The Battle of the Bulge, as it came to be known, was the final offensive operation carried out by Germany in the European Theatre during WWII. Hitler and his high command knew that Stalin’s vast numerical superiority would overwhelm Germany unless the Western Front could be closed. They attacked to split the Allied force into four separate armies, envisioning a separate peace with the Americans and the British. While the German armored vehicles could individually overpower the Allied tanks, their limited number and the insurmountable advantage the Allies carried through air superiority meant that Germans needed the right weather conditions in order to strike. On December 16, 1944,the clouds rolled in, and the Germans rolled out, achieving total surprise.
War on a Smaller Scale
All of this top level planning and implementation meant little to the soldiers sheltering in fox holes and ducking German artillery and small arms fire. Before the German offensive, the lines were largely static, with the Allied advance slowed to a near halt due to their own supply constraints. The Germans had successfully wrecked the deep water ports during their retreat, and the Allied disruption of the rail system in the weeks leading up to the Normandy invasion had worked to keep the Germans from easily resupplying but had the same effect on their own forces once the territory was liberated.
For a time, the Allied force was kept on the move through the use of the famous ‘Red Ball Express’ which operated until the port at Antwerp was brought back into service. It was here that the air superiority of the Allies truly became crucial.
Even accompanied by front-and-follow Jeeps, which was rare as the 4x4 trucks were needed everywhere; the Red Ball convoys would have been easy targets for the Luftwaffe. Before the port came back into service, and especially during the Ardennes Offensive, supplies were critically short across the front. With resources in short supply, a vehicle that supplied the most bang for the buck was absolutely required.
A Familiar ‘Face’
Enter the humble Jeep: Consuming small amounts of fuel compared to larger trucks, almost impossible to get stuck, and suitable for nearly any terrain, it could be seen nearly everywhere in the winter of 1944. Jeeps were used to reconnoiter enemy positions, transport messages where radio intercepts were feared, move wounded men from the front, carry supplies to the front, ferry commanders to critical points, and escort cargo movers up the Red Ball route.
Hold the Line…
The conditions at the front were brutally difficult when the Germans launched their counter attack. The Allied High Command had anticipated a localized push, so the scale of the attack caught them by surprise. The winter conditions that prevented the Allies from using their command of the skies likewise hampered the Germans, causing traffic jams on the few usable roads and denying them the chance to capitalize on their surprise. On the northern end of the line the front held fast, often with supplies being carried to the front by hand as troopers crawled through the frozen mud and snow under the cover of darkness. The center of the line fell back from the German advance, but with hard fighting that delayed the timetable significantly, tying down men and resources that were needed elsewhere. Ultimately, Hitler’s master plan required strict adherence to that timetable to achieve his objectives.
Further south, at Bastogne, the Germans broke through the Allied line and surrounded the city with its vital junction of hard-topped roads. The siege lasted from December 20 to December 26 when Patton’s forces broke through in relief. During the fighting the paratroopers of the 101st Airborne particularly distinguished themselves, and U.S. General McAuliffe issued his famous reply to the Germans’ demand for his surrender: “NUTS!”
Knowing Your Role
Vital to the defense, and to any military operation, was advance notice of enemy troop movements and concentrations of armor. While the Jeep served many purposes during the war, gathering intelligence by moving quickly and reliably through difficult terrain was what it was built for. Because the German attacks on the perimeter of the Bastogne line came in sequence rather than as an all-out broad assault, it was possible for the Allies to successfully defend against it. The Germans did break through on Christmas Day, but the attack was turned back, and the German tanks were all destroyed. When the skies finally cleared, and the Allied air power could be brought to bear the German ‘Bulge’ collapsed; the Germans were pushed back to their original positions by mid-January 1945.
The Watch on the Rhine (the German name for the Ardennes Offensive) proved to be the beginning of the end for the Germans, as they suffered irreplaceable losses in men and materiel. It was also the most costly engagement of the entire war for the United States, but replacements were ready and Allied offensive operations only delayed by five or six weeks.
Bring Your Love of History to Life
While the tanks rumbled forward and the airways droned with planes, the backbone of the Allied war effort rolled on four wheels; powered by the famous ‘Go-Devil’ engine. You can bring this vital piece of history to life, be it in a larger display with other figures or as a stand-alone conversation starter! BBA084 – The Winter Jeep is now available from manufacturer King & Country through the Treefrog Treasures toy soldier shop, in person, over the phone, or online. This set is priced at $199.00, and is sure to be popular with avid and casual collectors alike. J
For information on the Winter Jeep, armored fighting vehicles, or any of the items King & Country produces, contact Treefrog Treasures Military Miniatures. They stock all of the various ranges K&C creates, from WWII & WWI, to the lawless frontier of the American West, to the quaint and charming World of Charles Dickens, and even reaching into the worlds of the Ancient Greeks and Egyptians. They are happy and capable of shipping not only to domestic addresses in the US, but all over the world! Contact us at Treefrog Treasures, 248 Sandstone Dr NW, Eyota, MN 55934 Toll Free at (866)-394-2418, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.