Operation Wacht am Rhein – the Ardennes Counteroffensive

Ardennes Offensive/Battle of the Bulge
The Battle of the Bulge (December 16 1944 – January 25 1945) was the German offensive launched toward the end of World War II through the Ardennes Mountains region of Wallonia in Belgium. At 05.30 on December 16 1944 three German armies struck the Allied troops on an 80 kilometers wide front. For the Americans the Battle of the Bulge was the largest and bloodiest battle that they fought in World War II. The Wehrmacht´s code name for the offensive was Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein after the German hymn. In the northern sector SS-Oberstgruppenführer Josef Dietrich´s 6.SS-Panzerarmee assaulted Losheim Gap and Elsenborn Ridge in an effort to break through to Liège. It was entrusted with the offensive's primary objective, capturing Antwerp. SS-Obergruppenführer Hermann Prieß I.SS-Panzerkorps consisted of 1.SS-Panzer-Divison Leibstandarte SS, 12.SS-Panzer-Division Hitlerjugend and schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 501. The 9.SS-Panzer-Division Hohenstaufen was involved in the fighting around Bastogne, taking heavy casualties and losing much equipment to the incessant attacks of Allied ground attack aircraft.

Captured unidentified SS-Grenadier
War crimes were committed on both sides during the campaign. British author Gordon Williamson writes: Like the elite of other formations, the soldiers of Waffen-SS fought ferociously, intent on killing the enemy before the enemy killed them. Undoubtedly some Waffen-SS soldiers went too far and overstepped the bounds of acceptable behavior, even in the heat of battle. That said, so did Allied soldiers. For many years after World War II atrocities committed by Allied troops were hushed up. Reports of brutalities, murder and rape by Soviet troops were well known, but among Western Allies any atrocities that had not already come to public attention tended to be omitted from the official histories or glossed over as mopping-up operations. In recent years, however, more and more accounts have come to light of looting and the murder of captured German soldiers by Allied troops, not just from the Red Army but also among the Western Allies. In one case American troops cold-bloodedly shot down German troops who were unarmed and surrendering under the cover of a white flag. Cameramen were on the scene to film the atrocity, and the film has subsequently been in television documentaries. Contrary to Allied claims, no written order has ever been found from a German commander to his troops that no prisoners be taken. On the other hand, such orders by Allied commanders to their troops were issued in writing and are a matter of record. Source: Loyalty Is My Honor. Top image: U.S. Department of Defense. Bottom image: Two men of the 82nd (US) Airborne Division bringing in a young SS soldier captured while on reconnaissance patrol outside Bra, between Malmedy and Marche on the northern flank of the salient. Source: Imperial War Museums. Fair use.

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