Allies Win the Battle of the Bulge

U.S. #2838j – The only stamp in all of the U.S. WWII sheets to picture a winter scene.

On January 25, 1945, the Battle of the Bulge came to an end.

On July 25, 1944, Allied troops broke through German lines at Saint-Lo, France, and a month later, Paris was liberated after four long years of Nazi occupation.  Driving forward, General George S. Patton pushed eastward toward the Rhine River, while British commander Bernard Montgomery swept into Belgium, capturing Antwerp on September 4th.  By the late fall, U.S. and British forces had managed to drive the Germans back to their own borders.

U.S. #3394 – Bradley commanded the U.S. 12th Army during the battle.

Faced with disaster, Hitler made one final attempt to win the war.  Pulling together his failing resources, he planned to break through the weakly held 75-mile front of Belgium’s dense Ardennes Forest, severing the Allied forces in two.  The Germans planned their offensive with strict secrecy.  They kept radio communication to a minimum and moved troops and equipment at night.  Because the Allies were busy planning their own offensive, they failed to see what the Germans were up to.

On the misty morning of December 16th, more than 200,000 German troops and about 1,000 tanks launched their attack.  The four U.S. units they targeted were caught by complete surprise, because their superior air force was grounded by overcast skies.  The two forces collided throughout the day, but the Germans eventually broke through the American front.  They captured most of a division, as well as key roads, and then marched toward the Meuse River.  This created a large bulge in the Allied lines, which is where the battle got its popular name.

U.S. #1026 – Patton led the U.S. 3rd Army during the battle.

Immediately, supreme Allied commander Dwight D. Eisenhower sent reinforcements to prevent the Germans from pushing in any further.  Days later, Patton had turned his troops around and launched a counterattack on the German flank.  The troops at the front were often isolated in the forest and unaware of the situation in the overall battle, but still did their part to slow the Nazi advance.  This included moving or destroying stocks of gasoline, which the German tanks needed to advance, and keeping them away from vital crossroads.  At the Bastogne crossroads, a German commander ordered the Americans to surrender, to which General Anthony McAuliffe famously replied, “Nuts!”

Item #20039 – Omar Bradley commemorative cover.

The Allies also had the terrain in their favor, which set the Germans behind schedule, allowing for more Allied reinforcements to arrive.  And as the weather cleared, the Allies were finally able to launch air attacks on the German forces and their supply lines, which proved to be one of the most determining factors in the failed German offensive. By January 16, 1945, the Ardennes front had been re-established to where it had been a month earlier, though fighting continued until the last German troops withdrew on January 25.

Item #20067 – George Patton commemorative cover.

The Battle of the Bulge was one of the war’s largest and bloodiest battles to involve the United States.  Of the 300,000 Germans that fought, up to 125,000 were killed, missing, or wounded.  Meanwhile, the Americans, 610,000 strong, suffered 89,000 casualties.

Following the battle, British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill stated, “This is undoubtedly the greatest American battle of the war and will, I believe, be regarded as an ever-famous American victory.”

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  1. The Allies let their guard down in the Ardennes. Ironically, it was the same area where the Germans had broken through the French back in 1940.

    1. Quite right Mr. Zeimet, and in fact when one looks at the archives — American and French — you can see much of the same wording. There was the feeling that the forests were the friends of the allies. The terrain analysis is almost the same; tanks could NOT get through the woods. By 1944 there was a consensus among allied planners that the bombing campaigns were so successful the German army could not supply the sinews of war for what troops they had left. There was certainly a shortage of fuel, but the Germans had good leadership and high morale among the troops in December, 1944. Dr. James J. Cooke, Prof. Emeritus of History, Ole Miss.

  2. I was 20 at the time, in the Navy in the U.S., and I remember the shock to everyone when the battle was launched. People had been talking about celebrating at Christmas with the end of the war in sight. Instead, it was a Christmas of anxiety. We were all worried about Bastogne. When the Germans received the reply, “Nuts”, they were puzzled because they didn’t know how to translate it.

  3. Thanks for remembering me on my birthday, January 25, 1949! I appreciate the kind gesture but have to point out that by the time I was born, World War Two had long ended, and my father had returned home from the prisoner-of-war camp where he had been held until November 1947.

    Just thought I ‘d bring to your attention the fact that I noticed an apparent typographical error – January 25, 1945 is the day in question, NOT January 25, 1949!

    1. Please enlighten me. I read the article twice, and still could not figure where January, 25, 1949 CAME FROM!!!. Also, Where and what POW Camp was Mr. Waetrmans father was intered at? Unless of course it was a Japanese POW Camp, Still 1947??

  4. Being a 5th year grade school boy at the time, our class and the older grade classes were informed by the school direction and our teacher of the new German attack in the Belgian Ardennes during January 1945. It has been the 1st time in my life that I was somewhat scared as a child that the war would come back as we, in northwestern Belgium had been freed from the German occupation in the preceding month of September, when joy by seeing the first English military men overrode fear. Fortunately on my dear fathers 38th birthday, January 25, the good news came that the new danger was over. I was unaware of the enormous number of casualties the battle of the Bulge had required. I gratefully honour all US troops who made this significant victorious turn of World war II possible and safeguarded human freedom

  5. It was a time when Americans looked up to their leadership with pride, knowing that they made decisions that were morally correct, constitutionally accurate and the very best for what the USA believed in and stood for.

  6. One of the great problems for the allies was the quality of troops that were the first to feel the weight of the German attack on December 16. There were very green troops that were put into the line to get some seasoning as combat infantrymen. A case in point was the 106th Infantry Div., known as the Golden Lions because of their shoulder patch. This unit did establish regular patrolingThe records of that divisions G2 reveals that there were no warnings of an attack nor was there any sense of urgency in doing patroling from the corps G2. That divisions simply fell apart, and 106th Commander “lost his nerve.” We were fortunate to have leaders like Patton, Bradley who fought a battle where Victory was the only solution to the attack. By the way, BG McAuliffe did not exactly say nuts. Evidence shows that he said something like s..t! Dr. James J. Cooke, Prof. Emeritus of History (U. of Miss).

  7. Again nothing was mentioned about Commonwealth (Australia, NZ, Canada, etc) soldiers who formed a sizable chunk of the ‘British’ army instrumental in the liberation of France. Canadians of Norman/Flemish origins (kebek) were chosen as the first wave of soldiers to liberate the ‘mother’ land of Normandy, and this then helped establish the bulge line pushing the Germans back through Ardennes and Flanders. Thank you again for second-to-none historical sketches. GdR.

  8. Another then 20-year old remembers this well, although my involvement was very indirect. As a very new 2nd Lt., I was on the high seas en route to the European Theater of Operations with an Engineer combat Battalion when we heard of the German counter-offensive. It was a shock because we were under the impression, from the headlong German retreat across France, that it was all about over. The rumor quickly spread that, instead of disembarking in England for further unit-training, we would be thrown into the battle. This was especially believable in that combat engineers were trained and armed similarly to infantry. Clearly, there had been an intelligence and/or leadership lapse that allowed the German attack to be a surprise. I have great respect for those who fought in cruel winter weather in the Huertgen Forest.

  9. Thank God for the great leadership, bravery, and valor of the NATO and American military people who fought so valiantly in our behalf. My Uncle Eino fought with the U.S. Army in World War II in Europe and may have been involved in the Battle of the Bulge. I remember and pay tribute here to: 1.) Uncle Eino; 2.) Uncle Arnie who served in the Army in Philippines during World War II; 3.) my father Rueben who was on the Navy aircraft carrier Bunker Hill during the land sea invasion battle of Okinawa; and 4.) all the men and women who serve our country. Thank You!!! We should never forget that the world can be a dangerous place requiring constant attention and vigilance. Thank you Mystic Stamp Company for helping us remember and pay tribute to our military men and women. Best Regards Dr. Doug

  10. My Dad was was a company commander in a unit of Patton’s 3rd Army that broke off from combat in southern France and raced through the winter storms spearheaded by Lt Col Creighton Abrams tank force. The only time I ever saw my Dad cry was when I took him to Bastogne, and he saw the burned out tank in the square. He lost several of his soldiers in this combat.

  11. My uncle was 19, newly married and in the Battle of the Bulge. He never spoke about these horrid conditions but only a few amusing things that happened. It was only when I grew up and read about how bad it was in the freezing temperatures etc did I realize what he had been through.

  12. I had been through this battle was moving on to take the Seigfried Line. On Feb 6, 1945 I was hit
    with shrapnel from a 88 gun and I was in the hospital for year and half recovering. But the pass
    71 years m y thoughts go back to those days. They did not kill me but gave me some thing to feel
    and remember for rest of my life. I am 91 years old.

  13. Nothing changes in life. Never turn your back on a rat that is trapped. At that point Germany had nothing to lose and everything to gain. We as a nation can never afford to let down our guard. The rats are still out there.

  14. Thanks for this wonderful essay regarding the “Battle of the Bulge,” Mystic. Thanks also to everyone who commented that was there or who was in the military at the time, your service is, was and always will be appreciated.

  15. This day in history is one of the few e-mails that I actually read, enjoy and look forward to receiving. The vast majority of e-ma ilsI delete without bothering to opening them

  16. I believe Tom Brokaw coined the phrase, “America’s best generation”. When you here the accounts of battles such as today’s feature you realize how spot on that expression is. I appreciate not only Mystic’s article but also the comments of those who replied because they had a relative there, studied the war extensively, and Mr. Kenneth Williams, for being there.

  17. My father and father-in-law served here. In 1980 I was able to take my father-in-law to the Netherlands (A Bridge Too Far/Operation Market Garden) and Belgium to retrace his steps since he was having a war reunion in October in Boston. Along the way we visited five American WWII cemeteries. In the Netherlands Cemetery 190 Texans had their war reunion in place since so many of their soldiers were killed. They welcomed us with open arms. Bastogne was awesome since the cannons and tanks were still in place so no one could forget what we did for them. McCauliffe’s bust was in the town square. We didn’t have to pay for anything and I was made an honorary member of the Bulge. There were two cemeteries in Belgium including one with my father-in-law’s comrades. He took photos of the grave and shared it at the reunion. The cemetery in Luxembourg contained General Patton’s grave, whom my father-in-law knew. The final cemetery was in France – our largest with 14,000 graves.He was the hit of his reunion and then sadly died the following February at age 63. My only consolation is that he was able to revisit the Bulge and share it with his comrades.

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