Battle of the Bulge Begins
The 16th of December 1944 AD
The Battle of the Bulge can variously be described as the last desperate gamble by Hitler; the beginning of the end for German military might; or the offensive that came frighteningly close to tipping the balance against America and Britain in 1944.
Allied forces had advanced inexorably since D-Day ; Germany was defending the already weakened Siegfried Line. A counter-attack was Germany’s only hope of turning the tide. It would need to be arranged rapidly: allied air superiority meant German supply lines were vulnerable; her oil resources in Romania had been devastated already; and the Eastern Front urgently needed reinforcements. Hitler thus hoped with a master-stroke to divide and conquer the US and British troops in the west, force a cessation of hostilities there, and be freed to send men and material eastwards.
On December 16 a massive artillery barrage began to soften already thin American defences in the Ardennes, the wooded hill-country where France, Luxembourg and Belgium meet. A swift advance with strong armoured support pushed the allied line back, creating the famous bulge that gave the battle its nickname. Overcast skies early on negated allied airpower advantage, but such conditions could not last long. For a time the Allies were in crisis, Montgomery thrown into command of certain American sectors when communications were problematic; reserves thrust into action; large numbers captured. But heroic Allied resistance especially at the town of Bastogne put the brakes on the push, and eventually it was reversed.
The hilly and densely wooded Ardennes territory was a poor choice for an armoured thrust. But against his generals’ wishes Hitler insisted that was the sector to attack. As so often in the war the Fuhrer inadvertently helped his opponents. Nevertheless America lost 19000 dead in the battle, more than any other in WWII .
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