Why is Hitler’s Ardennes campaign called the battle of the Bulge?

In 1944, the Nazis launched a huge counterattack in the Ardennes region in Southern Belgium, aimed at bringing the Allied advance on Germany to an abrupt halt. The campaign is often known as the 'battle of the Bulge' – but how did it get its name?

US infantrymen in snowdrifts

In December 1944, Hitler launched his last major offensive of the Second World War – if it succeeded, he would bring the Allied advance to a screeching halt. Hitler attempted to split the western allies and recapture the vital supply port of Antwerp by ordering his forces to launch a surprise thrust through the hilly and wooded Ardennes region in Southern Belgium.

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The area was only lightly held by American troops and, caught off guard, they were initially swept aside.

Within two days, some German units had advanced up to 60 miles into Allied territory, creating a ‘bulge’ in the frontline – giving the battle its popular name.

But their initial success was not to last, especially as they lacked the vital fuel they needed to keep their tanks and vehicles going.

As Allied resistance stiffened and improving weather allowed the Allied Air Forces to join the action, the German attack ground to a halt.

In mid-January 1945, they were forced to retreat, having suffered heavy losses in men and tanks that they were unable to replace.

Answered by one of our Q&A experts, historian and author Julian Humphrys.

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This article was taken from BBC History Revealed magazine