Battle for the Elsenborn Ridge



The Elsenborn ridge is a boomerang shaped, higher laying ground east of the Belgian village Elsenborn with view on the villages Krinkelt-Rocherath and the German border. When at 16 December 1944, the Ardennes offensive started,the forward American units were ordered to fall back on this easily defendable position. Surprised by the sudden German attack the Americans fought for four days in order to secure themselves and to contain the German advance. The Ardennes offensive officially lasted from 16 December 1944 to 25 January,1945 but this battle for the Elsenborn ridge, fought between the American 99th and 2nd Infantry Divisions and the 6. German Panzerarmee would be decided in the advantage of the allies in four days.

The Belgian Ardennes were known to the allies in 1944 as a secondary front. Newly arrived divisions could get used to front life and battered divisions could rest and recuperate. Situated between the Hürtgenwald in the north, where a bloody battle had been raging since September 1944 and French Lorraine to the south, where General George Patton struggled through strong German fortifications near Metz, the Ardennes were an area of rest, warm food, hot showers and entertainment. Private Joe Schectman articulated the picture of this sector on 15 December in a letter home: "We are quartered here as comfortable and safe as in England. Of course I can't say how long we will remain in this paradise. As long as I am here, I am safe."

One day later, in the early morning of 16 December, right here the final German offensive in the west in the Second World War began. It was aimed at cutting off allied supplies. Its main aim was the port of Antwerp that could be reached most quickly over the road through Büllingen, Malmedy and Liege. For that reason, the focus of the German attack lay in the northern sector of the Ardennes. In order to break through to the west, the conquest of the Elsenborn ridge was therefore very important to the Germans.


Ardennes offensive
Battle of the Bulge, “Von Rundstedt offensive“ or “die Wacht am Rhein“. Final large German offensive in the west from December 1944 through January 1945.
Largest Soviet ground formation. It was attached to a certain area which gave its name to the units involved. For instance the Voronezh front.
Foot soldiers of a given army.
Attack on a smaller or larger scale.

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A knocked out German tank (Panther) in Krinkelt.
(Source: U.S. Army Center for Military History)


Translated by:
Peter ter Haar
Article by:
Sjoerd Aarts
Published on:
Last edit on:
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