Liberation of Belgium

The liberation of Belgium was completed on 4 February 1945 when the entire country was reportedly free of German troops.[1] The operation began when Allied forces entered on 2 September 1944. The liberation came after four years of Nazi rule. The Belgian government was returned to power on 8 September 1944, after Allied forces captured Brussels four days earlier.[2]

Operation begins

The invasion began with the 2nd Canadian Division entering Belgium on the 2 September. The Welsh Guards landed and join the fight on the 4 September with minimal resistance.[3] The British Second Army captured Antwerp, the costal city that lies on the border with the Netherlands, on 4 September as well. In the following days and weeks, the Battle of the Scheldt claimed many lives, as the port of Antwerp could not be operated effectively without control of the Scheldt estuary. Antwerp was the first port to be captured by the Allies in near perfect condition, making it very valuable, especially with its deep water facilities. On 6 September, the 4th Canadian Armoured Division crossed the border with Belgium and took areas around Ypres and Passchendaele.[4]

The Ghent Canal

Between the 9 and 11 September, the 1st Polish Armoured Division attempted to capture control of the Ghent canal, resulting in heavy losses for the Poles, after running into fierce resistance over difficult terrain. Further up the river, 3.1 miles (5.0 kilometres) south of Bruges, the 4th Canadian Armoured Division launched an offensive on 8 September and broke through two days later, after coming under heavy mortar fire. A narrow river crossing was opened and extended slowly due to heavy enemy resistance.

The Ardennes

The First United States Army, under General Courtney Hodges, captured areas south of Brussels in early September 1944. The American units were spread very thinly from south of Liège, through the Ardennes and into Luxembourg, leaving their defensive line lightly reinforced. Between September and 16 December, the Ardennes Forest was the "quiet sector"—the Americans used this area to rest tired units.

Adolf Hitler launched Germany's last offensive of the Western Front on 16 December, known as the Battle of the Bulge. He intended to push through the Ardennes Forest with the 6th Panzer Division advancing and capturing the coastal town of Antwerp.[5] The Fifth Panzer Army, under German general Hasso von Manteuffel,[6] was to attack the American forces in the region, with the 7th German Army attacking to the south as to cut off supplies create a buffer zone.

On the morning of the 16 December, a two-hour German artillery bombardment startled the Allies. When the German forces attacked, it was foggy, and the Allies could not use their air superiority to resupply ground units. On 18 December, after advancing 60 miles (97 kilometres) in two days,[5] the Germans reached a point of stalemate. By the 22nd the weather had cleared, allowing the Allies to be resupplied. Vicious fighting followed, ending in mid-January when the German tank units began to run out of fuel.[7]

The battle ended with the Germans in full retreat. 600,000 U.S. troops were involved in the battle making it the largest ground battle the U.S. army has ever fought. 81,000 of those were killed or wounded and 100,000 German soldiers were killed.


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