Thursday 14 June 2018

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.

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German soldiers

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German soldiers

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

German SS troops double across a road in a staged photo after the destruction of an American convoy of jeeps and half-tracks in the Ardennes, 16 December 1944.
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A German parachute

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A German parachute

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.

The German Counter Offensive 16-22 December 1944: Two American soldiers, Thomas Richardson and G Leach, examining a German parachute found in the forest. The Germans hoped to spread confusion by infiltrating small groups of specially-trained English speaking troops with captured uniform and equipment to perform sabotage and intelligence missions.
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Between St Vith and Malmedy

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Between St Vith and Malmedy

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

Men from 1st SS Panzer Division in a Schwimmwagen at Kaiserbaracke crossroads, between St. Vith and Malmedy, 18 December 1944.
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Captured American soldiers

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Captured American soldiers

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

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Preparing mines

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Preparing mines

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

Men of the 28th Division HQ Company prepare mines to check the advancing German Panzers.
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Snow dugout

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Snow dugout

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

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Glider delivery

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Glider delivery

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.

American troops from the besieged garrison at Bastogne, load onto a truck supplies and ammunition brought to them by gliders. The foxhole in the foreground is for an artillery unit protecting the town.
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Tank Battalion

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Tank Battalion

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.

The Allied Counter Attack 25 December 1944 - 28 January 1945: A tank of the 740th Tank Battalion attached to the 82nd Airborne Division moves towards its objective at Herresbach.
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Foxholes

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Foxholes

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

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Snow camouflage

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Snow camouflage

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.

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Captured German soldiers

Photographs

Captured German soldiers

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.

The Allied Counter Attack 25 December 1944 - 28 January 1945: Germans captured by troops of the 82nd Airborne Division are lined up at the side of a snowy road near Hierlot, Belgium.

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