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Concurrent: Siegfried Line campaign
Next: Operation Nordwind
Battle of the Bulge
Bulge map
Conflict: World War II
Date: 16 December 1944-25 January 1945
Place: The Ardennes: Belgium and Luxembourg
Outcome: Allied victory

USA United States
UK United Kingdom
Flag of France 2 France
Flag of Canada 2 Canada
Flag of Belgium Belgium
Flag of Luxembourg Luxembourg

Nazis Nazi Germany


USA Dwight D. Eisenhower
USA Omar Bradley
USA Courtney Hodges
USA George S. Patton
UK Bernard Montgomery

Nazis Adolf Hitler
Nazis Walter Model
Nazis Gerd von Rundstedt
Nazis Hasso von Manteuffel
Nazis Sepp Dietrich
Nazis Erich Brandenberger


600,000+ troops

500,000 troops


106,510 losses
800+ tanks lost
647 aircraft lost

125,000 losses
800+ tanks lost
800 aircraft lost

The Battle of the Bulge (16 December 1944-25 January 1945) was the last major German offensive campaign on the Western Front of World War II. Around 500,000 German troops launched a massive counteroffensive against the Allied armies through the snowy and forested Ardennes region of Belgium and Luxembourg, overrunning several frontline positions and threatening to capture key Allied bases at Bastogne and Antwerp. The Allies suffered heavy losses, as they had been caught completely by surprise; they had not expected a major German offensive. However, the German tide was reversed when the weather cleared up, as Allied aircraft bombed German positions and the US Third Army flanked the Germans and lifted the Siege of Bastogne. The German gains had been reversed by January 1945, and they had suffered irreparable losses; after the Bulge, the Allies continued their offensive against a weakened German army.



While the grim fall battles of the Siegfried Line campaign were being fought, Adolf Hitler was secretly preparing to mount a major counteroffensive. Divisions were withdrawn from the line and reequipped, and Hitler planned to attack through the Ardennes, with his ultimate objective being Antwerp. In this way, he hoped to split the British 21st Army Group from the Americans, and the capture of Antwerp would deprive the Allies of supplies once more. Although his generals were not optimistic, Hitler was determined that the offensive should go ahead in mid-December.

Hitler's counteroffensive in the west, "Operation Wacht am Rhein", was spearheaded by Sepp Dietrich's 6th Panzer Army (consisting largely of SS divisions) in the north and Hasso von Manteuffel's 5th Panzer Army in the south. Manteuffel's southern flank would be protected by Erich Brandenberger's German 7th Army. Facing them in the Ardennes were elements of the US First Army, which was guarding a quiet sector with formations either recovering from the bitter fighting in the Huertgen Forest or fresh from the United States. The Allies did not believe intelligence indicators that the Germans were capable of mounting a major offensive in the hilly and wooded Ardennes in winter, and they were gravely mistaken.

The offensive

Germans St. Vith

German half-tracks advancing on St. Vith

On 16 December 1944, after a sharp predawn artillery barrage and in thick fog which grounded Allied airpower, the Germans opened their offensive. In the north, the narrow winding roads slowed their advance, but one armored battle group managed to break through the American lines and began to head for bridges over the Meuse. Manteuffel had more favorable terrain and made better progress, with some German infiltrators dressed in US uniforms changing signposts around to cause much confusion in the US Army; the Americans confined their commander Dwight D. Eisenhower in his Versailles headquarters for fear that he might be assassinated. Many US units were overrun and forced to surrender or caught while on the move, and it was not until the afternoon that the Allied high comamnd accepted that this was a major attack. The fog persisted, but Dietrich's progress in the north remained slow, and US engineers blocked the SS battle groups' advance by blowing up bridges. However, Manteuffel's army quickly approached Bastogne, a vital center of communications.

Eisenhower agrede that British general Bernard Montgomery should take over the northern part of the salient and temporarily assume command of the US First Army and US Ninth Army; British troops were deployed to guard bridges over the Meuse River. Eisenhower ordered George S. Patton to halt his eastward advance, but Patton had already anticipated this, swinging his US Third Army northward to strike the Germans in their southern flank. Simultaneously, the US 101st Airborne Division was rushed in by truck to reinfroce Bastogne, which was surrounded by the 5th Panzer Army.

End of the German offensive

Patton Bulge

Patton supervising the counterattack at the Battle of the Bulge

By 22 December 1944, Dietrich's advance had been halted, and he was ordered to pass divisions to Manteuffel, whose spearheads were continuing to advance toward the Meuse. Two days later, they reached the Meuse at Dinant, but the Bastogne garrison still held out. The Germans faced growing resupply difficulties due to their failure to take Bastogne, and the skies began to clear, allowing for Allied airpower to be unleashed on the German forces. On 26 December, Patton's forces relieved Bastogne, and Manteuffel battled desperately to drive them back and retake the town. The momentum had gone, and the Germans were forced on the defensive. On the night of 31 December/1 January 1945, Hermann Balck's Army Group G launched Operation Nordwind, designed to destroy Allied forces in Alsace. The Allies were ready; Devers had withdrawn his 6th Army Group, but the French refused to give up the recently liberated Strasbourg. On New Year's Day, the Luftwaffe launched a major air assault against Allied airfields to destroy as many aircraft as possible, with 900 aircraft taking part in the offensive. They knocked out some 300 planes, but they lost the same number themselves, and many of their more experienced pilots were killed. Hitler realized that his offensive had failed, and he turned his attention to the east, where the Vistula-Oder Offensive was being mounted by the Red Army. Hitler's attack in the west had temporarily knocked the Allies off balance, but they had recovered quickly, and the Germans lost 80,000 men and much weaponry, losses they could ill afford. The offensive merely delayed the Allied advance, but it would not affect the inevitable final outcome of the war. By 25 January 1945, the Ardennes salient had been eliminated, and the Germans were sent racing back towards the West Wall.