By mid-December 1944, the war in Europe appeared to be nearing its close. The Germans seemed finished after the hectic charge across France to the Siegfried Line on the German border, and few Allied commanders believed them capable of launching any sort of offensive. US soldiers stationed in Belgium and Luxembourg prepared to camp for the winter. Entertainers frequented the Ardennes, underscoring the mentality of the front-line troops and the officers. On December 14, Marlene Dietrich performed for boisterous troops in the small crossroads town of Bastogne. The next day, New York Giants right-fielder Mel Ott led a delegation of ballplayers on a visit to the First Division Headquarters in Spa, Belgium, finding many officers on leave in Paris. Little did any of them know that German assault troops were assembling on the German-Belgian border; Adolf Hitler had chosen this moment to launch his last great offensive of the war. Nazi Germany pinned its hopes for ultimate victory on one last attack in the Ardennes Forest.
The German offensive was code-named Wacht am Rhein (the “Watch on the Rhine”), but is better known in the United States as the “Battle of the Bulge.” An offensive by three German armies across a 75-mile front, the operation involved more than one million soldiers: 200,000 assault troops in the initial wave and over 800,000 in reserve, ready to exploit the initial success. It caught unprepared American forces on the front line by surprise, ruptured their defensive line, and headed west through the Ardennes towards the Meuse River and Antwerp, the principal Allied supply port in Western Europe. The question hung like a mist in the cold winter air: could the US Army recover?
Prepare to walk in the footsteps of those brave Americans who faced the German onslaught. Our comprehensive tour includes the principal battle sites in Belgium and Luxembourg. Visit Bastogne, where General Anthony McAuliffe of the 101st Airborne Division replied to a German demand for surrender with a single, pithy word: “Nuts!” Pay solemn tribute to the men massacred near Malmedy by the SS troopers of Kampfgruppe Peiper. Travel the “Bulge” from its north shoulder at Elsenborn Ridge to Diekirch, Luxembourg, in the south, while listening to the heroic stories of American soldiers who fought through bitter cold and snow to prevail against a hardened and desperate enemy.