On This Day – 16 December 1944
The Germans launched their last major offensive of World War II, known to most as the Battle of the Bulge the Germans originally called it Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein (operation watch on the Rhine). This battle which lasted until the 25th of January 1944 became the bloodiest battle of World War II for the Americans, The Department of the Army recording US losses at more than 108,000.
This offensive saw German troops and armour moved through densely forested areas of the Ardennes with the intent to split the Allied forces and prevent their use of the Belgian port of Antwerp.
The attack caught the Allies by complete surprise, with the German forces attacking a weakly defended point in the Allies lines, and taking full advantage of the poor weather that saw the Allied aircraft grounded.
However, heavy resistance at key points prevented the German forces from being able to access important roads that were vital to their plans which slowed the offensive and allowed the Allies to reinforce their weak points and to bring their air superiority into play.
The German forces were badly defeated with the official losses according to German high command at more than 81,000 causalities and the loss of large numbers of tanks and aircraft which would prove critical for the Germans as their reserves were now essentially depleted.