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A few moments after relaying this message, the Germans opened fire and for the next two weeks, the Battle of the Bulge raged on and when it was finally over, 100,000 German soldiers had been killed, wounded or captured; 81,000 Americans and 1,400 British troops had also been killed, wounded or captured; a total of 800 tanks had been lost on both sides; a 1,000 German aircraft had also been destroyed. Thus, the Battle of the Bulge "was the worst battle, in terms of loss, to the American forces during World War II. 10
On December 19, 1944, General Eisenhower and his top field commanders met at Verdun in order to come up with a plan to stop the German advancement. At this time, the American and Allied forces were experiencing massive attacks -- panzers were streaming across the Allied lines and numerous German legions were marching through a gap some thirty miles wide between St. Vith and Bastogne. In addition, German paratroopers were landing at many important crossroads with enemy commandos, disguised as American soldiers, infiltrating the American/Allied front lines.
One day earlier (December 18), it was obvious to the Allied commanders that Saint Vith had to be defended and the responsibility was given to the 7th Armored Division which was then stationed in Aachen. When the order to defend Saint Vith arrived, the 7th Armored Division headed to the area. One of their most important functions was to "open an escape corridor for the regiments of the 106th Division which was trapped on the Schnee Eifel, cut off from other divisions and quickly running out of ammunition." 11
When night finally came, the defenses at Saint Vith had gained strength, for more units had arrived, such as the 106th Division and a combat detachment of the 9th Armored Division. By early the next morning, the Allies had managed to create a large U-shaped defense line around Saint Vith which extended some fifteen miles.
On the morning of December 18, the German army commenced to test the barrier which the Allies had set up by bombing it relentlessly. But due to the brave efforts of the Allied soldiers settled in Saint Vith, the Germans were repeatedly forced back and left behind destroyed Tiger tanks and thousands of dead German soldiers. On December 19, the Allies were joined by the 112th Infantry Regiment which appeared to weaken the resolve of the German army to continue its bombing of Saint Vith.
On December 21, sometime around noon, the German army commenced an attack of staggering proportions, for they began a massive bombardment on the perimeter of Saint Vith, along with battalions of tanks and thousands of infantrymen. Yet despite this huge wave of bombing, the Allies held their ground, and by midnight, the Germans commenced three additional attacks from every direction. By the morning of the 22nd, the German army had managed to penetrate the perimeter on the north flank. As a result of this action, Major General Matthew B. Ridgeway received a message from one of his commanders in the field that stated "If we don't get out of here... we will not have a 7th Armored Division left." 12
Not long after this message, it was decided that a withdrawal from the area was the best policy, due to 6,000 Allied troops killed or wounded in the last three days. By the morning of the 23rd, it was clear that Saint Vith was lost, yet the 7th Armored Division accomplished a stunning victory by blocking the supply routes for the German army. To make matters worse for the Germans, the Allies were now sending reinforcements into the Ardennes in the form of tanks, heavy artillery and thousands of foot soldiers.
After Saint Vith was abandoned by the Allies, a great number of British tanks were occupied guarding the bridges that crossed the River Meuse. At the same time, a huge assemblage of American forces, made up primarily of the 30th Infantry Division, were preparing for a counterattack by the German army along the Ambleve River which "set the stage for a showdown with Colonel Peiper, the German panzer leader whose SS troops had run amuck near Malmedy... frightening civilians and Allies alike with horrible atrocities." 13
When Peiper's panzers and his SS troops arrived near a wooded area near the Ambleve Bridge, more atrocities occurred. According to Dupuy, Peiper's troops "shot eight unarmed American prisoners of war and a German tank fired on eight Belgian civilians, killing two of them and severely wounding two others." Peiper's troops also "fired into a group of twenty civilians, killing four of them... Later, the Germans found twenty-six Belgian civilians hiding in a basement and then threw grenades. When ordered out of the basement, the survivors were shot." In all, the German troops had murdered more than a hundred people. 14
While all of this activity was happening in the area of Saint Vith, the biggest and longest fight in the Battle of the Bulge was just beginning in Bastogne, a small town about thirty miles to the southwest. The importance of this location was obvious to both sides, for in this area, numerous roads provided passage through the heavily-wooded terrain of the Ardennes. In this battle which lasted many days, the German panzers accomplished considerable damage to the Allied forces. Another battle in this area was fought around the village of Norville, "one of the grisliest small-scale clashes of World War II" in which "all manner of horrors were found... A galosh with a foot still in it... A headless paratrooper... A cremated Kraut sitting in a foxhole... A paratrooper's helmet full of brains" and "a severed arm with a wristwatch on it..." 15
Throughout the month of December, 1944, fighting raged on in various locations in the Ardennes. On December 30, General Patton launched his attack with the Seventh Corps west of Bastogne, along with the 11th Armored Division. The next day, Patton, with the Third Corps led the 6th Armored Division and attacked just northeast of Saint Vith. In this attack, the Allied forces made excellent progress despite meeting up with a large group of German panzers. At this point in the Battle of the Bulge, the German army was weakening considerably yet they continued their bombings, especially against the 87th Division which encountered heavy tank fire, machine guns and other artillery. But this did not last long, for the German army was losing its capacity to continue fighting, due in part to the massive loss of men and machine.
By the first of January, 1944, the area encompassing the town of Bastogne experienced some of the heaviest fighting by the German army. On New Year's Day, eight German divisions were still very active and were determined to seize control of Bastogne, even though Patton's troops had already taken much of the area. Thus, the Germans "continued to throw massive forces against the Allies and although they did not capture Bastogne, they raised havoc...and slowed Patton's advancement." 16
By January 2, the Allies began their assault on a thirty-five mile wide front from the north. The conditions, to say the least, were abominable, due to the freezing temperatures which made progress very difficult. But the Allies, despite the severe weather, maintained their stance and eventually won the town of Bastogne. On January 8, Adolph Hitler made the decision to withdraw his troops, an indication that was giving up the Battle of the Bulge. At this point in the war, Hitler was becoming very disillusioned with the war and in regard to his troops, he "ceased to provide supplies and replacement troops to the German army in the Ardennes which inevitably brought an end to Hitler's vision of destroying the Allied forces at the Battle of the Bulge." 17
On January 28, 1945, the Battle of the Bulge was declared as over. Yet the German army continued its attempts to keep its soldiers optimistic, even while the Third Reich was teetering on the brink of collapse. For the German army, its military might had vanished; the remains of the great 6th Panzer Army was then sent to the Eastern Front to fortify the German troops that were fighting the Russians. The remnants of the army, with their weapons of war demolished, returned to Germany as best as they could, for many were ill with dysentery and were suffering from frostbite and untreated wounds. As Davis relates, "thousands of German soldiers never made it to Germany, and when the losses were calculated, the cost of Hitler's military blunder amounted to more than 100,000 casualties." 18
In conclusion, the Battle of the Bulge served as the final breaking point for Hitler's Third Reich which was effectively eliminated in April of 1945. Ten of thousands of lives had been lost on both sides, yet the Battle of the Bulge was not to be despaired of, for it served as one of the greatest military engagements in…[continue]
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