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TMIH – Battle of the Bulge Begins: December 16, 1944

Typical Ardennes terrain
On December 16, 1944, Germany launched a massive surprise counter-attack on American lines in the Ardennes (a forested area in Belgium and Luxembourg), breaking through to create a 45-mile salient in what became known as the Battle of the Bulge.

Prior to the attack, 83,000 Americans in four divisions (the 28th, 4th, 106th, and 99th) held an 80-mile, thinly stretched line that crossed through the Ardennes region. It was supposed to be a quiet front, and two of the divisions were there to recover from battle, and the other two were composed of green troops.

At 5:30 a.m. on December 16th, with almost no warning, the Germans attacked the American line, first with artillery and then a rush of infantry. The German goal was to break through the line and charge onward to Antwerp, an important Allied port that had recently been reopened. By doing so, the Germans planned to choke Allied supplies and split their forces in two. American troops in many places along the line were initially overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of German troops (200,000), artillery, and armored vehicles, and German forces were able to create a 45-mile salient into Allied territory, though they failed to reach Antwerp. Due to weather, the Allies couldn’t send in air support for more than a week.

After the weather cleared, the Allies were able to send in powerful air support and to air drop supplies, and Allied forces from the north and south began to fight their way to the middle. However, these ground forces were delayed, which allowed many of the Germans still in the bulge to withdraw before they were trapped. The battle was considered over on 25 January, when the last of the German forces withdrew from the salient.

Capt. James R. Lloyd, 124 E. Walnut St., Lancaster, Pa., a 9th AF Air Liaison officer, stands by a German Tiger tank disabled during the battle of the bulge.

Fighting was fierce in the Battle of the Bulge, and it was the biggest battle on the European western front. In fact, about 1 in 10 American combat casualties in the entire war occurred during the battle. It’s estimated that more than a million men, and 600,000 Americans, participated. Casualty estimates vary, but American dead is usually placed at 20,000 with three or four times that wounded, captured, or missing. German casualties are even harder to pin down, but estimates generally place them at roughly equal to or greater than the Americans’. At least 2,500 civilians were also killed.

The battle was a costly loss for Germany, since the attack didn’t appreciably slow the American invasion of Germany but did cost the Germans large numbers of troops that could have potentially been used later to defend their western border.

Did you have family members who fought in the Battle of the Bulge? Tell us about them! Or learn more about the battle by starting a search on Fold3.


  1. last night(l7th) PBS had an hour long show about the 28th Division & Wiltz, Luxembourg. Had old film & pictures from the original Christmas party the men put on for the children; along with pictures of visits from the 28th over the years. I didn’t see my dad but he was there. It was a great hour…the gentleman who was original St. Nickolas was there last year (from Rochester,NY) and I did see men who I had met through the years – most gone now. Very nice – altho I was disappointed that the museum in Witz wasn’t mentioned. My cousin visited it some years ago & saw my dad’s picture there. When he told the “person?” there – he & friend were immediately treated like royalty – taken to dinner & put up in a hotel. (my cousin was Army, stationed in Germany). Maybe someone else out there would be interested in the story of Wiltz..

    • Remember the 110th Infantry at wiltz!!!!

      The Bulge began early December as the German Luftwaffe tried to isolate the battlefield with air attacks on the periphery. Air activity picked up as early as 1 December….culminating on 1 January (I recall) with assaults on Allied airfields.

      My father was slightly wounded in action on 1 December in once such strafing as far north outside Aachen.

  2. My older sister’s husband, Don Snell, was a soldier throughout the Battle of the Bulge. He is now 92 years old. It has been difficult to get him to talk about the experience, but we have talked. His stories about the conditions that winter and what they had to do to survive with few supplies, uniforms and guns and ammunition are stunning. They, when possible, sleep in old drafty barns huddled under hay or straw. They had little food and protection from the elements, but somehow persevered. He said that the Germans had far superior everything; tanks, guns, clothing, etc. He said the main way they stopped the Germans was to destroy the bridges so the tanks and big guns had to be left behind. Then on a man-to-man basis, they won out over time because they had developed relatively safe places to attack the Germans as they advanced on the Americans. His favorite story is about an incident where General Patton was in a vehicle following his. Patton was yelling at him to drive faster. Don said he stopped and got out of his jeep and went to Patton and told him to “stuff it”, I’m going as fast as I can with this junk piece of jeep. Patton did shut up!

    • My dad would agree (and he was in Patton’s Army) with that assessment of equipment. He stated that the German’s jeeps and tanks were far superior. I don’t remember about trucks.

    • My dad, Master Sargent John Howard McWhirter and his staff were sitting outside one cold night and he told them to go request several wooden cots. They asked him why and he returned “To burn them, of course.”

  3. My dad was also in the Battle of the Bulge. 94th infantry, 301st Regiment, Company A. ASTP in the spring of 44. Captured on Jan 21,1945 held at Orscholz, then transferred to Stallag 11b. Liberated by the English on Apr. 25, 1945.