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.
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.
3. With deep snow covering much of the ground, medics relied on sleds to help evacuate the wounded.
4. Troops lucky enough to get winter camouflage blended in well with the snow.
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 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.
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.
8. In towns, Luftwaffe bombing killed many soldiers and civilians while destroying the buildings and equipment everywhere.
9. Medics would evacuate the wounded from these areas to safer hospitals when possible.
10. In caves and bomb shelters, Allied doctors and medics treated the civilians wounded by battle or sick from exposure to the elements.
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.
12. Many of the forces holding the line were tank and airborne units.
Photo: US Army
13. Camouflage was used to protect equipment when possible.
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
15. The Luftwaffe and U.S. fighters fought overhead, each attempting to gain air dominance.
16. Though the Allies would eventually win in the air and on the ground, a number of aircraft were lost.
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.
18. Troops held memorial services for their fallen comrades whenever possible.
Engineers fire in a memorial service during the Battle of the Bulge. Photo: US Army