HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Ardennes Offensive, known to Americans as the Battle of the Bulge, begins. The fighting at the Battle of the Bulge would prove to be the bloodiest American engagement of World War II.
In late 1944, Allied command positioned several units including the 28th Infantry Division in the dense forests of the Ardennes region of Belgium and France to rest and recuperate. This poorly defended area was Hitler's target to press forward an attack designed to split the Americans and British in half and capture the Allied supply port of Antwerp. Hitler believed that if the Ardennes Offensive was successful, he could force the Americans and British to sue for peace and the resources of the Western Front could be moved to the east against the Soviets.
The Battle of the Bulge was the scene of a summary execution of U.S. prisoners of war. Elements of the 7th Armored Division's 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion were overrun by Kampfgruppe Peiper in a field near the town of Malmedy. After surrendering, some 84 American prisoners were gunned down. A trial was held to prosecute those responsible for the Malmedy Massacre after the war.
By late January 1945, the German attack was finished. The Ardennes Offensive was Hitler's last stand in the Western Theater of Operations. Hitler lost most of his reserves in the fight, the Luftwaffe was nearly destroyed and the remaining troops retreated behind the Siegfried Line. The United States lost 89,500 casualties in the Battle of the Bulge. 19,000 of those casualties were killed in action.