The Battle of the Bulge, fought from Dec. 16, 1944 to Jan. 25, 1945, was the last major Nazi offensive against the Allies in World War II and was the largest and most costly battle to the Americans in terms of men in combat and lives lost. The battle was a last ditch attempt by Hitler to split the Allies in two in their drive towards Germany and destroy their ability to supply themselves. As it developed, it was the Germans who ran out of supplies.
Hitler had convinced himself that the alliance between Britain, France and America was not strong and that a major defeat would break it up. He ordered a massive attack against what were primarily American forces. The attack is strictly known as the Ardennes Offensive but because the initial German attack created a bulge in the Allied front line, it has become known as the Battleof the Bulge.
Hitler’s plan was to launch a massive attack using three armies against the Allies which would, in his mind, destabilize their accord and also take the huge Belgium port of Antwerp through which a great deal of supplies was reaching the Allies.
But despite punching a bulge into the Allies front line, the Germans could not capitalize on this. They had based their attack on a massive armored onslaught that required massive amounts of fuel to maintain it and the Germans simply did not possess it. Allied bombing of fuel plants in Germany meant that such supplies did not exist.
By mid-January, the lack of fuel was becoming evident as the Germans had to simply abandon their vehicles. The 1st SS Panzer Division had to make its way back to Germany on foot.
The Battle of the Bulge, most of it fought in heavy forests, deep snow and bitter cold, involved some 600,000 American troops. The U.S. Dept. of the Army listed 108,347 casualities, consisting of 19,246 killed, 62,489 wounded and 26,612 captured or missing in action. German casuality estimates range from 60,000 to 100,000.
After the Allies rapid advance through enemy territory following D-Day, the German counter offensive caught them by surprise and unprepared. But when German was forced to retreat, the Allies pressed their advantage. By the beginning of February 1945, the lines were roughly back where they had been in December. In early February, the Allies launched an attack all along the Western front.
German losses in the battle were critical in several respects: the last of the German reserves were now gone, the Luftwaffe had been shattered and the remaining German forces in the West were being pushed back.