Battle of the Bulge 44-45
Battle of the Bulge, scene at Bastogne Historical Center
On december 16 1944 the operation "Wacht am Rein" started. This was the last big offensive of the German Wehrmacht on the Western Front. The Allies called this offensive the Battle of the Bulge. Adolf Hitler's plan was to separate the American and British forces, cross the river Meuse and capture the habor of Antwerp. This would cut the supply lines of the Allies and would bring the Allied advance in the West to a halt.
The preparation of this operation was kept secret, so it was a devastating surprise for the Allies. On many places in the Ardennes the American lines crumbled. The German advance was hard to stop in the the first days of the Batlle of the Bulge.
Two GI's in their foxhole (Remember Museum 39-45)
Fog and clouds made it impossible for the Allied Airforce to support the troops in the hilly forrests. German tank colums almost succeeded to reach the river Meuse. But Hitler's plan was a last gamble, so fuel supply was critical. German tank commanders even we suposed to capture fuel. Ammonition supply was also a bottleneck. And of course the Allied airforce was superior in the skies of Easern Belgium.
So at the moment the sun came through, the American fighter-bombers were in the air. This was the turning point, German Panzers were decimated. New divisions with air support could push the Wehrmacht back. After a month of bitter fighting the American Army reached the first overrun postions. So mid januari 1945 the Battle of the Bulge has ended. The amount of casualties on both sides were very high. Hitler's gamble resulted in tens of thousands of deads and an even higher amount of injured people. Among the casualties were also many Belgian civilians.
Today we can find cemetaries and memorials which remind us of this crimson battle. There are also quiet a few Battle of the Bulge museums in this region.
There are a lot of excellent books about the Battle of the Bulge: