The Battle of the Bulge, December 16, 1944 – January 25, 1945

Editor: Michael Spilling and Consultant Editor: Chris McNab

The Battle of the Bulge (16 December 1944 – 25 January 1945) was the last major German offensive campaign of World War II. It was launched through the densely forested Ardennes region of Wallonia in Belgium, France, and Luxembourg on the Western Front towards the end of World War II in the European theater. The surprise attack caught the Allied forces completely off guard.

Battle of the Bugle

American M36 tank destroyers of the 703rd Tank Division, attached to the 82nd Airborne Division, move forward during heavy fog to stem German spearhead near Werbomont, Belgium, 20 December 1944. Image is in the public domain via

American forces bore the brunt of the attack and incurred their highest casualties for any operation during the war. The battle also severely depleted Germany’s armored forces on the Western Front. They were largely unable to replace them. German personnel, and later Luftwaffe aircraft also sustained heavy losses.

More on the Ardennes Offensive here

St Vith, 16–24 December 1944

A key objective for the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944, St Vith fell after several days of hard fighting. This unhinged the German timetable for their offensive.

Bastogne, 20–27 December 1944

The site of a major arterial road link in Belgium, Bastogne was a critical initial objective for the Germans during the Ardennes Offensive of 1944.

Battle of the Bulge

Map of the Defense of Bastogne. Image is taken from the book American Battles and Campaigns

As the Germans converged on Bastogne after overcoming stiff resistance from isolated American formations, Gen Dwight D. Eisenhower dispatched the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions to Bastogne to bolster the defences. From 20 December, the Germans besieged Bastogne, outnumbering the encircled paratroopers. On 22 December, a German demand for the Americans to surrender was famously turned down by BGen Anthony McAullife, the acting commander of 101st Airborne, with a single word – ‘Nuts’. From 23 December, improved weather conditions enabled aerial resupply of the town as well as attacks on the Germans. On 27 December, lead elements of the American 4th Armored Division broke through German lines and established a corridor to the town, lifting the siege.

Celles 1944, 25 December 1944

On Christmas Eve 1944, the German 2nd Panzer Division reached Celles, Belgium. This was the high-water mark of Nazi westwards penetration during the Battle of the Bulge. The US First Army’s VII Corps retook Celles and halted the German advance.

Dr. Chris McNab is the editor of AMERICAN BATTLES & CAMPAIGNS: A Chronicle, from 1622-Present and is an experienced specialist in wilderness and urban survival techniques. He has published over 20 books including: How to Survive Anything, Anywhere. An encyclopedia of military and civilian survival techniques for all environments. Special Forces Endurance Techniques, First Aid Survival Manual, and The Handbook of Urban Survival.

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Posted in Military History

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