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Battle of the Bulge

The Battle of the Bulge, also known as the Ardennes Offensive, was a major German offensive launched towards the end of World War II through the forested Ardennes Mountains region of Belgium, France and Luxembourg on the Western Front. It lasted from December 16, 1944 to January 25, 1945. The offensive was called Wacht am Rhein (German for The Guard on the Rhine) by the German armed forces. 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’ favour.


The German offensive involved the Sixth SS Panzer Army, Fifth Panzer Army, and the Seventh Army, all part of a German Army Group B commanded by Field Marshal Walther Model. American forces included 4 divisions of the First Army of the U.S. 12th Army Group commanded by General Omar Bradley. US forces were caught unawares, and within a week the Germans advanced by over 50 miles. However by late December the US defenders rallied, and drawing forces from other sections of the front, struck back in a devastating counter-attack headed by Patton's Third Army. By January 1st, 1945 the Germans had struck back, launching Operation Bodenplatte against Allied airfields, and a simultaneous attack in Alsace and Lorraine in order to draw away some Allied forces. The attack on the Allied airfields was a Pyrrhic victory, damaging or destroying 495 Allied planes, most of them on the ground, at the cost of 277 German planes and 213 pilots.


By January 12th the Red Army launched the Vistula-Oder Offensive in Poland and East Prussia. As a result, German high command was forced to stop offensive operations in the West, and move most of the forces back East (7 divisions were transferred back between 12th and 31st of January). By late January German forces in the Ardennes were largely pushed back to pre-Bulge positions. While the German forces failed to meet their goals, the Ardennes Offensive still stands as the bloodiest battle fought by the US in WWII, and it succeeded in delaying the US advance into Germany by several weeks.

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