On 16 December 1944, Adolf Hitler launched Germany’s last great campaign in the west–the Ardennes Offensive, more commonly known as the Battle of the Bulge. And in the six decades since, most historians and strategists have had a two-dimensional view of that engagement. The assumption has generally been that bad weather grounded all aircraft on both sides during the crucial first week of fighting, and the lack of Allied air cover allowed the Germans to make their initial gains. It was only when the skies cleared several days into the battle the Allies could launch their counterattack. The evidence, however, reveals this is not what happened.
The historic record shows significant numbers of American aircraft flew on each day of the Battle of the Bulge from the beginning, except on 20 December. From 17 through 22 December, the period during which most historians either state or imply aircraft did not fly, Allied aircraft (mostly from the US 9th Air Force) flew 5,000 sorties in the Ardennes alone. On the other side, on the first day of the attack the Luftwaffe flew 2,400 sorties. Yet first person accounts often overlook the role of airpower in that first and most decisive week of the campaign.