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BASTOGNE, a town in the Belgian Ardennes, scene of an epic defense by American troops during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. Controlling a vital road network, Bastogne was an obvious goal when German armies on 16 December 1944 launched a surprise counter-offensive. The Allied commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, rushed infantry divisions to the area to en-sure that the Tenth Armored Division's tanks would reach Bastogne ahead of the Germans. Contingents of the Fifth Panzer Army encircled Bastogne the night of 20 December, but because the main German objective was to cross the Meuse River to the west, all-out attack was delayed. When the Germans on 22 December demanded surrender, the American commander, Brigadier General Anthony C. McAuliffe, responded with derision: "Nuts!" That same day, the U.S. Third Army began to drive to Bastogne's aid, and clearing weather on 23 December enabled American planes to drop supplies. Although the Germans attacked strongly on Christmas Day, the defenses held, and on 26 December tanks of the Fourth Armored Division broke the siege. Heavy fighting nevertheless continued as the Germans for another week tried desperately to take the town. Reinforced by more troops of the Third Amy, the defenses held, so that on 3 January 1945 the Third Army was able to begin an offensive aimed at eliminating the "bulge" the Germans had created in American lines. After the war the Belgians erected a monument (Le Madrillon) at Bastogne in tribute to the American stand there and elsewhere in the Battle of the Bulge.


Cole, Hugh M. The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge. Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, U.S. Army, 1965. Re-print, 1994.

Elstob, Peter. Bastogne: The Road Block. New York: Ballantine Books, 1968.

Marshall, S. L. A. Bastogne: The Story of the First Eight Days. Washington, D.C.: Infantry Journal Press, 1946. Reprint, Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, U.S. Army, 1988.

Charles B.MacDonald/a. r.

See alsoBulge, Battle of the .