|One Last Blitzkrieg|
On December 16, the Germans launch their last blitzkrieg. The Americans in front of the assault fight valiantly but are soon overrun, but their unexpectedly stiff defense slows the German timetable. Eisenhower reacts quickly, sending the Seventh Armored and 101st Airborne Divisions to hold the road junctions at Saint Vith and Bastogne. The Germans capture Saint Vith, but not before determined American resistance further slows the German timetable. The Germans surround Bastogne, and the German commander sends a demand for surrender. American General McAuliffe sends back a one-word answer - ”Nuts” - and the paratroopers settle in to hold Bastogne until they are relieved.
By Christmas Eve, the German advance is stopped. Fuel supplies are low, and the fuel dumps they hoped to capture remain out of reach. The Allies begin counterattacking on Christmas day; the next day Patton’s Third Army relieves Bastogne. Montgomery attacks from the north, cutting off the retreat of many German units. Finally, the weather clears and Allied fighters and fighter-bombers take to the skies.
Allied aircraft prey on German formations from the clear winter skies; the Luftwaffe is no longer a factor. Fighters ravage armored columns and, as in the disaster at Falaise, they attack anything with wheels.
While the Germans manage to withdraw some troops back into Germany, they lose 100,000 men and 600 tanks. Allied casualties exceed 75,000, but the last blitzkrieg has been stopped. For his losses, Hitler has delayed the Allied advance by six weeks, but his last remaining armored divisions are destroyed.
Crossing the Rhine