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WWII Battle of the Bulge began 77 years ago today

American engineers emerge from the woods and moved out of defensive positions after fighting in the vicinity of Bastogne, Belgium during Battle of the Bulge. (U.S. Army/Released)
December 16, 2021

The historic World War II Battle of the Bulge began on Dec. 16, 1944 and Thursday marks the 77th anniversary of the battle, which began with a German offensive on allied lines and lasted more than a month before the allies repelled the attack.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense accounts, more than a million troops participated in the battle, including 500,000 U.S. troops and 55,000 British troops going up against some 600,000 German forces.

As the German offensive began, Supreme Allied commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower rushed reinforcements, including the 101st Airborne Division, to bolster the allied defenses, particularly around the town of Bastogne.

On Thursday, the 101st Airborne Division tweeted, “On the morning of Dec. 16, 1944, more than 200,000 German troops launched a surprise attack across the 75 miles of the Ardennes Forest, beginning the Battle of the Bulge. By Dec.21st, German forces had surrounded the city of Bastogne, defended by the @101stAASLTDIV@10MTNDIV.”

The “Bulge” refers to a large hole in the allied lines, created by the German attack the initiated the battle.

By Dec. 23, the allied forces mounted their counter-attack and pushed the Germans back to where their offensive began. Lt. Gen. George S. Patton Jr. led the 3rd U.S. Army north to reinforce the defending American forces in the area.

The 2nd U.S. Armored Division stopped the German tanks short of the Meuse River on Christmas, and by that point it seemed the German offensive had failed.

The battle continued into January until the “bulge” created by the German offensive had collapsed.

By the end of the battle, some 19,000 U.S. troops were killed, 47,500 were wounded and another 23,000 went missing. The British suffered about 1,400 casualties with 200 killed and more missing and wounded. The German army suffered 100,000 soldiers killed, wounded or captured.

Both sides lost hundreds of tanks and the German Luftwaffe lost around 1,000 aircraft.

On Thursday, the USO tweeted, “Today marks the 77th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Bulge. The crucial World War II battle lasted for weeks, finally coming to an end on January 25, 1945. We remember and honor our heroes who served our country during this major turning point in #WWII.”

The battle signified Germany’s last major offensive in the war, according to a U.S. Army history of the battle.

“This is undoubtedly the greatest American battle of the war and will, I believe, be regarded as an ever-famous American victory,” then British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill said of the battle, largely crediting his U.S. allies.

On Tuesday the U.K.’s Imperial War Museums tweeted, “In December 1944, German troops launched an attack on Allied forces in the area around the Ardennes Forest, beginning the Battle of the Bulge. Learn more about what Churchill described as ‘the greatest American battle of the war.'”