BATTLE of the BULGE
December 16, 1944 to January 25, 1945
On 16 December 1944 the Germans started their ARDENNES OFFENSIVE. The 106th Infantry Division, in place on a salient jutting out into Germany were hit with full force. After three days of battle, two of the Regiments, the 422nd and the 423rd were surrounded. The 424th, south of the other two regiments, was able to withdraw and join with the 112th Regiment of the 28th Infantry Division. They formed a Regimental Combat Team and were successful in the oncoming days of January 1945 in helping counter the German attack driving the Germans back through the same area where the 106th had been in position in mid-December 1944. This German Offensive became known in the U.S. Forces journals as The Battle of the Bulge.
· The coldest, snowiest weather “in memory” in the Ardennes Forest on the German/Belgium border.
· Over a million men, 500,000 Germans, 600,000 Americans (more than fought at Gettysburg) and 55,000 British.
· 3 German armies, 10 corps, the equivalent of 29 divisions.
· 3 American armies, 6 corps, the equivalent of 31 divisions.
· The equivalent of 3 British divisions as well as contingents of Belgian, Canadian and French troops.
· 100,000 German casualties, killed, wounded or captured.
· 81,000 American casualties, including 23,554 captured and 19,000 killed.
· 1,400 British casualties 200 killed.
· 800 tanks lost on each side, 1,000 German aircraft.
· The Malmedy Massacre, where 86 American soldiers were murdered, was the worst atrocity committed against American troops during the course of the war in Europe.
· My division, the 106th Infantry Division, average age of 22 years, suffered 564 killed in action, 1,246 wounded and 7,001 missing in action at the end of the offensive. Most of these casualties occurred within the first three days of battle, when two of the division’s three regiments was forced to surrender.
· In it's entirety, the “Battle of the Bulge,” was the worst battles - in terms of losses - to the American Forces in WWII.
On a wintery mid-December day in 1944, three powerful German armies plunged into the semi-mountainous, heavily forested Ardennes region of eastern Belgium and northern Luxembourg. Their goal was to reach the sea, trap four allied armies, and impel a negotiated peace on the Western front.
Thinking the Ardennes was the least
likely spot for a German offensive, American Staff Commanders chose to keep the
line thin, so that the manpower might concentrate on offensives north and south
of the Ardennes.
The American line was thinly held by three divisions and a part of a fourth, while the fifth was making a local attack and a sixth was in reserve. Division sectors were more than double the width of normal, defensive fronts.
Even though the German Offensive achieved total surprise, nowhere did the American troops give ground without a fight. Within three days, the determined American stand and the arrival of powerful reinforcements insured that the ambitious German goal was far beyond reach.
In snow and sub-freezing temperatures the Germans fell short of their interim objective - that of reaching the sprawling Meuse River on the fringe of the Ardennes. All the Germans accomplished was to create a Bulge in the American line. In the process they expended irreplaceable men, tanks and material. Four weeks later, after grim fighting, with heavy losses on both the American and German sides, the Bulge ceased to exist.
Battle Action Credits: The 106th Infantry Division was credited with a holding action that used much of the precious time of the German Offensive. Time was an important and vital ingredient in Hitler's plan to break through to the Meuse River and then to go for Antwerp. The first three days of battle were vital and the 106th Infantry Division slowed his advance in the St. Vith area. By doing so the 106th played a large role in the final defeat of the German Army. The delay and extended battle used so much of the precious resources of the German Army that they were never again able to recoup and fight the style of war they had in earlier days. This delay in time was a big key in the final downfall of the German plans for their ARDENNES OFFENSIVE. The loss of their resources, both human and equipment accelerated their final defeat and caused an early end to the long war in Europe.
On 16 December 1944, the day the battle started, I was a 19 year old Sergeant, heavy machine gun squad leader (30 cal water cooled) turning twenty on January 10, 1945.
The 106th Infantry Division, my division, was spread over a 21 mile front. Normally a division covers five miles. We received the initial thrust of the German counter-offensive. I was captured on 19 December, 1944. I spent four months as a Prisoner of War, walking over 525 miles, with a loss of 50 pounds of “fighting” body weight. I was only in a sheltered camp for one month and one week... John Kline
Sgt John Kline was so friendly to give me the permission to use the story of his division, the 106th Infantry Division.
His site is a must to visit, for everybody who is interested in history! (Kurt Van Laere)
His site: http://www.mm.com/user/jpk