#OnThisDay: The Battle of the Bulge began

Today is the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes region of Belgium in the European Theatre of World War II.

In my short blog post I will not attempt to give an in-depth analysis of the Battle of the Bulge. That would be ridiculous, impossible, and well beyond my abilities. I will merely highlight a few facts and pay tribute to my Uncle Rozzelle, who participated as a member of the United States Army in that awful winter battle.

Also known as the Ardennes Counteroffensive, it was the last major offensive campaign by Germany on the Western Front during World War II. Great Britain Prime Minister Winston Churchill called it “the greatest American battle of the war.”

The Boston Globe reported last Wednesday https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/12/11/wwii-veterans-head-belgium-commemorate-anniversary-battle-bulge/LwtvSgw7iBx0jhTAWgJAbI/story.html that 17 World War II veterans from across the United States had flown out of Boston for France that day in order to participate in the 75th anniversary ceremonies. Their itinerary includes the dedication of a monument plate at the Bastogne War Museum in Belgium in memory of those who were killed in the Battle of the Bulge.

Battle of the Bulge Statistics

The Battle of the Bulge was fought along an 80-mile front from southern Belgium, through the Ardennes Forest to the middle of Luxembourg. Some 600,000 Germans, 500,000 American, and 55,000 British troops took part in the battle, which lasted until January 25, 1945.

Casualties were high in the battle. The Allies suffered 20,876 killed, 42, 893 wounded, and 23,554 captured or missing. German losses were equally high, with 15,652 killed, 41,600 wounded, and 27,582 captured or missing.

Environmental Conditions of the Battle

Photo by Viktor Omy on Unsplash

Casualty figures don’t provide the whole picture, though. Conditions on the battlefield were extreme and physically and mentally trying. There was an average of eight inches of snow on the ground and the average temperature was about 20 degrees Fahrenheit/-7 Celsius.

Bad weather grounded US planes at the beginning of the battle, giving Germany an early advantage in addition to the edge the Nazis had due to the surprise launch of the attack in the pre-dawn hours on December 16, 1944.

The Ardennes Forest is a mix of deciduous trees such as oak, poplar, willow, acacia, and birch.

Source of the Battle’s Name

The Germans pushed through the Allies’ defensive line, creating a wedge or “bulge” in the Allied position in the Ardennes forest area.

Most Famous Quote from the Battle

General Anthony Clement McAuliffe was the acting commander of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division troops that were defending the city of Bastogne, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge. When the Germans asked if the Americans wanted to surrender, Gen. McAuliffe is quoted as responding, “Nuts!”

Outcome of the Battle

Germany lost men and materiel in numbers from which it was unable to recover.

Significance of the Battle of the Bulge

It is believed that the Battle of the Bulge brought an end to World War II in Europe faster than it would have happened otherwise. It was the last major Nazi offensive of World War II and Germany’s last attempt to push the Allies out of mainland Europe.

A few words about Uncle Rozzelle

After this somewhat sterile statistical description of the Battle of the Bulge, I’ll now attempt to put a human face on it.

I never heard my Uncle Rozzelle talk about his experiences in World War II. My mother recalled that the main thing he ever talked about was being so very cold in a wet foxhole during the Battle of the Bulge. He ended up in a hospital in France and was then transferred to a hospital in England.

When I think about the Battle of the Bulge, the image I have in my head is my 29-year-old Uncle Rozzelle almost freezing to death in a foxhole.


11 thoughts on “#OnThisDay: The Battle of the Bulge began

  1. This is a beautiful tribute, Janet, and you’ve helped me remember my grandfather on this day. Like your uncle, he was also in the Battle of the Bulge in a foxhole. Growing up in eastern Virginia, he hadn’t seen much snow. He also never spoke about the war, so I learned most of what I know from his funeral. He was the only surviving member of his entire platoon. He was shot completely down his left side and had bits of shrapnel that were never removed. When he was finally transferred to the hospital in Georgia, my grandmother had given birth to twins on December 5, 1944, and also had my mother, a toddler, but none of that stopped her from driving to Georgia to see him. Thank you again. ♥️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, Jennifer! What a legacy your grandfather left! That’s quite a story of the bravery of the men — and the women — of that era. They truly were a great generation. Thank you so much for sharing your family’s story in conjunction with the Battle of the Bulge. I truly cannot fathom the unrelenting cold and wet conditions of that vast battlefield.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very nice job, Janet. The victory there was so crucial to us, and against the odds too. Great memories for you, and your loving emotions come through the text. Thank you very much. It’s possible you’d enjoy a great book conaining the memories of the great war of the finest writers of that era in Writers on World War Two,

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Very nice post and especially your tribute to your uncle. All those men and women who took part in defending democracy and freedom during WWII suffered tremendous hardships and made enormous sacrifices. It is important that such dates be remembered and that these new generations know and understand what their grandparents had to do to ensure for them and for all of us a place of dignity in America and Europe (as well as in the Far East) free from totalitarian doctrines, dictators and their atrocities. Thank you, Janet and from my home in Spain, I wish you a very happy New Year and best wishes for the season, especially today in St. Stephen’s Day!

    Liked by 1 person

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