The Red Army was bleeding the Wehrmacht white in the east.
The British and Americans had liberated France and begun the final assault on the German homeland.
Yet the Third Reich had one last desperate, deadly offensive in it: the Battle of the Bulge.
Three members of an American patrol cross a snow covered Luxembourg field on a scouting mission. White bedsheets camouflage them in the snow. Left to right: Sgt. James Storey, Newman, Ga.; Pvt. Frank A. Fox, Wilmington, Del., and Cpl. Dennis Lavanoha, Harrisville, N.Y. (30 Dec 1944). Lellig, Luxembourg. (Image via U.S. Army Center of Military History)
Launched through the nearly impassable, hilly Ardennes, the Battle of the Bulge began 70 years ago Tuesday as 250,000 German troops attacked some 80,000 Americans defending the weakest point of the Allied lines in northwestern Europe.
Using the cover of fog, the element of surprise and such creative tricks as English-speaking commandos in American uniforms, the Germans attempted to penetrate the American defenses, and initially met with success, pushing a massive bulge — hence the battle's name — in the Allied lines.
But the Americans wouldn't break.
An American road-block is set up with 30 caliber heavy machine gun, and a tank destroyer is ready for action on Adolph Hitler Straase. 1st Battalion, 157th Regiment, 45th Division (10 Dec 1944). (Image via U.S. Army Center of Military History)
Nowhere, perhaps, was American resolve demonstrated as bluntly as it was in the beleaguered town of Bastogne, with a defense led by General Anthony McAuliffe.
Pressing hard on the American forces in the town, the Germans eventually sent a message demanding the town's surrender.
Read the U.S. Army translation of the German message below:
December 22nd 1944
To the U.S.A. Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne.
The fortune of war is changing. This time the U.S.A. forces in and near Bastogne have been encircled by strong German armored units. More German armored units have crossed the river Ourthe near Ortheuville, have taken Marche and reached St. Hubert by passing through Hompre-Sibret-Tillet.
Libramont is in German hands.
There is only one possibility to save the encircled U.S.A troops from total annihilation: that is the honorable surrender of the encircled town. In order to think it over a term of two hours will be granted beginning with the
presentation of this note.
If this proposal should be rejected one German Artillery Corps and six heavy A. A. Battalions are ready
to annihilate the U.S.A. troops in and near Bastogne. The order for firing will be given immediately after this two
All the serious civilian losses caused by this artillery fire would not correspond with the wellknown American humanity.
The German Commander.
General McAuliffe's iconic reply was typed up, centered on a full sheet of paper and delivered to the Germans:
December 22, 1944
To the German Commander,
N U T S !
The American Commander
Bastogne never fell, and by January, the Americans had pushed back the German offensive.
Seven decades later, people around the world honored the memory of the veterans who fought in the battle.
Battle of the Bulge veteran Francis G. Chesko, 90, of Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania, was honored in a special program Saturday.
Battle of the Bulge Veteran Francis C. Chesko, Mahanoy City, Pa., holds a gift given to him presented to him by Barbara Ward on behalf of the Ward family during a presentation in his honor by the Mahanoy Area Historical Society at the Mahanoy City Public Library in Mahanoy City, Pa., Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014. Chesko is wearing his original uniform he wore when he served in the Army. (AP Photo/The Republican-Herald, Jacqueline Dormer)
Late Monday, the Washington Post published the story of Al Darago, 89, who 70 years ago took on a German tank single-handedly — and won.
Al Darago, 89, is a Battle of the Bulge veteran pictured at his home on Monday, December 15, 2014, in Parkeville, MD. Darago was a 19-year-old draftee with an anti-aircraft outfit when the German attack began. In the midst of the U.S. retreat, an officer asked for volunteers to go after some German tanks. Darago, who had never fired a bazooka before, volunteered with another soldier. They sneaked up on the Germans and blasted two tanks, then ran like hell. Both GIs were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. (The Washington Post/The Washington Post/Getty Images)
Actors in period German uniforms take part in the reenactment of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Ardennes also known as the Ardennes Counteroffensive or the Battle of the Bulge on December 14,2014 in Recogne, Belgium. The Battle of the Bulge, fought over the winter months of 1944 1945, was the last major Nazi offensive against the Allies in World War II. (John Thys/AFP/Getty Images)
An actor in period German uniform takes part in the reanactment of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Ardennes also known as the Ardennes Counteroffensive or the Battle of the Bulge on Decembre 14,2014 in Recogne, Belgium. (John Thys/AFP/Getty Images)
Actors in period US uniforms take part in the reanactment of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Ardennes also known as the Ardennes Counteroffensive or the Battle of the Bulge on Decembre 14,2014 in Recogne, Belgium. (John Thys/AFP/Getty Images)
An actor in period US uniform take part in the reanactment of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Ardennes also known as the Ardennes Counteroffensive or the Battle of the Bulge on Decembre 14,2014 in Recogne, Belgium. (John Thys/AFP/Getty Images)
See video from the reenactment below:
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