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What You Need To Know About The Battle Of The Bulge

On 16 December 1944 the Germans launched a massive attack on Allied forces in the area around the Ardennes forest in Belgium and Luxembourg during the Second World War.

Allied forces in the Ardennes consisted primarily of American troops - some new and inexperienced, others exhausted and battle-worn. The Germans had some initial success. They achieved complete surprise and pushed westwards through the middle of the American line, creating the 'bulge' that gave the battle its name. But this success was short-lived.

The quick arrival of Allied reinforcements and the Americans' tenacious defence of the vital road junctions at Bastogne and St Vith slowed the German advance. The offensive also required men and resources that Germany did not have. Fuel shortages were made worse by bad weather, which disrupted German supply lines. The weather, which had previously restricted Allied air support, eventually cleared and air attacks resumed. By the end of December, the German advance had ground to a halt.

On 1 January 1945, the German air force caused serious damage to Allied air bases in north-west Europe, but it sustained losses from which it could not recover. The Allied counterattack in early January succeeded in pushing the Germans back and by the end of the month the Allies had regained the positions they held six weeks earlier.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said the Battle of the Bulge was 'undoubtedly the greatest American battle of the war'. It was also one of the bloodiest. The Allies could offset these losses, but Germany had drained its manpower and material resources. The Allies resumed their advance and in early spring crossed into the heart of Germany.

  • German soldiers

    German SS soldiers cross a road in front of destroyed American jeeps and half-tracks, 16 December 1944.
    German SS soldiers cross a road in front of destroyed American jeeps and half-tracks, 16 December 1944.
    EA 47962

    In this staged photograph, German SS soldiers cross a road in front of destroyed American jeeps and half-tracks on 16 December 1944.

  • A German parachute

    Two American soldiers examine a German parachute found in an area where German paratroopers were dropped, December 1944.
    Two American soldiers examine a German parachute found in an area where German paratroopers were dropped, December 1944.
    EA 47945

    Two American soldiers examine a German parachute found in an area where German paratroopers were dropped at the beginning of the Ardennes offensive in December 1944.

  • Between St Vith and Malmedy

    Men from 1st SS Panzer Division at the Kaiserbaracke crossroads between St Vith and Malmedy in Belgium, 18 December 1944.
    Men from 1st SS Panzer Division at the Kaiserbaracke crossroads between St Vith and Malmedy in Belgium, 18 December 1944.
    EA 47958

    Men from 1st SS Panzer Division in a Schwimmwagen at the Kaiserbaracke crossroads between St Vith and Malmedy in Belgium on 18 December 1944.

  • Captured American soldiers

    American soldiers captured by German troops in the Ardennes between 16 and 22 December 1944.
    American soldiers captured by German troops in the Ardennes between 16 and 22 December 1944.
    MH 20575

    American soldiers captured by German troops in the Ardennes between 16 and 22 December 1944.

  • Preparing mines

    Men of the US 28th Division HQ Company prepare mines to try to hold up the advancing German <em>Panzers</em>.
    Men of the US 28th Division HQ Company prepare mines to try to hold up the advancing German Panzers.
    EA 48028

    Men of the US 28th Division HQ Company prepare mines to try to hold up the advancing German Panzers.

  • Snow dugout

    Sergeant John Opanowski of the US 10th Armored Division emerges from a dugout built under snow in the Bastogne area.
    Sergeant John Opanowski of the US 10th Armored Division emerges from a dugout built under snow in the Bastogne area.
    EA 49214

    Sergeant John Opanowski of the US 10th Armored Division emerges from a dugout built under snow in the Bastogne area.

  • Glider delivery

    American troops besieged at Bastogne retrieve supplies and ammunition brought by gliders.
    American troops besieged at Bastogne retrieve supplies and ammunition brought by gliders.
    FRA 200196

    American troops besieged at Bastogne retrieve supplies and ammunition brought by gliders. The dugout in the foreground was for an artillery unit defending the town.

  • Tank Battalion

    A tank of the 740th Tank Battalion moves towards its objective at Herresbach, Belgium during the Allied counterattack.
    A tank of the 740th Tank Battalion moves towards its objective at Herresbach, Belgium during the Allied counterattack.
    EA 68715

    A tank of the 740th Tank Battalion, attached to the US 82nd Airborne Division, moves towards its objective at Herresbach, Belgium during the Allied counterattack.

  • Foxholes

    American soldiers hastily dig foxholes as German fire opens up near Berismenil, Belgium.
    American soldiers hastily dig foxholes as German fire opens up near Berismenil, Belgium.
    EA 50367

    American soldiers hastily dig foxholes as German fire opens up near Berismenil, Belgium.

  • Snow camouflage

    A British sniper wears a snow camouflage suit on patrol in the Ardennes during the Allied counter-offensive, 14 January 1945.
    A British sniper wears a snow camouflage suit on patrol in the Ardennes during the Allied counter-offensive, 14 January 1945.
    B 13676

    A sniper from the British 6th Airborne Division wears a snow camouflage suit on patrol in the Ardennes during the Allied counter-offensive, 14 January 1945.

  • Captured German soldiers

    Germans captured by US soldiers are lined up at the side of a snowy road near Hierlot, Belgium during the Allied counterattack.
    Germans captured by US soldiers are lined up at the side of a snowy road near Hierlot, Belgium during the Allied counterattack.
    EA 48952

    Germans captured by soldiers of the US 82nd Airborne Division are lined up at the side of a snowy road near Hierlot, Belgium during the Allied counterattack.