Despite a spirited defence from the opening hours of the Normandy invasion in June 1944, Hitler’s forces in northern France were comprehensively defeated and forced to retreat westward. Although their position was strengthened considerably following Operation Dragoon – the landing in southern France in August 1944 – the Allies were faced with considerable logistical problems as they advanced towards Germany, spreading their lines of communications and support thinner with every mile.
Operation Market Garden, the massive airborne assault of September 1944, failed to meet its objectives and the momentum of the Allied advance was further threatened.
German forces were able to capitalize on this and with mounting pressure from the east as Soviet forces prepared for a winter offensive, Hitler decided to launch one last gamble – a massive counter offensive against the Allies in December 1944. The German assault (including 45-divisions) launched against American defenders dug in across the Ardennes region led to the largest single battle fought by the US Army in the entire twentieth century. The stakes could not have been higher for either side – for Germany it truly was a last attempt to avoid being completely overwhelmed by the Western Allies, whilst for the American forces bearing the brunt of the assault, there was a very real threat that a German breakthrough could have undone all of the successes since D-Day.