Battle of the Bulge – 1st Infantry Division’s Role in the Ardennes

On this day, December 16th, 1944 the German army launched a massive counteroffensive in eastern Belgium and northeastern France, creating a bulge in the Allied front lines. The Battle of the Bulge (or the Ardennes Counteroffensive) was the last major German offensive campaign during WWII. Beginning in mid-December 1944 and lasting through late-January 1945 the battle was fought during one of Europe’s coldest and harshest winters. 

The First Infantry Division had a big role during the famous winter battle, holding the northern shoulder of the “bulge” in Büllingen/Bütgenbach, Belgium. Here, units of the Division repulsed determined attacks of the German 12th SS Panzer Division, December 18-24, 1944, thereby holding the northern shoulder of the German penetration, and blocking the German 6th SS Panzer Army’s attempt to drive at high speed from Büllingen to Liege.

In early December 1944, the Big Red One, after its strenuous drive through the Hurtgen Forest, had been withdrawn from fighting to rest and refit near Eupen, Belgium. On December 16, the division was ordered forward to assist V corps in stemming the unexpected German offensive. Units of the Division reached the crossroad in between Büllingen and Bütgenbach (pictured above) on December 17 just in time to force leading German columns to turn aside from the primary road through Butgenbach onto poor, secondary roads to the south and west.

During the week before Christmas, infantry of the Big Red One, ably assisted by artillery and tank destroyer units, fought off determined German tank-infantry assaults aimed at opening the main road. Then battles then and later were bitterly fought in record cold and deep snow.

In mid-January when the German thrust lost it’s momentum, the United States V corps attacked, despite extreme weather conditions, to destroy withdrawing German forces. The First Infantry Division took Büllingen on January 29 and on February 2 re-entered Germany, penetrating the Siegfried Line for the second time.

Pictured below are photos of Rocco and division friends during the Battle of the Bulge, taken in Bütgenbach, Belgium.

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