FOCUS ON: BATTLE OF THE BULGE:
Battle of the Bulge: Hitler's Desperate Gamble
On 16 December 1944, thirty German divisions launched themselves at a quiet section of the American lines occupied by only three divisions. In what can only be called a desperate gamble, the German Armed forces attempted to turn the tide of the whole war. This major counter offensive was intended to drive all the way to Antwerp and split the Allied armies in two. Hitler hoped he could force the Americans and British to conclude a peace separate from the Soviets. He thought this would gain Germany enough time and resources to ultimately defeat the Soviet Union. The Germans attacked through the Losheim Gap in the Ardennes Forest of Belgium and Luxemburg and their armored spearhead tactic met with initial success, but their timetable was slowed by small American units who stubbornly held their ground. This bought time for additional troops to be rushed into the area and eventually stem the tide of the advance. The German assault resulted in a large bulge in the lines which lead to the battle’s name. The Battle of the Bulge lasted until January 25, 1945, when American forces met up and eliminated the bulge. This was the largest land battle that American forces would be engaged in during World War II, resulting in over 80,000 American casualties.
Until the Second World War, military campaigns typically wound down during the winter as both sides sought shelter from the elements. In fact, the first winter of the war, 1939-40, was so quiet that it was called the Phony War. By the end of World War II, the idea of not campaigning in winter had changed drastically as the German Army launched a massive desperate campaign against the Allied forces in the Ardennes region. In the Battle of the Bulge, the largest land battle in which US forces were involved, combatants fought not only each other but also the brutal weather during one of the coldest winters in history.
At 5:30 a.m. on 16 December 1944, the temperature in Bastogne, Belgium was 14˚ Fahrenheit. Poorly equipped American forces suffered greatly while German forces, drawing on years of experience of fighting in the Soviet Union, were equipped with warm and practical clothing. Shown here are a number of the different types of jackets and coats used by both the Americans and the Germans.
Battle of the Bulge Artifacts of Captain Neil P. Stewart:
On 11 December 1944, the newly formed 106th Infantry Division relieved the battle hardened 2nd Infantry Division in the quiet area of Schnee Eifel in the Ardennes Forest in Belgium. Five days later, the 106th Division’s baptism of fire is delivered by the German 6th SS Panzer and 5th Panzer Armies in the last German offensive in the west, which would come to be known as the Battle of the Bulge.
The green troops of the 106th were quickly surrounded and cut off from other American units. Two of the three regiments comprising the division were captured. With the exception of nine officers and seventy men, every soldier in the encirclement is either killed or captured. Capt. Neil P. Stewart and future American novelist Kurt Vonnegut are among the seven thousand prisoners the Germans capture from the 106th Infantry Division.
Captain Stewart was the commanding officer of F Company, 422nd Infantry Regiment, 106th Division during the Battle of the Bulge. He wore these dog tags around his neck during the battle, his capture, and forced march of several hundred kilometers to a POW camp in Poland. Upon his arrival at POW camp Oflag 64, Stewart was issued the rectangular German prisoner of war identification tag. Captain Stewart endured nearly five months of captivity before being liberated by Allied forces in late April 1945.
Images from the National Archives:
March 12, 2014
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
"The Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, an International Military Tribunal" by Pat Costa
March 12, 2014
The Victory Belles present "Spirit of America"
11:45 am buffet seating
Stage Door Canteen
March 15, 2014
Family Workshop: Barrage Balloons
10:00 am – 11:30 am
March 15, 2014
Living History Corps
11:00 am – 3:00 pm
March 15, 2014
Victory Corps Saturday
10:00 am – 2:00 pm
March 18, 2014
Dinner with a Curator
6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Chrissy Gregg presents "Norman Rockwell's Illustration of the American Experience"