As 1944 drew to a close, Hitler made his final gamble of the war, mounting a massive strike force aimed at splitting the Allies forces advancing upon Germany. His armour, supported from the air, would rip through the Ardennes to Antwerp, capture the Allied fuel supplies, and cut off all the opposing forces to the north. Hitlers commanders were dubious of the outcome but nevertheless obeyed orders, and the operation was launched on 16th December. Allied intelligence had discounted any German counter-offensive and the initial wave, comprising 8 Panzer divisions, took the Allied forces completely by surprise. A parachute drop of English-speaking German soldiers in American uniforms behind the assault zone added to the confusion. Advancing some 30 miles, and almost in sight of the River Meuse, by 26th December the SS Panzers had ground to a halt with empty fuel tanks, and were at the mercy of Allied counter-attacks. By 16th January the German penetration was repulsed and Hitlers beloved Panzer units retreated in tatters. The Fuhrers last gamble had failed. Fw190s of JG1 provide close support to the 9th SS Panzer Division, as they spearhead Germany's final major offensive of World War II. Seen advancing on the 82nd Airborne Division, the King Tiger tanks, with the aid of Luftwaffe ground-attack fighters, drive the Americans back through the snowy fields of the Ardennes on Christmas Day, 1944. It was the last, short-lived and ultimately unsuccessful advance made by the German forces during World War II.
By: Nicolas Trudgian