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When we think about American GIs in the European theater of World War II, much of our image comes from the Battle of the Bulge. Named so because of the distinctive "bulge" shape of the front lines, this is where so many American men laid down their lives on fields of frozen mud in France.

What Was the Battle of the Bulge?
The Battle of the Bulge was the result of Hitler's last dying gasp lashing out against the increasing pressure of the Allied forces in France. Hitler's goal was to drive a literal and metaphorical wedge between the United States and the United Kingdom.

All told, the battle was six weeks of fierce winter fighting in the forests of the Ardennes region of France. The nearly ceaseless combat took place between December 16, 1944, to January 25, 1945, in the bitter, freezing cold. Old Man Winter took 15,000 with trench foot, pneumonia, and frostbite.

Winston Churchill called it the most important American battle of the war. It was certainly the costliest – when all was said and done, over 100,00 American souls were left in the ground in France.

A Surprise Attack by the German Military
The attack was a complete surprise to Allied commanders, who were overconfident due to a string of recent victories. What's more, poor weather in the area made air reconnaissance difficult to impossible. When 410,000 Germans came marching into the Ardennes, Allied forces were woefully unprepared for the attack.

Indeed, the respite in the Ardennes was supposed to be for letting seriously battle-fatigued soldiers get some much-needed rest and relaxation. The Allied intelligence thought that the Germans were using this area for similar purposes, and so sent small numbers of men out there to secure the area, which they considered completely safe, both due to their intel and the dense, woody terrain.

The battle began with a 90-minute barrage of 1,600 artillery guns firing. The initial Allied response was that this was an expected, minor, and localized counterattack. When this proved to be untrue, 250,000 Allied troops arrived as reinforcements.

Snowstorms slowed the advancing German army, but also made it impossible for the Allies to provide any air cover. The Germans were further hampered by supply chain issues and traffic jams due to the weather.

In the north, the Germans were met with fierce resistance from the U.S. 2nd and 99th Infantry Divisions. Known as the "Northern Shoulder," Americans were outnumbered five to one but eventually won the day due to road conditions and an unparalleled tenacity in battle. Equally tenacious, the German soldiers continued to fight tooth and nail without food or fuel. Eventually, their supply lines were cut entirely, forcing most of the men to flee.

The American battles of the Northern Shoulder are considered the most decisive of the entire campaign. Despite being outnumbered five to one, they were able to inflict a casualty ratio of 18 to 1 (in no small part thanks to the 30-06 powered M1 Garand battle rifle) in a battle where 20 percent of their effective force was taken out of the fight.

In the Bulge itself, the German offensive was much smaller, but still significantly overwhelmed the Allied troops in terms of both manpower and firepower. The Germans were able to force the surrender of the 422nd and 423rd Regiments of the 106th Division with a single pincer movement.

The Bulge, as one can tell simply by looking at a map of the battle, is where the German military had the most success, but it was on the Southern Front of the Battle that the biggest Allied breakthrough was made. During the Siege of Bastogne was when Eisenhower realized that the German's biggest strength – how quickly they could move in battle – was also their biggest weakness, leaving them overextended and easy pickings for a counterattack. Upon hearing Eisenhower's plans, General Patton is said to have remarked "Hell, let's have the guts to let the bastards go all the way to Paris. Then, we'll really cut 'em off and chew 'em up."

The tide began to turn when the Allied forces launched their counteroffensive on December 23, after the bad weather cleared. A substantial German counterattack forced the Allies back into defensive positions. At this point, it was so cold that engines had to be run every half hour to prevent the oil from congealing inside. During a massive German retreat on January 1, which the Allies could not immediately follow up on, most of their heavy equipment was abandoned.

It was all over but for the shouting. The Germans were retreating out of the Ardennes but were fighting fiercely on their way out. On January 7, Hitler agreed to completely evacuate the area.

The Battle of the Bulge was at an end.

Why the Allies Won: The Legacy of the Battle of the Bulge
When the Allies engaged the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge, they were fighting a very different Army than the one that had conquered France the first time. After repeated assassination attempts by members of the Regular Army, Hitler became increasingly paranoid, relying more on the political troops of the SS. As such, the units involved in the Ardennes Campaign were more chosen for their loyalty to Hitler and Nazi ideology than they were for their acumen in battle.

On the other hand, the American and Allied forces were fresh in the fight, buoyed from regular victories and their officer corps was chosen for their success on the battlefield. While the German soldiers themselves could provide a fierce fight against the Allied troops, the German command structure simply was not up to the task of taking on Generals Eisenhower, Bradley, and Patton.

By February, the battle lines were roughly back where they had been at the beginning of the German offensive. The Allies continued to press the advantage gained from the heavy casualties they had inflicted, continuing to push back the German Army. By the end of the Battle of the Bulge, the German Army was in total shambles, shattered by the Allied counteroffensive and on the run back to Berlin.

Official casualty statistics vary but do not differ on the main points. Not only did America suffer heavy casualties in the fighting, but their casualty levels were also wildly out of proportion to their share of the fighting force, showing just how gung-ho the American GIs were in the Battle of the Bulge. The Americans also gave as good as they got, killing about as many Germans as the Germans killed Americans, despite their significant numerical disadvantage.

The Battle of the Bulge was a turning point in the war, which had as much to do with American battle tenacity as it did with German organizational incompetence. The massive victory secured only sought to further elate the American forces and solidify their alliance with the United Kingdom, the exact opposite of the intended result. The Germans had advanced as far as 50 miles in some cases but were unable to hold any ground gained.

The Battle of the Bulge is interesting for another historical reason. It is the first time in American history when racially integrated units fought on the battlefield. Faced with a massive shortage of men, General Eisenhower moved black soldiers from support positions and segregated units into the main of the fighting force.

While it doesn't have the same easy recognition factor as the Battle of Lexington, America was no less forged in the crucible of the Battle of the Bulge. It was here that the cocksure American confidence on the world stage that would mark the next 25 years was born. America, it seemed, could not be licked by anyone, not even the full might of the famous German war machine. It was an air of euphoria that would last until the Vietnam War.
 

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My high school buddy's father went through the battle. He was a great guy and cut us kids a lot of slack. I do for sure wish I'd paid a lot more attention while Everett was still around.

I don't kick myself very often, but missing out on a first hand story like that is one of my self induced pet peeves.

Poor guy had a pension from Polaroid....you know how that went.
 

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My high school buddy's father went through the battle. He was a great guy and cut us kids a lot of slack. I do for sure wish I'd paid a lot more attention while Everett was still around.

I don't kick myself very often, but missing out on a first hand story like that is one of my self induced pet peeves.

Poor guy had a pension from Polaroid....you know how that went.
My dad was there from Utah Beach to Army of Occupation- Germany with the Third Army. He was a great story teller for which I am grateful. Only wish I had asked more questions with what I learned later.
 

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Good friend was awarded Silver Star in 2012, for Heroism at Bartle of Bulge in 1945.

Wal-Mart provide FREE sheet cake for occasion

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Three vets from the Battle of the Bulge were in my Sunday School class...two brothers and their brother in law...all three would tell great stories that I wish I had recorded. I have their unit histories and maps of the paths their units took.

I also have my grandfather's unit history. He was an MP collecting up the EPW's the brothers captured and was about 3 days behind and on they same path they were.

I miss those guys.
 

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Thank you, @ammodotcom for this write-up. A couple church jobs ago, I had the honor of serving Holy Communion weekly to many vets and one of those was a survivor of The Battle of the Bulge. He had a patience and gratitude in his spirit that showed how thankful he was for the life he had been able to continue, as well as the appreciation for all the fine men who gave their lives in battle so that we could live freely today.

@DocCasualty thank you for posting that prayer and card. Unless we believe that a power higher than ourselves compels us to take such sacrificial measures, we will lose heart. May God bless our troops and may they know that to fight for freedom is to stand with the disposition of God.
 

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Lived in Germany close to the Belgian border for 3 yrs, spent a lot of time exploring the Bulge battlefield. Have gone back every yr from '95 to 2017. May be headed back that way next year
 

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I had a next door neighbor that was in the Battle of the Bulge.I had been watching band of brothers and told my neighbor about it.He told me he was in a fox hole with 2 other guys and the sleet seemed like it was never going to stop.He told me about trying to get some sleep and the rifles they used had a 5 round clip.After the 5th round there was a ping.He said that when he was really tired and couldn't sleep he could still hear the ping keeping him awake.This old man told me stories for several hours that night then never spoke of the war again.
 

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My grandfather fought in the Battle of the Bulge. I have the 1911 he used in the battle. He picked it up off a fallen buddy when he was needing something that would shoot.
My grandfather carried an M1 carbine and a 1911. When they were boarding the ship to head home after the war, he and his squad were told they could keep their weapons or 'toss them in those barrels if you don't want them.' He had carried both for 3 years 3 months and 3 days...and tossed both in the barrels.

Had he only known...
 

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My father was in the northern side of the fight. His group got assigned to the British. He told me I'd never read any history books about his part of the battle. He kept his galoshes from that battle. Told me he would have died without them.
20 years after the war my father was in his mid-forties and I was child #5.
When my friends and I were playing army and building snow forts, I remember my father telling us,(paraphrasing) Snow doesn't stop bullets, you need dirt and logs and and a roof of dirt and logs for when the trees explode...
He never talked about the war. The one comment he made to me was "There are too many horrible ways to die."
 

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Joe is in Arlington National Cemetary, Good guy, highly decorated WW-ll Vet.💪

Thanks for sharing that.

I am fortunate enough to have a first edition copy of “The Left Corner of My Heart”, Dan Morgan’s unit history which is an excellent read. Thought you might appreciate a couple of pics of him as a young man and at the time of his interview with Morgan, an the interview.

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