Taje a step-by-step journey through the Battle of the Bulge using the U.S. Army's own situation maps. Eleven maps illustrate the shifting lines of battle through four weeks of fighting, centering on Belgium's Ardennes Forest sector and the embattled town of Bastogne.
December 16, 1944.- In a quick glance at the situation maps from October to December 1944 the eye is drawn to an area with few unit symbols along the Allied and German front lines in the Ardennes. During the autumn of 1944, the American front line was typically held by four or fewer divisions. The December 16th situation map shows the front line in this sector thinly held by the U.S. Army VIII Corps comprised of the 106th Infantry Division, 28th Infantry Division, the reduced 9th Armored Division, and the 4th Infantry Division arrayed from north to south. The VIII Corps headquarters was located in Bastogne. The VIII Corps was holding the southern edge of the U.S. First Army front lines adjacent to the U.S. Third Army. Also notice that throughout the autumn until December 15, the maps show a similarly small number of German infantry divisions behind the Siegfried Line opposing VIII Corps. By 12:00pm on the first day of the attack, December 16, there were twice as many German divisions, including two panzer divisions, identified in the sector moving against VIII Corps. During the next four weeks the situation maps show many interesting developments as the battle progressed.
December 18, 1944.- Two distinct German advances appear. One in the north and one in the center of the sector. The northern advance is along the edge of VIII Corps’ area of operations adjoining V Corps. The advance in the sector’s center is pointed at VIII Corps’ headquarters in Bastogne.
December 19, 1944.- The German drive towards Bastogne has almost reached the town while the VIII Corps headquarters has relocated to Neufchateau. Notice that the 101st Airborne Division is shown in Bastogne and the 82nd Airborne Division has moved to blunt the northern German advance.
December 21, 1944.- The German main advance through the center of the Ardennes sector has moved in a narrow corridor northwest to Marche after bypassing Bastogne. The 84th Infantry Division has moved to block the German northwestern advance.
December 23, 1944.- Bastogne’s envelopment begins as the German main advance widens and moves north and south of the town. However, the 4th Armored Division, 10th Armored Division, 26th Infantry Division, and the 80th Infantry Division from General Patton’s Third Army have moved against the southern flank of the German main advance.
December 25, 1944.- The 101st Airborne Division is shown as encircled in Bastogne with three German infantry division and one panzer division deployed around the town. The distinct bulge in the American front lines that gave the battle its name has formed.
December 27, 1944.- The encirclement of Bastogne is broken as the 4th Armored Division moves up from the south. With American units pushing from the north and south, the German advance stops and bulge is contained.
January 1, 1945.- The reinforced British 6th Airborne and 53rd Infantry Division are shown moving against the western tip of the German advance. Notice that some German units that were identified in the bulge on earlier maps have begun to be listed as “Unlocated” in a box on the right portion of the map near Frankfurt.
January 3, 1945.- Three German Panzer divisions are shown withdrawing from the front lines toward the interior of the bulge.
January 15, 1945.- As the bulge is further reduced, notice the nine German divisions concentrated in western tip of the bulge.
January 18, 1945.- The bulge caused by the German advance has been reduced to a slight curve in the front lines.