allies back. However, the US 2nd and 99th Divisions were able to hold ground at Elsenborn and Malmedy. Because of bad winter weather conditions, the Allies were not able to receive the air support they needed to regain ground, so the Germans took the advantage. Any prisoner taken was executed by direct orders from the German Colonel Joachim Peiper. This atrocity only fueled the Allied forces to fight harder and beat the Germans. Some days later, the US 101st Airborne Division and US 10th and 19th Armored Divisions were completely encircled by German forces, but continued to fight.
Close to Christmas, German supply lines were running low causing a need to halt the advance in order to regroup; however, Hitler refused to stop and ordered his forces to continue. Once the bad weather finally broke, the allied air support was able to regain some ground with 2,000 air sorties being launched, bringing in supplies to the front lines. With supplies replenished, Allied forces were able to counter attack and destroy German ground vehicles and were able to occupy 60 miles of territory by Christmas. On December 25, 1945, the British 29th Armored Brigade and American 2nd Armored Division were able to take down the 2nd Panzer Division. German losses for the day included 3,500 infantry men, 400 vehicles, and 81 tanks. This defeat, and the additional aid for the 101st Airborne forces in Bastogne, forced Hitler to halt the advance.
|US Tanks in Belgium, January 1945.|
By New Year’s Day, the German forces launched two new attacks on the Allied air fields and were only able to gain back some ground. However, ultimately the Germans were all but defeated, destroyed, or taken prisoner by the end of January. The rest of the month consisted of Allied Forces establishing their newly gained territory just miles away from the German border. By the end, the Battle of the Bulge became the bloodiest battle of World War II with over 100,000 German casualties and between 70,000 to 81,000 American losses. The Germans lost their reserve units, Luftwaffe was destroyed, and what remained of the regular army in the west was pushed back to the Siegfried Line in Germany.
While the loss is unbelievably staggering, winning the battle was pivotal to the Allied forces ultimately winning the war.
|Aftermath of the Battle of the Bulge|