Battle of the Bulge
The Ardennes Offensive, code-named by the Wehrmacht as Operation "Watch on the Rhine" (German: Unternehmen „Wacht am Rhein“), officially named the Battle of the Ardennes by the U.S. Army, and known to the general public as the Battle of the Bulge, was the last major German offensive campaign on the Western Front during World War II and took place from 16 December 1944 to 25 January 1945. The ultimate goal was to gain separate peace treaty with the Western Allies, independent of the Communist Soviet Union. The offensive was a failure and the war continued to the demanded "unconditional surrender" of Germany on 8 May 1945.
The German counteroffensive of the Heeresgruppe B (Army Group B) under Walter Model, 5th Panzer Army under Hasso von Manteuffel (de), 6th Panzer Army under Sepp Dietrich, 7th Army under Erich Brandenberger (de) and 15th Army under Gustav-Adolf von Zangen (de), was supported by subordinate operations known as "Bodenplatte" (Luftwaffe strike against the USAAF), "Greif", and "Währung". Germany's planned goal for these operations was to split the British and American Allied line in half, capturing Antwerp, Belgium, and then proceeding to encircle and destroy four Allied armies, forcing the Western Allies to negotiate a peace treaty in the Axis Powers’ favor.
The Ardennes offensive was planned in total secrecy, in almost total radio silence. Although Ultra, the Allies’ reading of secret German radio messages, suggested a possible German offensive, and the United States Third Army predicted a major German offensive, the attack still achieved surprise. The degree of surprise achieved was compounded by the Allies' overconfidence, their preoccupation with their own offensive plans, poor aerial reconnaissance, and the relative lack of combat contact in the area by the U.S. 1st Army. Almost complete surprise against a weak section of the Allies’ line was achieved during heavy overcast, when the Allies' strong air forces would be grounded. The “bulge” was the salient that the Germans initially put into the Allies’ line of advance, as seen in maps presented in contemporary newspapers.
- Battle of the Bulge, also called Battle of the Ardennes, (December 16, 1944–January 16, 1945), the last major German offensive on the Western Front during World War II—an unsuccessful attempt to push the Allies back from German home territory. The name Battle of the Bulge was appropriated from Winston Churchill’s optimistic description in May 1940 of the resistance that he mistakenly supposed was being offered to the Germans’ breakthrough in that area just before the Anglo-French collapse; the Germans were in fact overwhelmingly successful. The “bulge” refers to the wedge that the Germans drove into the Allied lines. After their invasion of Normandy in June 1944, the Allies moved across northern France into Belgium during the summer but lost momentum in the autumn. Apart from an abortive thrust to Arnhem, Netherlands (Operation Market Garden), the efforts of the Allied armies in western Europe during September and October 1944 amounted to little more than a process of nibbling. Meanwhile, the German defense was being continuously strengthened with such reserves as could be relocated from elsewhere and with the freshly raised forces of the Volkssturm (“home guard”). German numbers were also bolstered by those troops who had managed to withdraw from France. A general offensive launched in mid-November by all six Allied armies on the Western Front brought disappointingly small results at heavy cost; continued efforts merely exhausted the attacking troops. [...] Aided by its surprise, the German counteroffensive, which started before dawn on December 16, 1944, made menacing progress in the opening days, creating alarm and confusion on the Allied side. The Fifth Panzer Army bypassed Bastogne (which was held throughout the offensive by the U.S. 101st Airborne Division under the tenacious leadership of Gen. Anthony McAuliffe) and by December 24 had advanced to within 4 miles (6 km) of the Meuse River. Time and opportunities were lost, however, through gasoline shortages resulting from wintry weather and from growing Allied air attacks, and the German drive faltered.
Most of the American casualties occurred within the first three days of battle, when two of the U.S. 106th Infantry Division’s three regiments were forced to surrender. The Battle of the Bulge was the bloodiest of the battles that U.S. forces experienced in World War II; the 19,000 American dead were unsurpassed by those of any other engagement. For the U.S. Army, the battle incorporated more troops and engaged more enemy troops than any conflict before that time. The German objectives ultimately were unrealized. In the wake of the defeat, many experienced German units were left severely depleted of men and equipment, as German survivors retreated to the defenses of the Siegfried Line.
Casualties and losses
- 89,500 (19,000 killed, 47,500 wounded and 23,000 captured/missing)
- 733 tanks and tank destroyers lost[incomplete short citation]
- c. 1,000 aircraft lost, over 647 in December and 353 during Operation Bodenplatte
- 1,408 (200 killed, 969 wounded, and 239 missing)
- 68,000 (17,236 killed, 34,439 wounded, 16,000 captured/missing)
- 554 tanks, tank destroyers and assault guns lost
- c. 800 aircraft lost, at least 500 in December and 280 during Operation Bodenplatte
- Chenogne massacre
- Malmedy massacre
- Morgenthau plan – Leaked out and contributed to the German unwillingness to surrender.
- Battle of the Bulge, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
- Battle of the Bulge – Official webpage of the United States Army