The Ardennes was chosen as it was a mountainous area and with winter snow all around it provided a natural camouflage. In addition the area was held by the Americans who Hitler felt were the softer target and not good fighters. This perception in hindsight appears wrong. Hitler also miscalculated the effect of Allied air Power which was the dominant force at that time having achieved air superiority over entire Europe.
Hitler amassed nearly 1000 panzers and heavy guns and 450,000 troops in the Ardennes forests. He was helped by bad weather conditions and heavy snowfall resulting in the allies’
The Germans opened the operation with a heavy artillery bombardment and the troops aided by the Panzers pressed forward. The attack was a success as the Germans achieved complete surprise and the American troops facing the Germans suffered heavy casualties. In fact in this campaign the Americans suffered the maximum casualties than in any single campaign of the Second World War. The Germans plan also hinged on bad weather continuing, to prevent the allies’ air forces from operating.
The Germans advanced forward in what has come to be known as the ‘battle of the Bulge’. And
Von Rundstedt signaled to Hitler the failure of the Offensive and ordered a withdrawal. The result of this gamble was costly for Germany as they suffered over 100,000 casualties and more important experienced troops were lost. The Americans suffered 21,000 dead out of an approximate 69,000 casualties. The American counter attack under General Patton put the seal on the offensive as it stopped the German advance. In addition in the east, the Russians launched their massive winter offensive on 12 Jan1945 and the fate of Germany was sealed. In addition the failure to capture Bastogne as per the plan was a setback.
There are many lessons from this battle. It must be remembered that though the plan was brilliant, yet its execution depended on many other factors including bad weather and air power. Both these did not favor the Germans and the offensive failed. The importance of tactical air support was highlighted as a crucial factor in war. It was the last offensive launched by the Germans as after this the German army was only fighting to delay the inevitable.