Battle of the Ardennes/bulge
German offensive launched on December 16, 1944 through the Ardennes region, in present-day Belgium and Luxembourg. Battle of the bulge casualties
The Battle of the Ardennes was a German offensive launched on December 16, 1944 through the Ardennes region , in present-day Belgium and Luxembourg . This was the last great attack by Nazi Germany and one of the bloodiest battles of World War II .
The objective of the German attack was to break through the enemy lines , take the port of Antwerp and bag several enemy armies against the shores of the North Sea .
The offensive took the allies by surprise , because it was planned in the greatest of secrets and because the sky was cloudy, which prevented the planes from taking off and making aerial reconnaissance.
A fierce resistance from the Americans in the besieged city of Bastoña stopped the advance of the Germans, who did not have enough fuel for their armor. The arrival of reinforcements and the improvement of the meteorological conditions sealed the failure of the German offensive .
Background to the Battle of the Bulge
During 1944 Germany had suffered several defeats and was in retreat, both on the western and eastern fronts. In the West the Allies had landed in Normandy and, after liberating France, were advancing towards the German border.
In September, Hitler concluded that the only way to change the course of the war was to launch a major offensive on the Western Front . The objective of this attack was to inflict a great defeat on the western allies, to force them to negotiate an armistice.
With peace assured in the West, Germany could concentrate all its forces in the East to fight against the Soviet Union .
The project consisted of:
- Concentrate an army of around 45 divisions behind the Siegfried Line, which protected the western border of Germany. Battle of the bulge casualties
- Launch a surprise attack against Allied troops stationed in the Ardennes region, shared by Belgium and Luxembourg.
- Defeat the American divisions, reach the Meuse River and redirect the advance to the northwest, to take the port of Antwerp .
- Encircle several British divisions against the shores of the North Sea.
- Enter into negotiations with the western allies.
To carry out this plan, Hitler ordered the withdrawal of various divisions from the eastern front to concentrate them on the German-Belgian border. The accumulation of troops and war material was carried out in secret, resorting to the sending of sealed notes through messengers (not to use the radio) and the night movement of tanks and cannons.
By early December, Hitler had managed to muster a total of 200,000 soldiers, 2,500 tanks, 1,900 guns, and 3,000 aircraft. It was a fearsome strike force, but with a weak point: it did not have enough fuel to reach Antwerp. This forced the Germans to depend on the fuel they managed to capture from the enemy. Battle of the bulge casualties
Development of the Battle of the Bulge
On December 16, 1944, German troops were launched on the Allies, along a front of about 140 km located in the wooded region of the Ardennes. Battle of the bulge casualties
Previously, a series of commandos under Colonel Otto Skorzeny had infiltrated enemy lines. These men, who wore British and American uniforms and could speak English, were on a mission to sow confusion in the Allied ranks.
The attack took the Allied vanguard by total surprise, which was overwhelmed by German troops. Despite bad weather conditions , the Germans managed to advance westward on the 17th and 18th, but upon reaching the crossroads of Bastogne, in present-day Belgium, they ran into US units that, despite being isolated and dispersed, they offered a fierce opposition. This resistance managed to delay the advance of the Germans , who surrounded the city but failed to take it.
On the 21st, the meteorological conditions began to improve, so on the 23rd the allied aviation was able to take off to supply the besieged troops and bomb the attackers.
On December 26, Allied reinforcements under US General George Patton broke the siege of Bastogne. On January 3, 1945, several Allied armies, led by Patton to the south and English General Bernard Montgomery to the north, launched a counteroffensive and the Germans, who ran out of fuel for their armor, began to fall back.
On January 7, Hitler gave up and ordered a general retreat to the Siegfried Line. However, fighting continued until January 25 , when the last German units managed to return to Germany.
The main consequences of the Battle of the Bulge were the following:
- The Germans lost about 80,000 men and about 700 tanks, so many of their units were severely diminished. For the Wehrmacht, the Battle of the Bulge was a defeat that decimated it and from which it could not recover.
- The failure in the Ardennes doomed Germany to defeat in World War II . From then on, he could no longer launch new offensives and only limited himself to retreating day after day until Hitler’s suicide and unconditional surrender, on May 8, 1945. Battle of the bulge casualties
- The Americans suffered around 90,000 casualties, including some 20,000 dead, 47,500 wounded and 23,000 missing. They had never had so many losses in a single battle.
- The German offensive delayed the advance of the British and Americans on Germany and played in favor of the Soviets. Due to the transfer of German divisions to the Western Front, the Red Army troops were able to reach Berlin before their Western allies. The Soviet flag flying atop the German Parliament building became the symbol of victory over Nazi Germany.