This week in the War, 18–24 December 1944: The Siege of Bastogne

Bastogne, Belgium: Troops of the 101st Airborne Division watch C-47s drop supplies to them [Public domain]

This week in the war, on 18 December 1944, the US 101st Airborne Division was ordered to Bastogne in Belgium to defend that town’s important crossroads against the recently launched German offensive in the Ardennes.

By 20 December, the town was completely surrounded. The Siege of Bastogne had begun.

Low lying fog kept Allied aircraft grounded until 23 December. Meanwhile, the outnumbered Americans fought off assaults by Germany’s elite SS panzer divisions.

Shoulder patch of the US 101st Airborne Division [Public domain]

The siege lasted through Christmas and the town was not fully secured until the US 3rd Army’s counteroffensive on 14 January 1945.

The German army’s Ardennes offensive, known as the Battle of the Bulge, was meant to push through the Allied lines and reach Antwerp. Hitler’s intention was to prevent the Allies from using the port for landing supplies to support their armies that were poised to advance into Germany.

On 15 January 1945, it was clear that Hitler’s plan had failed and the Fuehrer left his headquarters on the Western Front and returned by train to Berlin.


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