The Battle of the Bulge (16 December 1944 – 25 January 1945), also known as Unternehmen: Wacht am Rhein, was a major German offensive campaign launched through the densely forested Ardennes region of Wallonia in Belgium, France, and Luxembourg on the Western Front toward the end of World War II in Europe.
The surprise attack caught the Allied forces completely off guard. United States 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 which Germany was largely unable to replace. German personnel and Luftwaffe aircraft also sustained heavy losses.
The Germans’ initial attack included 200,000 men, 340 tanks and 280 other tracked vehicles. Between 67,200 and 100,000 of their men were killed, missing or wounded. For the Americans, 610,000 men were involved in the battle, of whom 89,000 were casualties, including up to 19,000 killed. It was the largest and bloodiest battle fought by the United States in World War II.
Wacht am Rhein
40-mm antiaircraft gun at snow-covered Sourbrodt, Belgium
A roadblock is set up with 30 caliber heavy machine gun, and a tank destroyer is ready for action on Adolf Hitler Strasse by the 1st Battalion, 157th Regiment, 45th Division
American tank destroyers of the 703rd TD, attached to the 82nd Airborne Division move forward during heavy fog to stem German spearhead near Werbomont, Belgium, 20 December 1944.
Army vehicles on a road in Belgium
Members of the 101st Airborne Division walk past dead comrades, killed during the Christmas Eve bombing of Bastogne, Belgium, the town in which this division was besieged for ten days. This photo was taken on Christmas Day, 1944.
Two dead American soldiers at a road intersection in Honsfeld, Belgium, close to the German border at Losheimergraben, December 17, 1944. The looting of the U.S. soldiers probably points towards the bad state of the German troops during the Battle of the Bulge, as it was common to use all kinds of Allied equipment due to constant shortages.
American infantrymen of the 290th Regiment fight in fresh snowfall near Amonines, Belgium
American soldiers of the 289th Infantry Regiment march along the snow-covered road on their way to cut off the Saint Vith-Houffalize road in Belgium on 24 January 1945.
A German Sturmgeschütz assault gun during the Ardennes offensive.
Young German soldiers in a Sdkfz near the Belgian-Luxembourg border during the Ardennesoffensive
American soldiers of the 3rd Battalion 119th Infantry Regiment are taken prisoner by members of Kampfgruppe Peiper in Stoumont, Belgium on 19 December 1944.
A German machine gunner marching through the Ardennes in December 1944. Note: he is still not identified! He has received numerous names (such as Walter Ambrusch) but none of them actually match the soldier.
The bodies of Belgian men, women, and children, killed by the German military during their counter-offensive into Luxembourg and Belgium, await identification before burial.
Scene of the Malmedy massacre.
German prisoners of war dig graves for members of the 101st Airborne Division who were killed defending Bastogne against the Germans.
Chow is served to American infantrymen of the 347th Infantry Regiment on their way to La Roche, Belgium, 13 January 1945.
Battle of the bulge – Dudelange, Luxembourg. Painted white to blend with snow-covered terrain, an M-36 tank destroyer crosses a field. (3 Jan 1945)
Tank in the town of Schopen, Belgium
After holding a woodland position all night near Wiltz, Luxembourg, against German counter attack, three men of B Co., 101st Engineers, emerge for a rest.
Infantrymen fire at German troops in the advance to relieve the surrounded paratroopers in Bastogne.
Young captive grenadier 4th Regiment ‘Der Führer’ 2nd SS Division ‘Das Reich ‘, captured soldiers 3rd U.S. Armoured Division during the Battle of the Bulge, Dec 1944.
A Panther tank rumbles forward in the Ardennes, late December 1944.
Waffen-SS Panzergrenadiers move past wrecked American equipment during the 1st days of the Ardennes offensive
Grenadiers of the 12. SS Panzer Division “Hitlerjugend” (and, or Paratroopers from a FJ Division), killed in battle with the US 509th Parachute Regiment during the offensive in the Ardennes, December 1944. Note the body center background frozen in place with head off the ground.
The first of Peiper’s King Tigers to be lost was this one (No.105), commanded by the SS-Obersturmführer Jürgen Wessel, which was abandoned after it got stuck in debris on Rue St. Emilion in Stavelot on 18 December 1944.
Panzergrenadiers from Kampfgruppe Hansen (one of the three large Kampfgruppe of the Leibstandarte Division) take a cigarette brake. Such a state was the norm during combat operations. This photograph was taken after the action on the Poteau and Recht road, in early hours of 18 December 1944.
On Christmas Eve 1944, the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich swept through Manhay and into Grandmenil, pushing aside US Task Force Kane from the 3rd Armoured Division. However, after being pummeled by air strikes on 26 December, the town was assaulted by Task Force McGeorge of the 3rd Armoured Division and taken in the early-morning hours of the 27 by the paratroopers of the 517th Parachute Infantry. This was one of the “Das Reich” Panthers lost in the fighting. It is being inspected by a GI from the 3rd Company, 289 Infantry, 75th Division, which occupied the town on 30 December.
On 18 December 1944, very early in the morning, the American “14th Cavalry Group” had gotten in an ambush of the German Kampfgruppe Hansen on the road between Poteau and Recht. This are photographs taken after the action along the wreckage on the road.
Credits: Wikipedia, Wikimedia, 5. SS Wiking Blog, National Archives and Bundesarchiv.
Read more on “Wacht am Rhein”:
- Killing this Soldier was the saddest memory of my life
- An Infantryman in the Battle of the Bulge
- Bois Jacques Monument vandalized for the 4th time!