This Day In History: Patton Relieves The Americans Besieged In Bastogne (1944)

On this day,  in 1944 the American General George S Patton relieves the American units that had been under siege in the town of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. General George S. Patton used an audacious strategy to break the German siege. The Germans had attacked the Americans in the Ardennes Region of Belgium and they had driven them back many miles. They had forced the surrender of some 7000 American soldiers in a couple of days. However, there was one group of Americans who refused to surrender and these were the units that were stationed in the key town of Bastogne. The town was a key point in the communication networks in the area and the Germans had to seize it to make sure that they could move their tanks and men through the region and further into Belgium.

The town of Bastogne was soon to become the focal point of the Battle. The side that controlled it would be able to emerge as the victor. The Belgian town was defended by crack troops from the 101st Airborne Division. They were reinforced by men from various units, who had been driven back and scattered during the German advance. The Germans surrounded the town and attacked it relentlessly. Supplies of food, ammo, and medicine started to run out. The defenders in Bastogne also suffered terribly in the cold weather.  The German demanded that the Americans surrender. The leader of the Americans in Bastogne, Brigadier General Anthony C. MacAuliffe responded to a German surrender demand with a written message with a single word: “Nuts.” This totally confused the Germans.

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The damage in Bastogne (1944)

The siege continued and the Americans came under increasing pressure in Bastogne. Patton or ‘Old Blood and Guts’ advanced to break the siege. He ordered his army to conduct a 90-degree counter-thrust movement. This surprised the Germans and Patton were able to break through the Germans lines. The Sherman tanks of Patton were able to drive forward to Bastogne and they were able to relieve the besieged American units in Bastogne. The relief of Bastogne was a turning point in the Battle of the Bulge and virtually ensured that the German offensive would be thrown back.  The maneuver to relieve Bastogne was perhaps one of Patton’s greatest strategies of the war. After their defeat at the Battle of the Bulge, the Americans were able to push the Germans back to the Rhine. In early 1945 the Americans with their allies were able to cross the Rhine and into Germany.

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George Patton
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