The Battle of the Bulge, commonly referred to as the Battle of the Ardennes, was fought between 16 December 1944 and 25 January 1945. It was fought in the icy Ardennes region in France, Luxembourg and Belgium and on the Western front. That battle, along with other battles, was significant for ending World War II. It provoked the end of the Nazi reign, and had an intense effect on the survived soldiers. Not much is known about various offensives at the end of the Second World War. This research paper will investigate the significance of the Battle of the Bulge for the Allied forces in winning World War II.
The Course of the Battle
Many historians can agree that aiming for the Antwerp harbor was a very ambitious project considering Germany's scarce resources by the end of 1944. Additionally, German army generals felt that keeping a purely defensive position would only delay the defeat. They developed less ambitious plans that did not involve crossing the Meuse River. However, Hitler rejected such plans in favor of the Ardennes offensive. Previous Allies’ attacks on Axis Powers’ fuel sources had made the latter incapable of supplying their armies with the necessary resources. Historians concluded that the Ardennes offensive was Hitler’s last-minute effort, and if he had considered his supplies and their insufficiency, he would not have proceeded in a losing battle. However, the Allied forces, consisting of France, USA and Britain, were caught completely off guard by the surprise attack. The United States incurred the highest number of casualties. Hitler felt that the United States, Britain and France were not devoted to one another and would cease the conflict if they incurred significant casualties. His efforts were focused on the American forces in the Ardennes Offensive. German forces were supposed to go at the rear of the Allied armies and cause chaos by spreading misinformation, changing road signs, and cutting telephone lines. Initially, the surprise attack gave Hitler some advantage. However, this success was short-lived as the Allies utilized their superior air power to counter-attack.
The Aftermath of the Battle
During the Battle of the Bulge, the United States lost more than 19,000 soldiers, while Britain lost about 2,000. The Battle of the Bulge is noteworthy in the development of World War II as it was Hitler’s last major offensive. Hitler had intended to split Allied Powers and force negotiated peace. However, American forces contained the battle and inflicted heavier losses on the German forces. The Battle of the Bulge severely depleted Germany's war-making resources. Germany had gathered together all equipment and reinforcements they could find. Around January 1945, the temperature was extremely low. Truck engines were run every 30 minutes to prevent oil congealing. Weapons had to be maintained. German defeat during the battle meant that they had few resources and forces to face the advance of the American and British soldiers into Germany. During this battle, Germany lost about 30,000 soldiers; more than 44,000 infantry soldiers were captured or killed. Germans also lost a substantial number of tanks and other machinery. Since German industries could not replenish weapons in time, German forces were defeated.
Significance of Battle of the Bulge
The defeat of the Axis Powers was also important to the allies as Germany had a history of mounting counter offensives when their situation seemed irrecoverable. Surprise attacks had previously enabled Germany to win several battles. However, in the Battle of the Bulge, Germans were unable to recover. They could not even mount additional offensives to stop counter offensives by the Allied powers. Reducing the ability of German forces to defend them opened an opportunity for a series of consecutive surprise attacks on them.
Germans took advantage of several subordinate operations. Their forces stopped transport of the Allied forces on their way to the harbor of Antwerp with the aim of splitting American and British forces in half. It would enable the Germans to proceed to surround and destroy Allied armies and force them to negotiate a peace treaty in the favor of the Axis Powers. Consequently, Hitler could entirely concentrate on the Eastern battlefront. Germans were cautious and used their intelligence to plan an attack that would surprise Western Allies. They planned the Battle of the Bulge with utmost secrecy while moving equipment and troops under cover of darkness and minimizing radio traffic. Unfortunately for Germans, U.S Army intelligence discovered this and predicted the offensive operation. Despite the intelligence on a likely attack, Allied Powers were nearly caught off guard, mainly due to overconfidence, poor aerial reconnaissance and preoccupation with offensive plans.
The defeat of the Axis Powers was also important to the Allies; the Allies’ leadership had miscalculated the strength of the German army and flippantly left the Ardennes defended by two battered and inexperienced American divisions. Such miscalculations could have resulted in a big blow to the Allied forces. It would have weakened their significantly reduced army. It would have helped Germans gain the Allied weaponry, which was already depleting.
The Germans invaded a weakly defended unit of the Allied line. They took advantage of heavily gloomy weather, which grounded the overwhelmingly superior air forces of the Allied Powers. They experienced fierce resistance on the northern theatre of the offensive near Elsenborn Ridge and Bastogne in the south. Consequently, the Germans did not get access to key roads and columns they had planned to use to advance along parallel routes. In addition, the terrain favored the defenders and Germans did not respond in time. German’s defeat can also be attributed to the improved weather conditions that allowed Allies’ forces to launch air attacks on German supply lines. In August the year 1944, Allies entered Southern France and proceeded to advance toward Germany. The Supreme Allied Commander, General Eisenhower chose the Ardennes region as it could be held by just few troops. Besides, the Allies’ manpower situation was critical. In addition, the terrain enhanced defensive positioning as the road networks were few. The Allies knew that German troops were using the area as a resting area. Allies also chose the area because they lacked operational objectives.
Although the German offensive was stopped by the Allies’ forces, they were still in charge of a dangerous section in the Allied line. General Patton's Third Army was going to attack north, while Marshal Montgomery's forces wanted to strike south; the two forces planned to meet at Houffalize. Eisenhower wanted Montgomery to advance and meet with Patton's advancing Army on January 1, 1945. He wanted to cut off most of German attacking forces and trap them in a pocket. He delayed the attack until 3 January as he did not want to risk unprepared infantry for a strategically unimportant area; this enabled the Germans to retreat successfully, even though they lost most of their heavy equipment.
At the beginning of the offensive, the two American Armies were separated by approximately 40 km, and their progress in the south was limited to a kilometer a day. Most German soldiers withdrew successfully and escaped the area. However, the fuel situation became so dire that the soldiers had to abandon most of their armor. Although Hitler agreed to withdraw all forces from Ardennes on January 7, 1945, considerable fighting continued for another three weeks. Americans were able to recapture St. Vith on 23 January. The last German units did not return to their start line until 25 January. In the wake of the defeat, Germany was not able to concentrate on other battlegrounds. Concentrating on other areas would require Germany to build weaponry, train more soldiers or get substantial reinforcement. However, this situation could not be corrected.
The defeat of the Axis Powers was also important to the Allies as Germans had a higher likelihood of winning the battle owing to the familiar terrain and nightly movement of soldiers and weaponry. During World War II, most African-American soldiers served only in maintenance divisions or as servicemen. They worked in segregated units. They were integrated into the troops by Eisenhower owing to the shortage of troops during the battle. That move was an initial step towards a desegregated United States military. The move was quickly repeated in other theatres of the war, thereby helping Allied Powers to win.
The German offensive was disastrous. Germany did not have many strong allies and marshaled all its resources and manpower to fight and ground Allied forces. German soldiers knew they had to fight harder and smarter to counter the Allied forces. Hitler badly wanted either a win or a draw with the Allied forces in the west. The Allied forces remarkably turned from Lorraine and preoccupation with Bastogne and helped thwart the German counter offensive. Additionally, German forces were stretched too thin on both the Western and Eastern fronts.
The significance of the defeat of Axis Powers can also be understood through analysis of Germans’ motivation in joining the war. Adolph Hitler had publicly claimed that he wanted to expand Germany to the East with a view of creating a greater German Reich that would include the German-speaking peoples of Europe. Following the Treaty of Versailles, Germany lost its land; it made Germany strain both financially and politically. It made Germany lose national pride, a significant cornerstone of fascism. Germans, therefore, hoped to do everything necessary to retake lost lands. Initially, they hoped that they would do so without provoking a widespread war. The Nazis came to power through anti-communist election promises and intended to humiliate communist countries. Germans had been humiliated during WWI and desperately needed someone to blame. They used Jews as a driving force and also attacked their enemies, France and Britain. Winning the battle of the Bulge enabled Allied Powers to stop German fascism and the Nazi rule. It made Germany unable to fight back. It also stopped foreign invasion.
The battle at Bastogne was also important to the Allied Powers in winning the war. During siege of Bastogne, senior Allied commanders met on December 19, 1945 in a bunker in Verdun. Before the meeting, several westbound German forces were engaged, slowed and frustrated. They were gradually being forced back into quick defenses built within the town area. Furthermore, the only open corridor to the southeast was threatened. It was been intermittently closed as the front moved, and Allied Powers expected it to be closed sooner than later; there were strong predictions that the town would soon be surrounded. General Eisenhower realized that German forces would be destroyed more easily when they were on the offensive, rather than on the defensive. He saw the situation as an opportunity and suggested that the Allied forces let Germany forces go all the way to Paris. Thereafter, he would use two divisions to hit the Germans within 48 hours. He started moving troops and merged two divisions into Montgomery's 21st Army Group.
By December 21, 1945, the Germans had surrounded Bastogne. Despite determined German attacks, the perimeter held. The German commander requested Bastogne's surrender, but General Antony McAuliffe did not surrender Bastogne. After 21 December, two of German divisions moved forward from Bastogne, while one division was left to assist the 26th Volksgrenadier Division in capturing the crossroads. On the 25th December, 26th Volksgrenadier Division concentrated its assault on various individual sites on the western side of the perimeter. Their attacks went in sequence rather than simultaneously. The assault was eventually defeated, and all tanks destroyed. On the next day, however, one of General Patton’s divisions broke through the perimeter and opened a corridor to Bastogne. By 23 December, the weather conditions improved and Allied forces attacked Germans. German advance was effectively delayed on the Meuse. British army divisions had held various bridges and units and U.S. units soon started an assault. Consequently, the Germans were short of supplies, both fuel and ammunition. By the 24th December, Germans requested Hitler to stop all offensive operations. Hitler rejected that.
The defeat of the Axis Powers was also important to the allies since the Allied command was characterized as the one having constant disagreements and confusions, and consequently failed to make timely decisions. Such misunderstandings made Allied forces miss viable striking opportunities. Sometimes, German forces used their weaknesses to strike Allied Powers.
Some of the Hitler’s ambitious projects that led to the defeat of Germans include the attempt to capture Antwerp harbor and Bastogne town. The Battle of the Bulge was untimely as German had scarce resources by the end of 1944. The Battle of the Bulge was significant to the Allied forces in winning World War II. It led to the defeat of a major Axis Power. The Battle of the Bulge was vital in the wake of disagreement and confusion within the Allied command. Germans had a higher likelihood of winning the battle owing to the familiar terrain and nightly movement of soldiers and weaponry. The German forces could invade weakly defended units of the Allied line, leading to much destruction. German soldiers also could take advantage of the bad weather conditions to attack the Allied Powers. However, Germans were defeated. The Battle of the Bulge was also significant to the Allied Powers as it did not let Germany use the offensive to force a peace agreement with Western Powers and then focus on the Eastern battlefront.