The Battle of the Bulge

During World War II, what was the last major German offensive campaign on the Western Front, occurring during the winter of 1944-1945?

And the answer: The Battle of the Bulge.    

Photo credit: army.mil.

Officially known as the Ardennes Counteroffensive, the Battle of the Bulge was fought in the densely forested Ardennes region in eastern Belgium, northeast France, and Luxembourg. The battle lasted six weeks in brutal winter conditions. The surprise offensive was intended to split the Allied lines, but Germany failed to do so, and surrendered five months later.

The Battle of the Bulge was Nazi Germany's final attempt to wrestle back control of the war on the western front. At this stage of the war, Germany was hemmed in on three sides and possessed few options to relieve the pressure. An offensive in the east would be swallowed by pressure from the Soviet army, while doubling down on the Italian front would have only a marginal impact. To Hitler, the best option was a surprise push across the relatively lightly defended Ardennes and a drive toward the Dutch coast in order to force a wedge between Commonwealth and American forces.

The German forces achieved complete surprise on the outnumbered American troops. German special forces even created confusion by sending in English-speaking German soldiers dressed in American uniforms, who changed road signs and cut telephone wires. Due to the poor weather, the Allied air force could not be used. Units quickly became overrun, and looked to reform their defense at road junctions. The difficult terrain of the Ardennes made a large-scale offensive unexpected, so it would take a while for the Allied high command to accept that this was a major attack.

While the Germans saw some success in the center, the northern armies' advances stalled within a few days. German supplies dwindled while the skies cleared and Allied troops flocked to the battlegrounds. By late January, the US counter-offensive had regained all land lost by late January. When the dust settled, the Battle of the Bulge was the largest battle fought by the Americans in WWII.

Read more about this historic battle here.


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