These 18 photos show the bravery of US troops during the Battle of the Bulge

On Dec. 16, 1944, Nazi Germany launched a counteroffensive against the Allied powers. The sneak attack began with a massive assault of over 200,000 troops and 1,000 tanks, aimed to divide and conquer the Allied forces. Some English-speaking Germans dressed in American uniforms to slip past the defenses.

After just one day of fighting, the Germans managed to isolate the American 101st Airborne Division and capture a series of key bridges and communication lines. Over the next two days, Patton’s Third Army would batter through miles of German tanks and infantry to reach the trapped paratroopers.

The fighting continued through the beginning of Jan. 1945 when Hitler finally agreed with his generals to pull back the German forces.

Here are 18 photos from the historic battle that show what life was like in the winter Hell.

1. American and German troops battled viciously for Belgian villages that were destroyed by artillery, tank fire, and bombs.

66-699-61 Infantrymen of the 3rd Armored Division advance under artillery fire in Pont-Le-Ban, Belgium. January 15, 1945

3rd Armored Division infantrymen advance under artillery fire at Pont-Le-Ban, Belgium on Jan. 15, 1945. Photo: US Army

2. The battle was fought across a massive front featuring forests, towns, and large plains.

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3. With deep snow covering much of the ground, medics relied on sleds to help evacuate the wounded.

66-699-69 Medics remove American casualty from the wood near Berle, Lusxembourg. January 12, 1945

Medics remove an American casualty from the wood near Berle, Lusxembourg on Jan. 12, 1945

4. Troops lucky enough to get winter camouflage blended in well with the snow.

66-699-88 Rendevous for two elements of the 84th Division at an abandoned mill near River L'Ourt, Belgium. January 15, 1945

Two elements of the 84th Division meet up at an abandoned mill near River L’Ourt, Belgium on Jan. 15, 1945

5. Troops who weren’t so lucky stood out in stark contrast to the white ground during the Battle of the Bulge.

American infantrymen of the 290th Regiment fight in fresh snowfall near Amonines, Belgium Date4 January 1945

American infantrymen of the 290th Regiment fight in fresh snowfall near Amonines, Belgium on Jan. 4, 1945.

6. Troops were often separated from their units due to the chaotic nature of the battle. They would usually find their way back on foot.

66=699-49 Pfc M.L. Dickens, East Omaha, Nebraska, Pvt Sunny Sundquist, Bremerton, Washington, Sgt Francis H. McCann, Middleton, Conn., of the 101st Airborne Division near Bastogne, Belgium, set out to rejoin their unit. Janaury 11, 1945

101st Airborne Division paratroopers Pfc. M.L. Dickens of East Omaha, Nebraska, Pvt. Sunny Sundquist of Bremerton, Washington, and Sgt. Francis H. McCann of Middleton, Conn., set out to rejoin their unit near Bastogne on Jan. 11, 1945.

7. Each side lost about 1,000 tanks in the battle and the burned out wrecks littered the countryside.

66-699-108 Infantry supporting Engineers pass a knocked out German tank on their way to front at Compogne, Belgium. January 15, 1945

Infantry supporting engineers pass a knocked out German tank on their way to the front at Compogne, Belgium on Jan. 15, 1945.

8. In towns, Luftwaffe bombing killed many soldiers and civilians while destroying the buildings and equipment everywhere.

Bastogne-street-after-luftwaffe-bombing

9. Medics would evacuate the wounded from these areas to safer hospitals when possible.

Medics-evacuate-casualties-lutrebois

10. In caves and bomb shelters, Allied doctors and medics treated the civilians wounded by battle or sick from exposure to the elements.

71-425-4 Captain Charles S. Quinn (right) of Louisville, Kentucky, bandages gangrene infected foot of Belgian refugee child in cellar of house in Ottre, Belgium. Captain Quinn is a battlion surgeon with the 83rd Division, First Army. Janaury 11, 1945

Captain Charles S. Quinn (right) of Louisville, Kentucky, bandages the gangrene-infected foot of Belgian refugee child in a cellar in Ottre, Belgium on Jan. 11, 1945. Captain Quinn was a battalion surgeon with the 83rd Division, First Army.

11. The soldiers could also fall prey to the elements. The extreme cold and sometimes rugged terrain posed challenges for the defenders.

66-699-87 Two parachute infantrymen advance through a snow-covered wooded section near Henumont, Belgium. January 14, 1945

Two paratroopers advance through a snow-covered, wooded section of the battlefield near Henumont, Belgium on Jan. 14, 1945.

12. Many of the forces holding the line were tank and airborne units.

Photo: US Army

Photo: US Army

13. Camouflage was used to protect equipment when possible.

Soldiers-camouflage-vehicles-donated-bedsheets

Soldiers use bedsheets donated by the locals to hide military equipment from Luftwaffe bombers and German army artillery.

14. Until the Third Army was able to open a land corridor through the siege of Bastogne, 101st Airborne Division paratroopers relied on air drops for resupply.

Photo: US Army Signal Corps

Photo: US Army Signal Corps

15. The Luftwaffe and U.S. fighters fought overhead, each attempting to gain air dominance.

dogfight-from-ground-perspective-american-luftwaffe-battle-bulge

16. Though the Allies would eventually win in the air and on the ground, a number of aircraft were lost.

66-699-63 A crashed plane near Remagne, Belgium. Janaury 13, 1945

A crashed plane lies in the snow near Remagne, Belgium on Jan. 13, 1945.

17. As more Allied troops were sent to reclaim the lost territory in Jan. 1945, they were forced to pass the remains of those already killed.

4th-armored-division-advances-past-american-bodies

18. Troops held memorial services for their fallen comrades whenever possible.

Photo: US Army

Engineers fire in a memorial service during the Battle of the Bulge. Photo: US Army

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