The Battle of the Bulge was one of the largest and most deadly battles fought by the United States in World War Two. It had a large impact on shaping the memory of the war. It was fought after the Allies had driven the Germans out of France following their breakout of Normandy (visit the D-Day museums at Normandy as well).
Battles are not all about the soldiers; learn about the civilian cost of these campaigns by visiting the French town of Oradour-Sur-Glane, destroyed by Germany and left as a memorial. The deadliest battle in American history was the bloody three-day Battle of Gettysburg (a battle that still causes soul-searching in the nation).
German soldiers in the Battle of the Bulge
The Context Of The Battle Of The Bulge – America’s Biggest WW2 Battle
The Battle of the Bulge is also known as the Ardennes Offensive, and it was a massive push by the Germans late in World War Two. The Germans had been beaten severely in campaigns in the South, the West, and the East and pushed to the German border. By this time in late 1944, they had been driven out of France, and the Allies thought there was no more strength left in the crumpling Reich for another major offensive.
- Date: 16 December 1944 – 28 January 1945
- American Dead: Approx. 19,000
The Ardennes is a forested and hilly region of Belgium and very difficult for an offensive. It was here that the Germans had surprised the Allies early in the war and broken into France, defeating it. The Americans along the Ardennes nonetheless thought it would be a quiet Christmas.
Instead, the Germans launched their last great offensive of the war, exhausting the last of their reserves in an attempt to take the port of Antwerp. The Americans were taken by surprise but fought back tenaciously (the British also fought a supportive action in the battle).
The Americans fought hard and stubbornly resisted while cut off at Bastogne. General Patton famously rushed reinforcements to the front while the Germans ran out of fuel and were exhausted.
The Battle of the Bulge proved a costly victory for the United States. It sustained around 75,000 casualties, with 19,000 dead, according to Arlington National Cemetery. German losses were irreplaceable.
The deadliest single day in American military history was the Battle of Antietam in the Civil War (learn about it at the Antietam National Battlefield).
Battle of the Bulge Memorial
Visiting The Bastogne War Museum
One of the best places to learn about the Battle of the Bulge is the Bastogne War Museum. It is located just a few kilometers out of the Bastogne city center and was opened in 2014. Bastogne is one of the most important locations of the battle. Here the Americans were cut off and surrounded but refused to surrender to the Germans. Their continued resistance frustrated the German advance until an American relief force was able to break in and relieve the siege.
- Admission: 22 Euros
- Opening Hours: 9.30 am to 6.30 pm (summer hours)
It takes at least two hours to see the Bastogne War Museum, and it has a very interactive audio tour walkthrough.
Visitors also see a number of war relics, including ones from the battle of Bastogne itself.
The exhibits of the museum center around four fictional characters to explore the course of the battle (an American corporal, a German lieutenant, a young Belgian woman, and a Belgian schoolboy).
World War Two Liberation Parade
Take A Guided Tour Of The Battle Of The Bulge Battlefield
One of the best ways to explore the battle is to take a Battle of the Bulge tour. With these tours, visitors can see the many monuments and memorials to the battle, see where important events took place, and get a deep dive into the struggle.
One guide company offers a range of private tours particularly tailored to Americans. They delve into the movements, tactics, tidbits, and more. They also provide private tours to key destinations in Normandy and the Netherlands (Market Garden).
Tours include the American Experience Tour, the Band of Brothers Tour, the Valor Tour, the Bastogne Two-Day Tour, and the Kampfgruppe Peiper Tour.
American Experience Tour
The America Experience Tour is a one-day tour providing a general overview of the Battle for Bastogne. See the German lines of attack and the American lines of defense. On the tour, visitors see the actual foxholes and bullet holes that remain as a reminder of what happened.
American Sherman Tank Memorial
- Duration: 9.00 am to 5.30 pm
- Type: Private Tour
- Price: Contact For Quote
The tour explores sites such as those of the 101st Airborne Division, Patton’s trail, the Band of Brother Memorial, and the Kessler Farm (where the Germans delivered the ultimatum to surrender, getting the American reply ‘Nuts!’).
On the other side of the world, travelers can explore the Guadalcanal and see the many war machinery and relics left and forgotten in the Solomon Islands.