Battles of the Bulge: What WWII Can Teach Us About Stopping the Chinese Flu
At oh-dark-thirty on December 16, 1944, the sky and ground erupted to the sound of 1,600 German artillery pieces smashing Allied lines on a "quiet" sector of the Western Front. Seventeen German divisions plus the 150th Panzer Brigade, organized into three armies, led the initial assault on the outnumbered American men of the 2nd, 4th, 28th, 99th, 106th infantry divisions, and the 9th Armored Division. Many of the men were either untested or tired veterans, assigned to defend a sector where Allied headquarters believed a German counteroffensive to be unlikely.
Heavy snow kept Allied aircraft -- usually the bane of German movements -- grounded as nearly half a million Germans with thousands of guns and tanks raced behind Allied lines for their ultimate objective: The deepwater port of Antwerp which kept the Allied armies supplied.
Hitler's goal for the deceptively named Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein (Operation Watch on the Rhine) was essentially a repeat of his 1940 invasion of France, which split the Anglo-French armies apart by launching a surprise offensive through the Ardennes Forest. It was believed by the Allies that the thick woods and underdeveloped road network would make an armored offensive impossible through the Ardennes, but Hitler did it anyway -- twice. The first time, Hitler's Fall Gelb (Case Yellow) successfully rolled up the Allies' flanks, forcing the British to evacuate France at Dunkirk, and forcing the isolated and demoralized French to surrender after just six weeks of fighting. With the 1944 Ardennenoffensive, Hitler hoped to exploit the seam between the Anglo-American armies, and by seizing Antwerp, cut off their supply lines and force a favorable peace with the western Allies.