Battle of the Bulge/Bastogne in Brief
After the allies landed in Normandy, France on D-Day, 6 June 1944, they eventually pushed the German Wehrmacht back into Germany. Confidence was high that the curtain would soon fall on the European Theater of World War II.
On 16 December 1944, the German army counterattacked with overwhelming force across a broad front through the Ardennes region into Belgium and Luxembourg and caught the American army completely by surprise. Frontline US Army units, including the 28th Infantry Division, fought bravely but could not hold. During what became known as the Battle of the Bulge, American reinforcements were rushed toward critical locations in the Ardennes, with Bastogne being of utmost importance. The market town’s expansive network of hard-surfaced roads would have been vital for the rapid advancement of German armored units.
Among the first to move out was the 10th Armored Division which made haste toward Bastogne to beat the Germans to the strategic town and to defend it until reinforced by the 101st Airborne Division. Outnumbered and outgunned, 10th Armored held until the paratroopers finally arrived by truck from France, having been grounded by harsh weather. The Germans surrounded, shelled and bombed the town, and attacked from every point of the compass, but the Americans did not yield. As the days passed, aid stations overflowed with wounded and medical supplies dwindled. Amid the chaos of the battle, doctors, medics, and nurses – including two heroic Belgians – did what they could to alleviate suffering and prolong lives until the beleaguered town and its valiant defenders could be relieved.
At the end of January, 1945, Allied forces pushed the Germans out of the bulge they had created in the American lines and back into the Fatherland once again, bringing the Battle of the Bulge to a close. The 76,890 Americans killed, wounded or missing during the battle are honored at the awe-inspiring Mardasson Monument on a hill outside Bastogne.
Recommended background reading:
“A Time for Trumpets” by Charles B. MacDonald