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Battle of the Bulge

Battle of the Bulge


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Once you have exhausted (at this moment) the resources on Ancestry, Fold3, and Newspapers.com, search the World War II Reunion Association websites for histories and military records that may be digitized. On the 90 th Division Association website you will find many digitized materials to help put the Battle of the Bulge into context. James Privoznik is also listed in the 790 th Ordnance history. http://www.90thdivisionassociation.org/History/index.html Finally, please write the story of your soldier as you research. If you would like to add the story and information to your Ancestry tree, please read my article, Preserving a World War II Service Member?s Lifestory on Ancestry Member Trees. Good luck with your Battle of the Bulge research. I?d love to hear from you what you discovered about your soldier and his service!

Battle of the Bulge: Facts, Timeline, and Summary

One of the most important battles in the Second World War was the Battle of the Bulge. Facts about this deadly battle are given here.

One of the most important battles in the Second World War was the Battle of the Bulge. Facts about this deadly battle are given here.

Did You Know?

The Battle of the Bulge was called Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein in German, meaning ‘Operation Watch on the Rhine’. The French called it Bataille des Ardennes, meaning ‘Battle of the Ardennes’, while the Brits and the Americans called it the ‘Ardennes Counteroffensive’.

The Second World War was the deadliest war in human history, and remains a dark stain upon the history of humanity. It contained countless battles that have become the stuff of legend their victors celebrated, their casualties mourned, their development analyzed and lessons learned.

The Battle of the Bulge is one among such battles. Fought from December 16, 1944, to January 25, 1945, this battle is notable not only for its death count, which stands at the highest among all the battles fought by the Americans in the Second World War, but for the strategies and tactics that led to its eventual outcome.

It was one of the last successful Nazi offensives in the war and caused close to a hundred thousand casualties in the Allied forces, including almost 20,000 deaths.

Here’s some more info about this infamous battle, including the conditions that led to it, its timeline, and its tactical aspects.

Background

To understand the significance of the Battle of the Bulge, it is necessary to know the conditions in Continental Europe before the battle. Here’s a refresher for those who don’t know the timeline of WWII well. History nerds can safely skip this section and advance to the next one.

The year 1944 was notable for the D-Day landings at Normandy. Occurring on June 6, 1944, the Normandy landings were a huge boost for the Allies. It was the first real foothold gained by the Allies against Nazi Germany on Continental Europe most of the action before it had been confined to the air or the seas. Five beachheads were established in northern France under Allied control.

Following on from the success of D-Day, the Allies, led by the American General Dwight D. Eisenhower, pushed further inland into Continental Europe. The Allied armies pushed into Belgium in early September, and captured several important cities, such as Brussels on September 3 and Antwerp on September 5. This was a serious undermining of Nazi influence in Continental Europe, further exacerbated by the return to Belgium―on September 8―of its government-in-exile, which had been in hiding in England till then. By early November Belgium had been liberated in its entirety.

Meanwhile, Vichy France, a puppet state established by Nazi Germany in the southern regions of France they had not occupied, was slipping from the grasp of Hitler. Paris had been freed on August 25, and the Allied armies had captured crucial cities in Vichy France, such as Lyon, by October.

1944 was also the year when Allied infantry first entered Germany, taking the city of Aachen near the border between Germany and the Netherlands on September 10, the same day that Luxembourg was liberated.

Meanwhile, the Red Army of the Soviet Union had inexorably marched on in the Eastern theater of the War, and had captured several countries held by Nazi Germany. Hitler had given up hope of stopping the Russian advance while still holding fort against the Anglo-American armies.

Leading up to the Battle

These setbacks led Hitler to conceive a counterattack so implausible and difficult to execute that even his most loyal commanders, including Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, had grave doubts about it.

Hitler planned to drive a wedge through the Allied defenses around the Ardennes mountain range in Belgium. Since this area was mountainous and covered in thick forest, the Allies had been lax in their defense of it, with a front of more than 80 miles covered by only 6 divisions. Hitler planned to exploit this weak spot, the same way he had when crossing into France to take Paris. The Germans planned to take the region with a heavy armored charge. The only factor that could hamper the Nazi charge was an attack from the air. The Allied Air Force was far better than that of Nazi Germany, a fact Nazi Generals had pointed out to Hitler, but the Ardennes region would often be covered in fog and heavy clouds, limiting its involvement. Hitler was banking on the weather being favorable to his armies.

Here’s a map showing the region Hitler planned to take, with the Ardennes mountain range marked. The region between France, Belgium, and Germany is Luxembourg.

Map of Central Europe with the Ardennes region highlighted in progressively darker shades according to elevation

The plans were formulated in utmost secrecy and under the Fuehrer’s personal supervision. Any attempt by Nazi Generals to moderate the offensive was quashed by Hitler.

The eventual objective of the mission was to take Antwerp, northwest of the Ardennes. This was to be achieved by dividing the American and British forces and then surrounding them individually. The northern divisions of the Army would then move on to take Brussels and Antwerp. Antwerp was a crucial city, since it was a major port and was a hub for Allied reinforcements. Though this was considered completely impossible by Nazi Generals, Hitler planned to accomplish all this within one year! The idea behind the plan was that as Hitler considered the Western armies to be inferior in comparison to the Russians, he planned to force them back and enforce a peace treaty favorable to the Germans, giving him time to build more advanced machinery with which he would then take on the Russians.

In the end, Hitler decided that three armies would charge into this battle, with one standing by as backup. The division of labor was as follows:

► The Sixth Panzer Army would lead the charge on Antwerp, attacking the Allied front in the northern region. This army was led by Sepp Dietrich.

► The Fifth Panzer Army would attack the Allied army in the center. Led by Hasso von Manteuffel, the Fifth Panzer Army had the objective of capturing Brussels.

► The Seventh Army, consisting of three infantry divisions, would protect the other two from Allied attacks from the south. This was the only infantry army in the operation, and was led by Erich Brandenberger.

► The Fifteenth Army was stationed between Cologne and Aachen as a backup.

Hitler’s plan for the Ardennes Counteroffensive

The solid lines in the image given above represent the progress actually made by the German Sixth Panzer, Fifth Panzer, and Seventh Armies, and the dashed lines represent what Hitler intended the Armies to achieve. Celles marks the point of the farthest intrusion. The green line represents the ‘bulge’ in the Allied front that gave the battle its commonly used name.

The region between the first and second solid lines was contested by the Sixth Panzer Army, and the region between the second and third solid lines was contested by the Fifth Panzer Army. The Seventh Army stayed further south of the Fifth Army, while the Fifteenth Army stayed further north of the Sixth Panzer Army, between Cologne and Aachen.

Such an attack, consisting of a large number of armored divisions, would require massive amounts of fuel to simply keep the vehicles moving. Though Germany didn’t have enough fuel when the plan was drafted, Hitler intended to appropriate fuel from the Allied establishments they planned to capture.


The Battle of the Bulge in 38 Images

The Battle of the Bulge, also known as the Ardennes Offensive, was Germany’s last ditch attempt at mounting a full scale attack on the Western Front. This battle, which last from December 16 1944 to January 25 1945, was on of the bloodiest in US military history.

Involving over 1 million combatants from both sides, the Ardennes Offensive was intended to break through the Allied lines, dividing and encircling 4 armies of the US and British, while denying the Allies’ use of the port of Antwerp. Once this was achieved, Hitler hoped he could force a peace treaty with the Allies, independent of the Soviets, and one that heavily favoured the Axis.

The attack was to go through the then-weakly defended Ardennes Forest in a move similar to the successful Blitzkrieg attack on France in 1940.

The German plan for the offensive, which involved dividing the US and British forces, while capturing Antwerp, a port crucial for the resupply of Allied troops.

Allied forces had broken out of Normandy and advanced through Europe much faster than expected, causing armies to outrun their own supply chains. Just before the offensive began, Allied troops were exhausted, low on supplies and spread out thin. Commanders decided to halt in the Ardennes to allow troops to rest, resupply and reinforce.

The Allies least expected an attack through here, due to the dense forest and difficult terrain. This, combined with Allied aerial reconnaissance being prevented by poor weather, meant the Germans successfully began the attack as a surprise. However, it was crucial that the poor weather continue.

Initially, the Germans started the offensive with over 400,000 troops, 1,400 tanks and armoured fighting vehicles and over 1,000 aircraft.

This attack slammed into US defenders, who defended the region much more affectively than the Germans anticipated. The rugged terrain that aided in the Germans’ element of surprise, also worked against them when the defenders used it to their advantage.

This fierce defence and poor road networks meant German troops and tanks critical for the offensives success were stuck.

The attack reached as far as the village of Foy-Nôtre-Dame before halting. To make matters worse, the poor weather lifted, allowing the virtually unopposed Allied air power to attack German forces and supply lines. The offensive had failed, and with it Germany’s last chance at controlling the war.

The losses of the battle were huge, between 60-100,000 German troops were killed, missing or wounded, while 90,000 US troops were killed wounded or missing. The battle claimed many veteran German soldiers, and enormous amount of equipment that they simply couldn’t replace.

Here is a collection of images from this hard-fought battle.

American troops drag a heavily loaded ammunition sled through the snow, as they move for an attack on Herresbach.

Chow is served to American infantrymen of the 347th Infantry Regiment on their way to La Roche, Belgium, 13 January 1945.

Cobra King crew pose for a celebratory photo in the vicinity of Bastogne, Belgium shortly after the tankers led the armor and infantry column that liberated the city in December 1944.

Deep snow banks on a narrow road halt military traffic in the woods of Wallerode, Belgium. 87th Inf. Div. January 30, 1945.

German-held positions over the L’Amblene river, in Stavelot, Belgium, as seen from the front lines.

Here is a portion of the wreckage in St. Vith, Belgium, after units of the 7th Armored Division, took the town.

Walter Hughes – 82nd Airborne Division, Bra, Belgium.

Infantrymen of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 30th Division, at the outskirts of Sart-Lez-St. Bith, (Rodt), Belgium, during their advance on St. Vith. January 23 1945

Lined up in a snow-covered field, near St. Vith, Belgium are the M-4 Sherman tanks of the 40th Tank Bn.

More than 400,000 5-gallon jerry cans of gasoline line five miles of road between the Belgian towns of Stavelot and Francorchamps during the Battle of the Bulge.

Panzergrenadier-SS Kampfgruppe Hansen in action during clashes in Poteau against Task Force Myers, 18 December 1944.

Pvt. Roy McDaniels, Hartford City, Ind., keeps a look out for enemy activity from a 30th Division observation post in Stavelot, Belgium.

Snow and Ice make the going tough for U.S. Army vehicles on a road in Belgium. The snowstorm was responsible for the gasoline truck, at left, skidding off the road, with a traffic jam as the result.

Snowsuited soldiers walk through the snow-covered streets of St. Vith, Belgium. January 24 1945

Spent casings from a gun position on Elsenborn Ridge

Tankmen of the U.S. First Army gather around a fire on the snow-covered ground near Eupen, Belgium, opening their Christmas packages December 30 1944.

Tanks and Infantrymen of the 82nd Airborne Division, 740th Tank Battalion push through the snow towards their objective in Belgium. U.S. First Army near Herresbach.

Tanks of the 4th Armd. Div., ready for action in the front lines. 8 January 1945. Bastogne, Belgium.

The members of the 101st Airborne Division, right, are on guard for enemy tanks, on the road leading to Bastogne, Belgium. They are armed with bazookas. 23 Dec 1944

This burning home near Lmore, Belgium, drew a heavy barrage of enemy shellfire which wounded a Signal Corps photographer. Janurary 16 1945

Troops of the 82nd Airborne Division advance in a snowstorm behind the tank in a move to attack Herresbach, Belgium. January 28 1945

U.S. infantrymen crouch in a snow-filled ditch, taking shelter from a German artillery barrage during the Battle of Heartbreak Crossroads in the Krinkelter woods on 14 December 1944.

U.S. troops of the 28th Infantry Division, who have been regrouped in security platoons for the defense of Bastogne, Belgium, march down a street in Bastogne.

US Private Charles Preston, of Nicholasville, Kentucky, brushes snow from a M1917 Browning machine gun mounted on his jeep. Image credit – Cassowary Colorizations CC BY 2.0

We were getting our second wind now and started flattening out that bulge. We took 50,000 prisoners in December alone.

When King Tiger 105 was struck by bazooka fire, the driver reversed into a the debris of a house and got stuck. The crew abandoned the tank on Rue St. Emilion in Stavelot, Belgium.

A German soldier, heavily armed, carries ammunition boxes forward with companion in territory taken by their counter-offensive in this scene from captured German film. Belgium, December 1944.

A view of the damage done in Houffalize, Belgium, by shelling. The town was retaken from the Germans by the 2nd Armored Division.

Aerial photograph of an attack by Royal Air Force Avro Lancaster bombers over St. Vith, Belgium, on 26 December 1944.

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.

American infantrymen of an armored division march up a road southeast of Born, Belgium. Note the height of the snow bank on either side of the road. January 22 1945

American soldiers man a dug-in mortar emplacement near St. Vith, Belgium, January 24 1945

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.

American soldiers taking up defensive positions in the Ardennes.

American tank destroyers move forward during heavy fog to stem German spearhead near Werbomont, December 20 1944

Soldiers of the 99th Infantry Division attend a Christian service on New Years Eve.


Battle of the Bulge - HISTORY

100,000 men
440+ tanks
440+ other tracked AFV
Aircraft: 2,400
Total: 500,000 men

Casualties and Deaths American
89,500
(19,000 killed,
47,500 wounded,
23,000 captured or missing)

As even those with a passing knowledge of history will be aware of, there were scores of major battles fought during World War II. These battles raged across several continents. The battles were waged fiercely because winning one, single battle had the potential to shape the course of the war in a particular theater. In some cases, winning a battle could lead to changing the direction of the entire war.

The Battle of the Bulge was the only counteroffensive ordered by Hitler. The goal of this battle was to force the Allies into a position to sue for peace. In essence, this particular battle was sought by Hitler to be the ultimate game changer. He wanted the outcome of the battle to lead to the end of the war. As history shows us, Hitler and Germany did not succeed in their gambit. To some degree, the outcome of the battle may even have emboldened the Allies to continue to press forward and defeat the Axis powers.

Response to the D-Day Invasion

The Battle of the Bulge took place between December 16, 1944 and January 25, 1945. To a certain extent, it can be considered a response to an even more important battle that had impacted Germany in a devastating manner

Among the greatest and most important battles of World War II was the Allied invasion of Normandy, France. The invasion was known as the D-Day invasion and it led to the liberation of France and a major change in the tide of the war.

Hitler and the German army certainly were not ready to concede the war. Therefore, plans were set in motion to launch a counteroffensive that had as its goal a complete change in the tide of the war in the favor of Germany. The counteroffensive was launched on December 16 at the height of a very harsh winter. The attack by Germany would stretch through the Ardennes Mountains, which was located along the forests of Western Front in Belgium, and France and Luxembourg.

The Troops Stationed in the Region

About four divisions of Allied troops were stationed in this forest region. The troops were there primarily for rest, as the 75 mile stretch of forest was not considered for a high probability of battle. There were no roads. It was densely populated and the winter conditions were very harsh. That said, the region was not without strategic value. Pushing through the troops could help Germany eventually reach the English Channel which could have led an outright ground invasion of Great Britain.

The German Army saw this as an opportunity for an easy victory and believed that the tide of the war could be swayed by such a victory. A massive offensive was set in motion where 200,000 German troops along with 1,000 tanks invaded the area, seeking to overtake the battle weary soldiers by surprise.

The Strategic Value of the Battle of the Bulge

The goal of the German Army was not to merely defeat the Allied troops located in the forests. The goal was also to break the Allied front lines that were protecting the Western Front. Maps of the Allied troops made them appear to bulge outwards and this colloquialism would contribute to the eventual nickname of the events that unfolded as the Battle of the Bulge. Splitting the American and British troops would have been a huge victory for Germany.

The German troops were successful in their first day of battle and were able to greatly flummox the Allied troops. Germany’s brief victory was critical from a strategic perspective. The American front was broken and splintered after the first day of fighting. Major crossroads were captured and the Germany army was able to position itself so that it could continue an unabated forward march into the more populated areas of Belgium and France. Again, the Army felt it could once again reposition itself in such a way it could eventually overtake large segments of Western Europe.

Much of the civilian population was terrified of the German advance because they well remembered the devastation the German troops brought forth during successful invasions of 1940. The situation on the ground, however, had changed dramatically in 1945 and the German army was facing much tenacious opposition than it had in 1940.

The American Troops Go on the Offensive

The American troops did suffer major losses during the early days of the battle. However, the troops were able to hold off the German advance long enough so that reinforcements were able to reach the region by December 26. The goal of the German troops was to reach the Meuse River. They were stopped before they could actually reach it.

Also, on December 26, reinforcements reached the besieged American soldiers at Bastogne. The German attack did take many American casualties, but it was going to achieve its goals. In fact, when the full American reinforcements did reach the region, the German troops began to suffer massive losses. At the end of the Battle of the Bulge, 80,000+ American troops had been killed, but well over 100,000 German casualties had been suffered. At one point it did look bleak and the assumption was the German Army would come out of the Battle of the Bulge victorious. The main reason they did not was because the American troops were able to fight gallantly and prevent the onward march of the Germans before they reached their strategic goals.

To a great extent, the fighting spirit of the American troops along with the British helped prevent the tide of the war from changing. Instead, the events were a bitter loss for Hitler and a very demoralizing one. For the Allied troops, a great psychological and tactical victory was gained.

The Losses for Germany

Germany endured devastating losses. In addition to the massive casualties, the German reserves were no more, the aerial warfare wing of the German troops was equally devastated and the German Western Front Line soldiers were pushed even further back. In a very short time after this battle, the war would be over and Germany would be defeated.


The Battle of the Bulge: One Company's Story

The forest was crawling with enemy soldiers. Third Platoon had to fight its way into its own company kitchen area.

The sound of German artillery shells shrieking overhead from across the Siegfried Line was not the wakeup call Technical Sergeant Robert Walter of 3rd Platoon, L Company, 3rd Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment expected to receive on the morning of December 16, 1944.

He had experienced enemy shelling before. Since mid-November, when the 99th Infantry Division assumed responsibility for the sector of the Ardennes Forest previously manned by the 9th Infantry Division, Sergeant Walter and his fellow 99ers had been the recipients of regular artillery barrages that were carried out with predictable German efficiency. Every day at the same time, the periscopes on the bunkers across the Siegfried Line rose out of their ports. A short time later, a half dozen rounds would come crashing down on the American lines. After that, the guns fell silent for the rest of the day.

“That Ends Our Daily Ration!”

The men of the Checkerboard Division had started calling this their “daily allowance” and even found some comfort in the routine. Sergeant Walter and his foxhole mates figured the present bombardment was just more of the same and that, for whatever reason, the Germans were getting things done a little early that morning—0530 to be exact.

Soon, though, it became apparent that something was very different about this day’s enemy fire mission. Rather than a leisurely six rounds for the entire attack, that number of shells now rained down in a matter of seconds. Bright flashes lit up the darkness, the ground shook, and the noise was incredible.

Also, instead of dying out after a few minutes the barrage continued for what seemed like forever—and only grew in intensity. “That ends our daily ration!” one of the men with Walter quipped over the din as they huddled in their foxhole. To the 22-year-old technical sergeant, however, something big was obviously going on.

What puzzled Walter was that none of the shells seemed to be aimed at the thin line of infantrymen stretched along the International Highway, a north-south road essentially marking the border between Belgium and Germany. Instead, the target appeared to be farther west. He concluded that the enemy gunners were trying to knock out the 99th Division’s artillery battalions located a mile or so northeast of the twin villages of Krinkelt and Rocherath, Belgium.

At approximately 0730, the shelling lifted. Third Platoon and the rest of L Company stayed low in their foxholes, however. The sound of artillery was now replaced by rifle and machine-gun fire coming from seemingly everywhere around them. The rate of fire was especially heavy to the south, in the vicinity of L Company’s brother companies I and K.

The Wahlerscheid Offensive

This baffled Sergeant Walter. He could understand it if all of the noise was coming from the north, in the direction of Monschau. For the past three days a regimental combat team consisting of two battalions from the 99th’s 395th Infantry Regiment and the 2nd Battalion from his own 393rd had been supporting the 2nd Infantry Division’s efforts to seize the Wahlerscheid road junction inside the German border. The Wahlerscheid offensive was critical in the Allies’ larger effort to capture the Roer River dams, which were key to their advance across the Roer Plain. The Germans knew this, too, and had waged a ferocious defense to ensure the Wahlerscheid crossroad stayed in their hands.

To support the Wahlerscheid drive, the remainder of the 393rd and the 394th Infantry Regiment to its south (the third infantry regiment of the 99th Division) had staged limited objective demonstration attacks all along their front lines. Their goal was to occupy as many enemy troops as possible to discourage German commanders from relocating these resources to the battle up north. The action had been brisk at times but nothing like what Walter was now hearing to his right. A significant action was underway.

Robert Walter: Platoon Leader and Sergeant

As he continued listening to the unseen battle raging nearby, Sergeant Walter again focused on his unique, and not entirely welcome, position within 3rd Platoon. Like every platoon in the 99th, the 3rd had been led by an officer, a second lieutenant, when the division entered the line. Soon after arriving in the Ardennes, however, the lieutenant made a clumsy jump out of the bed of a truck and fractured an ankle so badly that he had to be removed from combat. Due to the manpower shortage at that point in the war, no replacement was immediately named. So, for the time being, Sergeant Walter had become 3rd Platoon’s leader as well as its sergeant.

Until now, the young NCO had not found his dual role too overwhelming. But as the small arms exchange to the south continued growing in volume, the weight of his responsibilities began to press on him. He wished his company commander, Captain Paul Fogelman, would radio to let him know what was happening. The captain’s call finally came, but it was not at all what Walter had expected.

“Bob,” Fogelman’s voice crackled over the speaker, “I received a report that some Germans have infiltrated our kitchen area. Take your platoon back and clear them out.”

That was it? Along with the orders, Walter had hoped for an update regarding all that gunfire. But the captain did not act like he knew any more about the situation. “Yes, sir,” Walter replied. He was now more concerned than ever.

Clearing the Kitchen Area

Rousting his men from their foxholes, Walter briefed them on the mission and told them to take along only what they needed for the assignment, which in this case consisted mainly of rifles, ammunition, and grenades. The intent was to get the job done and get back to their foxholes as soon as possible, so everything not absolutely necessary was to be left behind. Within minutes, the platoon was headed west toward the company kitchen area located roughly three city blocks from the front line.

It might as well have been three miles. In the dense woods, the men could not see more than a few feet ahead of them. Not wanting to get separated and not sure what they were walking into, they proceeded with caution.

Before the platoon got halfway to its destination, Sergeant Walter’s worst fears were realized. Germans, a lot of them, began appearing all around the unit. This was much more than a few infiltrators. The forest was crawling with enemy soldiers. Third Platoon had to fight its way into its own company kitchen area.

Once there, the men began cleanup operations while Sergeant Walter radioed back to the front lines. “Hey, something’s really gone wrong!” he yelled into the handset. “There are more Germans back here than there are in front of us!” To Walter everything seemed to have gotten turned around and they were now fighting the war in reverse.

Despite the topsy turvy situation, 3rd Platoon’s order stood: clear the kitchen area. Surprisingly, the Germans there seemed more interested in continuing west than in trading bullets with Walter and his men. As the platoon moved in, these invaders moved out. Soon, the little patch of ground was back in friendly hands with the exception of one small building that no one had yet checked out.

Three Drunk Germans

By now, the sounds of battle from the surrounding woods had grown noticeably fiercer—and closer! Third Platoon went to ground, the men crouching or lying behind anything that offered even a measure of protection. Sergeant Walter desperately wanted to withdraw the platoon back to the company position, but he still was not sure about the status of that lone building. Under the circumstances, strolling up to the door and peeking inside did not seem particularly wise. The sergeant called to one of his men near the structure to throw a grenade at it, figuring the explosion would persuade anyone inside to come out.

The soldier’s toss missed the mark, and so did those of other platoon members who took a crack at the building. None could hit it. Since he had played a lot of softball as a kid, Walter finally decided he might have better luck. Rising to his feet behind a tree, he pulled the pin on a grenade, released the handle, counted to two, then stepped out and let fly.

Walter’s grenade did not hit its target either. But instead of falling short, it sailed over the roof of the building, exploding as it passed above the ridge. Shrapnel slapped down on the shingles the noise inside must have been deafening. Despite being a serious overthrow, Walter’s effort had produced exactly the effect he had wanted.

At the same time, not 30 feet from where the sergeant made his throw, a flag rose from a foxhole that the L Company kitchen crew had dug sometime in the past. But its current occupants were not members of the 99th Division. Rather, they turned out to be three German soldiers with a machine gun who had decided to take cover there when 3rd Platoon showed up. Walter was stunned. He had no idea why they had not shot him down when he stepped out from behind the tree.


Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge)

In a desperate attempt to regain the initiative, halt the allied advance, and retake the port of Antwerp, the Germans, in December 1944, launched their last major offensive of the war. Thirty German divisions were secretly massed in the Ardennes Forest and then thrown against a weakened American line on December 16, 1944. The Americans were completely taken by surprise, and the Germans made excellent headway.

At Bastogne, a vital road interchange, members of the 101st Airborne Division held out against the German attack, completely cutoff from reinforcements or supplies.

Patton's Third Army, fighting south of the Ardennes, disengaged from the enemy, turned north, and, within several days, engaged the Germans in the Ardennes and relieved Bastogne. By December 22, the German advance had stalled, while the Americans were able to mass more and more men and armor. In January 1945, the Americans attacked from the north as well, but were unable to cut off the German retreat. However, the bulge was closed and the Allies again went on the offensive, this time against considerably weakened Germans, who had used most of what they had left in the Ardennes Offensive.


The missing man: One family’s story of the Battle of the Bulge

The Battle of the Bulge was the largest and bloodiest single battle fought by the United States in World War II. After almost constant Allied gains following the D-Day and the Normandy invasion, it was the German High Command’s hope that focusing their last reserves to seizing the Belgian port of Antwerp and splitting the British and American forces would force the Allies to sue for peace.

The battle began on December 16, 1944, and lasted about a month. The Germans surprised the Allies when their initial assault unleashed over 400,000 troops against an Allied line of only half that strength. While some of the Allied line held experienced fighting units, other parts were thinly held by fresh units.

One soldier on that line was a young man from Salisbury, Maryland, named Vernon Lee German. After marrying, he moved to Chester, Pennsylvania, where he became the manager of the local Montgomery Ward. In September 1940, the Selective Training and Service Act was instituted and a month later Vernon German signed up for the draft.

Vernon German received a Purple Heart for his actions at the Battle of the Bulge. This is his story.

Three years later, his number hadn’t been called. So on October 9, 1943, German went to the recruiting station in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and enlisted. After basic training in Fort Eustis, Virginia, he attended Officer Candidate School in Fort Benning, Georgia. He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Infantry and shipped out to France in October 1944.

Two months later, he was on the line when the Battle of the Bulge began. Vernon German was further south of the main German offensive, but the fighting was intense since the enemy was defending its own soil. On both sides, casualties mounted. Several days later, on December 23, 29-year-old Vernon German became another.

The army sent a Western Union telegram to Vernon’s wife, Roxie, on January 15, 1945, informing her that he was reported missing in action since December 23.

Initial telegram sent to Roxie German, January 1945.

Long months passed without any word, and then, during the spring thaw, a gruesome discovery was made: Vernon German’s body. He had lain undisturbed under a thick blanket of snow and ice for months on the battlefield. Identification was made easier because Vernon German was wearing a bracelet engraved with his name and serial number.

A bracelet with German's name engraved on it.

A second telegram was dispatched to Roxie German on June 5, 1945, this one more emotional than the last:

Second telegram sent to Roxie German, June 1945.

Vernon German’s commanding officer wrote to Vernon’s widow with more information:

The company was in an attack near Medelsheim. Lieut. German led his platoon under severe enemy fire when it encountered concealed German machinegun nests. The Germans opened fire, killing Lieut. German instantly. The remainder of the platoon retreated and Lieut. German’s body was never recovered as the area was taken over by the enemy.

Burial flag of Vernon German in the box it was sent to Roxie German in.

Vernon German was laid to rest in Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial in Hamm, Luxembourg City, Luxembourg, in 1946. The burial flag was sent to Roxie German, who kept it for many years in its original shipping container, along with Vernon’s Purple Heart medal, awarded posthumously. Roxie lived for almost another half century. As for Vernon German, he forever remains the young, blond-haired, blue-eyed manager of the Montgomery Ward in Chester, Pennsylvania, surrounded by those like him: young men who went off to fight a war on foreign soil, never to return.

Kathleen Golden is a curator in the Division of Political and Military History.


The Battle of the Bulge

The Battle of the Bulge, also known as the Ardennes Counteroffensive, took place from 16 December 1944 to 25 January 1945, and was the last major German offensive campaign on the Western Front during World War II. It was launched through the densely forested Ardennes region of Wallonia in eastern Belgium, northeast France, and Luxembourg, towards the end of the war in Europe. The offensive was intended to stop Allied use of the Belgian port of Antwerp and to split the Allied lines, allowing the Germans to encircle and destroy four Allied armies and force the Western Allies to negotiate a peace treaty in the Axis powers’ favor.

The Germans achieved a total surprise attack on the morning of 16 December 1944, due to a combination of Allied overconfidence, preoccupation with Allied offensive plans, and poor aerial reconnaissance due to bad weather. American forces bore the brunt of the attack and incurred their highest casualties of any operation during the war. The battle also severely depleted Germany’s armored forces, and they were largely unable to replace them. German personnel and, later, Luftwaffe aircraft (in the concluding stages of the engagement) also sustained heavy losses. The Germans had attacked a weakly defended section of the Allied line, taking advantage of heavily overcast weather conditions that grounded the Allies’ overwhelmingly superior air forces. Fierce resistance on the northern shoulder of the offensive, around Elsenborn Ridge, and in the south, around Bastogne, blocked German access to key roads to the northwest and west that they counted on for success. Columns of armor and infantry that were supposed to advance along parallel routes found themselves on the same roads. This, and terrain that favored the defenders, threw the German advance behind schedule and allowed the Allies to reinforce the thinly placed troops. The furthest west the offensive reached was the village of Foy-Nôtre-Dame, south east of Dinant, being stopped by the US 2nd Armoured Division on 24 December 1944. Improved weather conditions from around 24 December permitted air attacks on German forces and supply lines, which sealed the failure of the offensive. On 26 December the lead element of Patton’s US Third Army reached Bastogne from the south, ending the siege. Although the offensive was effectively broken by 27 December, when the trapped units of 2nd Panzer Division made two break-out attempts with only partial success, the battle continued for another month before the front line was effectively restored to its position prior to the attack. In the wake of the defeat, many experienced German units were left severely depleted of men and equipment, as survivors retreated to the defenses of the Siegfried Line.

The Germans’ initial attack involved 410,000 men just over 1,400 tanks, tank destroyers, and assault guns 2,600 artillery pieces 1,600 anti-tank guns and over 1,000 combat aircraft, as well as large numbers of other armored fighting vehicles (AFVs).[4] These were reinforced a couple of weeks later, bringing the offensive’s total strength to around 450,000 troops, and 1,500 tanks and assault guns. Between 63,222 and 98,000 of these men were killed, missing, wounded in action, or captured. For the Americans, out of a peak of 610,000 troops,[18] 89,000[5] became casualties out of which some 19,000 were killed.[5][19] The “Bulge” was the largest and bloodiest single battle fought by the United States in World War II and the second deadliest battle in American history.


Battle of the Bulge - HISTORY

Here is every one of the 158 Wisconsin burials and MIAs at the three main American cemeteries in Europe that are from the Battle of the Bulge. Death dates are between Dec. 16, 1944, and Jan. 25, 1945, the period of the giant battle. 

The cemeteries are in Belgium and Luxembourg. A few of these soldiers may have been lost outside the massive theater of the Battle of the Bulge but still buried or memorialized at these three cemeteries, for whatever reason. Similarly, it is possible that other soldiers from the Bulge were buried in other European cemeteries outside the immediate region, such as if they were evacuated because of wounds and died elsewhere.

This list, which is diligently sorted out using multiple search factors from the database at www.abmc.gov, does not include any soldier whose body was returned home after the war. The database is only for foreign burials and MIAs. Nothing even remotely similar exists for domestic burials. 

Given that this list is 158, longtime researcher and author Tom Mueller estimates the overall Wisconsin death toll at more than 300 in the Battle of the Bulge.

The list is alphabetical by each cemetery. The men are from 48 of Wisconsin’s 71 counties at the time. A total of 38 (24 percent) are from Milwaukee County.

The home county usually was obtained from http://www.accessgenealogy.com/military/world-war-2-casualties.htm 

Army / Air Corps records gave only the county. In some cases, other records were used. But in a very few cases, records do not show a county and the soldier cannot even be found via his serial number in the booklet in any state.

A total of six men (three from Rock County) were killed on the first day of the battle four were in infantry regiments, one in an armored infantry battalion and one in a B-17 bomber. 

Two soldiers who were killed on the same day, Jan. 13, were from Dane County and were in the same unit – 327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division – and are buried only a few graves from each other at Henri-Chappelle in Belgium. They trained together, they fought together and are buried almost literally together.

A total of 14 Wisconsin deaths were in the 101st Airborne and 11 in the 9th Armored Division. 

Nine men were KIA on Christmas Eve and five on Christmas Day. But the worst day was Jan. 13, when 11 from Wisconsin were killed. Six of those were in the 101st Airborne.

There also had been nine KIA on Dec. 17. But no name on this list matches the names on a list of victims of the Malmedy massacre of Dec. 17, at http://www.ww2f.com/topic/1691-victims-of-the-malmedy-massacre/

A total of 23 from Wisconsin were killed in the first three days of the German offensive, but no one from Dec. 30 to Jan. 10, when the toll heated up again.

Of the 158 overall men killed, seven are MIA. One was a lieutenant in a medical battalion in the 106th Infantry Division.

More than 19,000 Americans were killed in the Bulge, according to Rick Atkinson’s excellent 2013 book “The Guns at Last Light,” which is about the last year of the war. More than one million men, including 500,000 Americans, fought in the battle at some point, according to http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1753.html

Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery at Henri-Chapelle, Belgium – 77

Private First Class, U.S. Army

291st Infantry Regiment, 75th Infantry Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

551st Parachute Infantry Regiment

330th Infantry Regiment, 83rd Infantry Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division

Technical Sergeant, U.S. Army

291st Infantry Regiment, 75th Infantry Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

513th Parachute Infantry Regt, 17th Airborne Division

3891st Quartermaster Truck Company

38th Infantry Battalion, 7th Armored Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

36th Armored Infantry Regiment, 3rd Armored Division

Technician Fifth Class, U.S. Army

3534th Ordnance Automotive Maintenance Company

10th Infantry Battalion, 4th Armored Division

Technician Fifth Class, U.S. Army

293rd Quartermaster Laundry Company

103rd Engineer Combat Battalion, 28th Infantry Division

705th Tank Destroyer Battalion

Private First Class, U.S. Army

289th Infantry Regiment, 75th Infantry Division

First Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Forces

836th Bomber Squadron, 487th Bomber Group, Heavy

Info at http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=56281835 has photos and says he was the pilot of a B-17 in a huge mission to bomb German airfields and supply lines, to stop the German offensive in the Battle of the Bulge. Lt Harriman's crew was chosen to lead the 487th Bomb Group, which led the entire 8th Air Force that day, the report says. He was shot down by German fighters south of Liege, Belgium. 

Private First Class, U.S. Army

394th Infantry Regiment, 99th Infantry Division

23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division

117th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division

Technician Fifth Class, U.S. Army

33rd Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Division

Technician Third Class, U.S. Army

23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division

Technical Sergeant, U.S. Army

36th Armored Infantry Regiment, 3rd Armored Division

23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division

330th Infantry Regiment, 83rd Infantry Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

109th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division

119th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

289th Infantry Regiment, 75th Infantry Division

Technician Fifth Class, U.S. Army

36th Armored Infantry Regiment, 3rd Armored Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

517th Parachute Infantry Regiment

2nd Tank Battalion, 9th Armored Division

508th Parachute Infantry Regiment

424th Infantry Regiment, 106th Infantry Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

393rd Infantry Regiment, 99th Infantry Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

509th Parachute Infantry Battalion

Technician Fifth Class, U.S. Army

41st Infantry Battalion, 2nd Armored Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

289th Infantry Regiment, 75th Infantry Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

42nd Field Artillery Battalion, 4th Infantry Division

325th Infantry Glider Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division

51st Infantry Battalion, 4th Armored Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

422nd Infantry Regiment, 106th Infantry Division

2nd Tank Battalion, 9th Armored Division

2nd Quartermaster Company, 2nd Infantry Division

Technician Fourth Class, U.S. Army

703rd Tank Destroyer Battalion

333rd Infantry Regiment, 84th Infantry Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division

Plot E Row 16 Grave 26 (five graves from Anthony Richgels in same unit and from same county (see below)

Private First Class, U.S. Army

290th Infantry Regiment, 75th Infantry Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

52nd Infantry Battalion, 9th Armored Division

Technician Fifth Class, U.S. Army

2nd Tank Battalion, 9th Armored Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

290th Infantry Regiment, 75th Infantry Division

589th Field Artillery Bn, 106th Infantry Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

39th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

508th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Private First Class, U.S. Army

424th Infantry Regiment, 106th Infantry Division

First Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Forces

726th Bomber Squadron, 451st Bomber Group, Heavy

Info at http://www.fieldsofhonor-database.com/index.php/american-war-cemetery-henri-chapelle-s/47163-schams-bernard-w says his B-24 was lost near Ringwitz, Germany, while on a mission to bomb the oil plant at Odertal. He was the co-pilot.

401st Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

424th Infantry Regiment, 106th Infantry Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

119th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

52nd Infantry Battalion, 9th Armored Division

119th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division

Flight Officer, U.S. Army Air Forces

836th Bomber Squadron, 487th Bomber Group, Heavy

Not found in database, but info at http://files.usgwarchives.net/mi/wayne/hsgs/military/mil_ww2way.txt says his adult home of record was in Wayne County, Michigan. Info at http://lostaircraft.com/database_print.php?lang=en&mode=viewentry&e=25750&changeset_id=6 says his B-17 plane was shot down by German aircraft near Rouvreux (Château-de-Warnoumont) - Belgium.

41st Infantry Battalion, 2nd Armored Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

310th Infantry Regiment, 78th Infantry Division

Technical Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Forces

453rd Bomber Squadron, 323rd Bomber Group, Medium

Info at http://www.fieldsofhonor-database.com/index.php/american-war-cemetery-henri-chapelle-s/58790-smith-virgil says he was engineer / gunner of a B-26 bomber that crashed amid flak near St. Vith, Belgium, which was one of the main centers of the Battle of the Bulge. 

Private First Class, U.S. Army

327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

Military Police Platoon, 30th Infantry Division

Story by grandson is at http://5passports.blogspot.com/2010/06/william-s-staehling.html

Was member of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity at what is now University of Wisconsin – Madison, according to http://www.phigam.org/wwii

327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division

Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Forces

565th Bomber Squadron, 389th Bomber Group, Heavy

Info at http://www.americanairmuseum.com/person/8393 says he was in B-24 shot down over Luxembourg and was bombardier or nose gunner.

41st Infantry Battalion, 2nd Armored Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

17th Tank Battalion, 7th Armored Division

Technician Fifth Class, U.S. Army

705th Tank Destroyer Battalion

Technician Fifth Class, U.S. Army

740th Railway Operating Battalion

Private First Class, U.S. Army

393rd Infantry Regiment, 99th Infantry Division

423rd Infantry Regiment, 106th Infantry Division

517th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Luxembourg American Cemetery at Luxembourg City, Luxembourg – 70

22nd Tank Battalion, 11th Armored Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

401st Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division

Technical Sergeant, U.S. Army

2nd Infantry Regiment, 5th Infantry Division

in database as Washington state, which must be his adult home of record. Wisconsin home county not known.

Private First Class, U.S. Army

347th Infantry Regiment, 87th Infantry Division

Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Forces

412nd Bomber Squadron, 95th Bomber Group, Heavy

Info at http://www.americanairmuseum.com/person/146665 says he was co-pilot of B-17 shot down near Avesnes in northern France.

Private First Class, U.S. Army

502nd Parachute Infantry Regt, 101st Airborne Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

134th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

60th Infantry Battalion, 9th Armored Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

345th Infantry Regiment, 87th Infantry Division

Technician Fifth Class, U.S. Army

60th Infantry Battalion, 9th Armored Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

705th Tank Destroyer Battalion

First Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Forces

574th Bomber Squadron, 391st Bomber Group, Medium

Info at http://www.391stbombgroup.com/574crew.htm says he was pilot of B-26 Marauder. Info at xxxxxxx says “On December 23, 1944, they were dispatched from their base in Roye/Amy, France, on a mission to bomb the Ahrweiler Bridge in Germany – their 15th mission. After circling their target, they encountered enemy planes and were shot down near Kelberg, Germany.” This site also has photos of Detjens and other crew.

378th Infantry Regiment, 95th Infantry Division

270th Field Artillery Battalion

320th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

63rd Infantry Battalion, 11th Armored Division

376th Infantry Regiment, 94th Infantry Division

Outagamie County Army booklet has name as Foxgrove, but some Foxgrover relatives are buried in Appleton, according to Find a Grave genealogists

Private First Class, U.S. Army

2nd Infantry Regiment, 5th Infantry Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

104th Infantry Regiment, 26th Infantry Division

134th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

317th Infantry Regiment, 80th Infantry Division

10th Infantry Battalion, 4th Armored Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

319th Infantry Regiment, 80th Infantry Division

301st Infantry Regiment, 94th Infantry Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

346th Infantry Regiment, 87th Infantry Division

1389th Engineer Forestry Company

10th Infantry Regiment, 5th Infantry Division

Technician Fifth Class, U.S. Army

109th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division

502nd Parachute Infantry Regt, 101st Airborne Division

Technician Fifth Class, U.S. Army

42nd Tank Battalion, 11th Armored Division

Technician Fifth Class, U.S. Army

635th Anti-Aircraft Arty (Automatic Weapons) Battalion

Taylor County (has been determined to be Medford)

501st Parachute Infantry Regt, 101st Airborne Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

41st Tank Battalion, 11th Armored Division

317th Infantry Regiment, 80th Infantry Division

7th Engineer Combat Battalion, 5th Infantry Division

Not in searchable database, but enlistment records show it was Milwaukee County, enlisting Jan. 31, 1941

Technician Fifth Class, U.S. Army

52nd Infantry Battalion, 9th Armored Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

376th Infantry Regiment, 94th Infantry Division

Not in searchable database, but enlistment records show name was Markakrs from Milwaukee County and enlisted Nov. 23, 1942

50th Field Artillery Battalion, 5th Infantry Division

60th Infantry Battalion, 9th Armored Division

109th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division

Not in searchable database but enlistment records show he was from Milwaukee County and enlisted on Aug. 12, 1940

Technician Fourth Class, U.S. Army

42nd Tank Battalion, 11th Armored Division

81st Medical Battalion, 11th Armored Division

22nd Tank Battalion, 11th Armored Division

319th Infantry Regiment, 80th Infantry Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

21st Infantry Battalion, 11th Armored Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division

Technical Sergeant, U.S. Army

193rd Infantry Regiment, 17th Airborne Division

Photo is at http://www.ww2-airborne.us/units/193/193_trp.html

331st Medical Battalion, 106th Infantry Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

345th Infantry Regiment, 87th Infantry Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

101st Infantry Regiment, 26th Infantry Division

301st Infantry Regiment, 94th Infantry Division

Technician Fourth Class, U.S. Army

104th Infantry Regiment, 26th Infantry Division

318th Infantry Regiment, 80th Infantry Division

Private First Class, U.S. Army

377th Infantry Regiment, 95th Infantry Division

No county listed, but enlistment record shows he was from Manitowoc County and enlisted in Milwaukee on June 27, 1942


Watch the video: Battle of the Bulge. Animated History (May 2022).