Germany / Audiospot

The hell in Hellenthal

Saturday, 16 December 1944 marks the beginning of the last major offensive on the Western front – „The battle of the Buldge“, as the allied forces name the Ardennes offensive. Hitler had to call on inexperienced younsters, many of whom were barely 14-15 years old. With no combat experience to speak of, these younsters proved unable to match the Allied supremacy.

FightingLiberationVictory and defeat

In the summer of 1944, the German Wehrmacht suffered heavy losses on all fronts. Despite urgent requests by his generals for reinforcements in the east, Hitler looked the other way and launched the Ardennes offensive in the winter. He wanted to recapture the Port of Antwerp and cut off the Allied supply line.

On Saturday, 16 December 1944, Hitler started the offensive, and tens of thousands of mostly young and inexperienced troops and around 1000 tanks set off towards the Ardennes. The attack took place along a line stretching 140 kilometres south from the Hollerather Knee to the border of Luxembourg. The march to Antwerp failed quickly. The German forces suffered heavy losses at Bastogne and St Vith, where many Americans also lost their lives. Insufficient men, cold and wet, and a lack of fuel, ammunition and heavy artillery broke the German troops. After six weeks of fighting, they were forced back to where the attack began.

The Ardennes offensive had definitively failed. Tens of thousands of casualties had fallen on both sides, and the Wehrmacht had not gained an inch by the end of it. The Allies continued to supply a steady stream of tanks and men.