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The Ardennes Offensive (Dec. 1944 - Jan. 1945)

The Ardennes Offensive (Dec. 1944 - Jan. 1945)

The Ardennes Offensive (December 16th, 1944 - January 25th, 1945) was a major German offensive (die Ardennenoffensive), launched towards the end of World War II through the densely forested Ardennes Mountains region of Belgium (and more specifically of Wallonia: hence its French name, Bataille des Ardennes), France and Luxembourg on the Western Front. The Wehrmachts code name for the offensive was Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein (in English: "Operation Watch on the Rhine"), after the German patriotic hymn Die Wacht am Rhein. This German offensive was officially named the Ardennes-Alsace campaign by the U.S. Army, but it is known to the English-speaking general public simply as the Battle of the Bulge. The "bulge" was the initial incursion the Germans put into the Allies' line of advance, as seen in maps presented in contemporary newspapers.

The German offensive was supported by several subordinate operations known as Unternehmen Bodenplatte, Unternehmen Greif, and Unternehmen Wahrung. Germany's planned goal for these operations was to split the British and American Allied line in half, capturing Antwerp, Belgium, and then proceed to encircle and destroy four Allied armies, forcing the Western Allies to negotiate a peace treaty in the Axis Powers' favor.

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German Flakpanzer 38(t) Anti-Aircraft Gun - 1.SS Panzer Division "LSSAH", Ardennes, 1944 German Flakpanzer 38(t) Anti-Aircraft Gun - 1.SS Panzer Division "LSSAH", Ardennes, 1944 (1:72 Scale)

The Flakpanzer 38(t) was designed around the chassis of the Czech-built LT-38 tank and was built from November 1943 to February 1944, entering service in 1944. As the vehicle used the 38(t) Ausf M chassis, the engine was near the middle of the vehicle and the armament was placed at the rear in a specially designed armored section.

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German Sd. Kfz. 138/2 Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer Light Tank Destroyer - Panzerjager Abteilung 741, 5.Panzerarmee, Ardennes, 1944 German Sd. Kfz. 138/2 Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer Light Tank Destroyer - Panzerjager Abteilung 741, 5.Panzerarmee, Ardennes, 1944 (1:72 Scale)

Manufactured in Czechoslovakia at the Skoda Munitions Works, the Hetzer was designed to be a low-cost light tank destroyer that could stand up to the rigors of battle on any front. Entering service in July 1944, the Hetzer used a wide range of existing components from the outclassed PzKpfw 38(t) tank.

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German RW61 Sturmmorser Rocket Assault Mortar with Loading Crane - Unidentified Unit, Germany, 1945 German RW61 Sturmmorser Rocket Assault Mortar with Loading Crane - Unidentified Unit, Germany, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

On August 5th, 1943, a self-propelled vehicle was proposed by senior Army officials based on the Tiger I chassis but mounting a 38cm mortar. Alkett was placed in charge of the design. The Company managed to complete a prototype by October 20th, which was run through a series of field tests for approval.

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German RW61 Sturmmorser Rocket Assault Mortar with Zimmerit - Unidentified Unit, Germany, December 1944 German RW61 Sturmmorser Rocket Assault Mortar with Zimmerit - Unidentified Unit, Germany, December 1944 (1:72 Scale)

On August 5th, 1943, a self-propelled vehicle was proposed by senior Army officials based on the Tiger I chassis but mounting a 38cm mortar. Alkett was placed in charge of the design. The Company managed to complete a prototype by October 20th, which was run through a series of field tests for approval.

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German RW61 Sturmmorser Rocket Assault Mortar with Loading Crane - Sturmmorser Kompanie 1001, Bonn Area, Germany, 1945 German RW61 Sturmtiger Rocket Assault Mortar with Loading Crane - Sturmmorser Kompanie 1001, Bonn Area, Germany, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

On August 5th, 1943, a self-propelled vehicle was proposed by senior Army officials based on the Tiger I chassis but mounting a 38cm mortar. Alkett was placed in charge of the design. The Company managed to complete a prototype by October 20th, which was run through a series of field tests for approval.

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German Sd. Kfz. 182 PzKpfw VI King Tiger Ausf. B Heavy Tank - schwere Panzerabteilung 509, Hungary, 1945 German Sd. Kfz. 182 PzKpfw VI King Tiger Ausf. B Heavy Tank - schwere Panzerabteilung 509, Hungary, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

In January 1943, a new Tiger tank was ordered by the Waffenant, this time with a turret large enough to mount the fearsome 8.8cm L/71 gun. Besides improving its tank killing capabilities, the new Tiger was also intended to be more survivable on the battlefield.

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German Sd. Kfz. 142 Sturmhaubitze 42 Ausf. G Assault Gun - Black 132, Ardennes, 1944 German Sd. Kfz. 142 Sturmhaubitze '42 Ausf. G Assault Gun - "Black 132", Ardennes, 1944 (1:72 Scale)

The German Sturmgeschutz (StuG) was one of the most successful armored fighting vehicles of the Second World War. It arose from an original concept of the pre-war panzer divisions, whereby a special vehicle for infantry support work was planned.

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US M8 Light Armored Car - C Company, 2nd Cavalry, 3rd Army, Belgium, January 1945 US M8 Light Armored Car - C Company, 2nd Cavalry, 3rd Army, Belgium, January 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The M8 Light Armored Car was a 6x6 armored car produced by the Ford Motor Company during the Second World War. It was used by the U.S. and British troops in Europe and the Far East until the end of the war.

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US M24 Chaffee Light Tank - 18th Squadron, 14th Cavalry Group, Petit Tiers, Belgium, 1945 US M24 Chaffee Light Tank - 18th Squadron, 14th Cavalry Group, Petit Tiers, Belgium, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The M24 Chaffee - arguably the best light tank of World War II - was a fast, lightly armored vehicle with the ability to deliver relatively large caliber direct fire thanks to its excellent 75 mm M6 gun. More than 4,000 vehicles were produced by Cadillac and Massey-Harris from 1943-45.

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German VW-166 Schwimmwagen - Volks-Werfer Brigade 8, 7.Armee, Battle of the Bulge, 1944 German VW-166 Schwimmwagen - Volks-Werfer Brigade 8, 7.Armee, Battle of the Bulge, 1944 (1:48 Scale)

Built by Volkswagen, the simple yet reliable Kubelwagen ("bucket car") was the German equivalent of the American Jeep. This nimble four-seater, based on Ferdinand Porsche's original "People's Car" design of the 1930's, used the same rear-mounted, aircooled engine to drive the rear wheels.

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US 75mm Howitzer Motor Carriage M8 Tank - Unidentified Unit, European Theatre of Operations, 1944-'45 US 75mm Howitzer Motor Carriage M8 Tank - Unidentified Unit, European Theatre of Operations, 1944-'45 (1:72 Scale)

The 75 mm Howitzer Motor Carriage M8, sometimes known as the M8 Scott, was a self-propelled howitzer vehicle of the United States developed during the Second World War. It was developed on the chassis of the then-new Light Tank M5 (General Stuart VI).

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US M4A3E8(76)W HVSS Sherman Medium Tank - 35th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division, Bastogne, 1945 US M4A3E8(76)W HVSS Sherman Medium Tank - 35th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division, Bastogne, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The M4 Sherman medium tank was regarded by many as the workhorse of the US Army during World War II. In fact, virtually all of the Allied armies employed the Sherman in their armed forces, including the British, who developed an upgunned variant called the "Firefly".

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US M4A3 Sherman Medium Tank with 105mm Gun and VVSS Suspension - 6th Armored Division, Luxembourg, 1945 US M4A3 Sherman Medium Tank with 105mm Gun and VVSS Suspension - 6th Armored Division, Luxembourg, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The M4 Sherman medium tank was regarded by many as the workhorse of the US Army during World War II. In fact, virtually all of the Allied armies employed the Sherman in their armed forces, including the British, who developed an upgunned variant called the "Firefly".

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US M4A3 Sherman Medium Tank with 105mm Gun and VVSS Suspension - 8th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division, France, 1944 US M4A3 Sherman Medium Tank with 105mm Gun and VVSS Suspension - 8th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division, France, 1944 (1:72 Scale)

The M4 Sherman medium tank was regarded by many as the workhorse of the US Army during World War II. In fact, virtually all of the Allied armies employed the Sherman in their armed forces, including the British, who developed an upgunned variant called the "Firefly".

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US GMC M36 Jackson Tank Destroyer - 703rd Tank Destroyer Battalion, "Battle of the Bulge", December 1944 US GMC M36 Jackson Tank Destroyer - 703rd Tank Destroyer Battalion, "Battle of the Bulge", December 1944 (1:72 Scale)

The M36 tank destroyer, formally 90 mm Gun Motor Carriage, M36, was an American tank destroyer used during World War II. The M36 was essentially an up-gunned M10 tank destroyer, replacing the former's 3 inch (76.2mm) M7 gun with a powerful 90 mm gun.

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US M4A3 Sherman Medium Tank - Creighton Abrams "Thunderbolt IV", 37th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division, Bastogne, Belgium, December 1944 US M4A3 Sherman Medium Tank - Creighton Abrams' "Thunderbolt IV", 37th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division, Bastogne, Belgium, December 1944 (1:43 Scale)

By all accounts, the M4 Sherman medium tank was regarded as the workhorse of the US Army during World War II. In fact, virtually all of the Allied armies employed the Sherman in their armed forces, including the British, who developed an upgunned variant called the "Firefly".

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US M16 Multiple Gun Motor Carriage Half-Track with Quad Anti-Aircraft Gun - 457th AAA, 29th Infantry Division, Battle of the Bulge, 1944 US M16 Multiple Gun Motor Carriage Half-Track with Quad Anti-Aircraft Gun - 457th AAA, 29th Infantry Division, Battle of the Bulge, 1944 (1:50 Scale)

The best known American halftracks were the M series made as a standardized design by Autocar, Diamond T, International and White. The M series had a similar front end to the White M3A1 Scout Car but used more powerful engines: a 147bhp 6.3-liter White AX in the Autocar, Diamond T, and White, and a 143bhp 1HC in the International.

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German Krauss-Maffei Sd. Kfz. 7/1 Prime Mover with Flak Gun - 2.SS Panzer Division Das Reich, Ardennes, 1944 German Krauss-Maffei Sd. Kfz. 7/1 Prime Mover with Flak Gun - 2.SS Panzer Division 'Das Reich', Ardennes, 1944 (1:50 Scale)

Development of the Sd. Kfz. 7 can be traced back to a 1934 requirement for an 8-ton half-track. The vehicle first appeared in 1938 and was destined to be used mainly as the tractor for the 8.8cm flak gun. The Sd. Kfz. 7 was an extremely useful vehicle, employed both as a weapons carrier and prime mover by the Wehrmacht.

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German Sd. Kfz. 181 PzKpfw VI Tiger I Ausf. E Heavy Tank - "222", Kurt Sowa, schwere SS Panzerabteilung 501, Ardennes, 1944 German Sd. Kfz. 181 PzKpfw VI Tiger I Ausf. E Heavy Tank - "222", Kurt Sowa, schwere SS Panzerabteilung 501, Ardennes, 1944 (1:50 Scale)

The Ausf E mounted a huge 8.8cm KwK36 L/56 cannon and featured two MG34 machine guns for close support against enemy infantry. By war's end, 1,354 vehicles had been produced, some rolling off the Wegmann assembly line.

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US M4A3E8 Sherman Medium Tank - Captain James Leach, "BlockBuster 3D", B Company, 37th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division, Ardennes, 1944 US M4A3E8 Sherman Medium Tank - Captain James Leach, "BlockBuster 3D", B Company, 37th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division, Ardennes, 1944 (1:50 Scale)

By all accounts, the M4 Sherman medium tank was regarded as the workhorse of the US Army during World War II. In fact, virtually all of the Allied armies employed the Sherman in their armed forces, including the British, who developed an upgunned variant called the "Firefly".

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German Sd. Kfz. 171 PzKpfw V Panther Ausf. G Medium Tank - Kampfgruppe Peiper, 1.SS Panzer Division, Ardennes, 1944 German Sd. Kfz. 171 PzKpfw V Panther Ausf. G Medium Tank - "Kampfgruppe Peiper," 1.SS Panzer Division, Ardennes, 1944 (1:50 Scale)

In many respects, the Panther tank was viewed as the finest armored fighting vehicle of the Second World War. Based in large part upon the Soviet's highly successful T-34 medium tank, the PzKpfw V Ausfuhrung G (Type G) was built by several manufacturers including MAN, Daimler-Benz, and MNH.

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US M4 Sherman Medium Tank - Team OHara, Combat Command B, 10th Armored Division, Battle of the Bulge, 1944 US M4 Sherman Medium Tank - Team O'Hara, Combat Command B, 10th Armored Division, Battle of the Bulge, 1944 (1:50 Scale)

By all accounts, the M4 Sherman medium tank was regarded as the workhorse of the US Army during World War II. In fact, virtually all of the Allied armies employed the Sherman in their armed forces, including the British, who developed an upgunned variant called the "Firefly".

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US M18 Hellcat Light Tank Destroyer - 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion, 11th Armored Division, Ardennes, Battle of the Bulge, 1944 US M18 Hellcat Light Tank Destroyer - 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion, 11th Armored Division, Ardennes, Battle of the Bulge, 1944 (1:72 Scale)

The M18 first saw combat in northwest Europe and Italy during the summer of 1944. It excelled at ambush and hit-and-run tactics. Its low silhouette, high firepower and great speed gave it the capability of destroying all but the heaviest of German armor, although it was too lightly armored to stand and fight.

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German Ersatz M10 Panther Tank - SS Panzer Brigade 150, Operation Greif, Ardennes, 1944 German Ersatz M10 Panther Tank - SS Panzer Brigade 150, Operation Greif, Ardennes, 1944 (1:72 Scale)

In preparations for the Ardennes Offensive in the winter of 1944, around 10 Ausf Gs were converted to resemble American Gun Motor Carriage M10 tank destroyer. The conversion was done by welding additional metal sheets to the turret and hull along with application of US Army camouflage and markings.

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German Ersatz M10 Panther Tank - SS Panzer Brigade 150, Operation Greif, Ardennes, 1944 German Ersatz M10 Panther Tank - SS Panzer Brigade 150, Operation Greif, Ardennes, 1944 (1:72 Scale)

In preparations for the Ardennes Offensive in the winter of 1944, around 10 Ausf Gs were converted to resemble American Gun Motor Carriage M10 tank destroyer. The conversion was done by welding additional metal sheets to the turret and hull along with application of US Army camouflage and markings.

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US M18 Hellcat Light Tank Destroyer - 805th Tank Destroyer Battalion, 5th Armored Division, Italy, 1944 US M18 Hellcat Light Tank Destroyer - 805th Tank Destroyer Battalion, 5th Armored Division, Italy, 1944 (1:72 Scale)

The M18 first saw combat in northwest Europe and Italy during the summer of 1944. It excelled at ambush and hit-and-run tactics. Its low silhouette, high firepower and great speed gave it the capability of destroying all but the heaviest of German armor, although it was too lightly armored to stand and fight.

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German Sd. Kfz. 173 Jagdpanther Tank Destroyer - schwere Panzerjager Abteilung 560, Ardennes, 1944 German Sd. Kfz. 173 Jagdpanther Tank Destroyer - schwere Panzerjager Abteilung 560, Ardennes, 1944 (1:72 Scale)

The Jagdpanther mounted a powerful 8.8cm Pak L/71 cannon within a fixed turret, which was situated atop a standard Panther V chassis. Although production of the tank was begun at MIAG in January 1944, it took another ten months before the larger NMH plant could expand the production run in time for the Wacht am Rhein ("Watch on the Rhine") winter counteroffensive.

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German Late Production Sd. Kfz. 181 PzKpfw VI Tiger I Ausf. E Heavy Tank - Hybrid, schwere Panzerabteilung 506, Ardennes, 1944 German Late Production Sd. Kfz. 181 PzKpfw VI Tiger I Ausf. E Heavy Tank - Hybrid, schwere Panzerabteilung 506, Ardennes, 1944 (1:72 Scale)

The German Waffenamt issued an order to design the VK4501(H) (as the PzKpfw VI Ausf. E was then known) in May 1941, just one month prior to the commencement of Operation Barbarossa. Interestingly, Henschel und Sohn of Kassel was charged with building the heavily armored chassis while Krupp, by far the largest munitionwerks in Germany, was given the task of developing the turret.

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German Sd. Kfz. 167 Sturmgeschutz IV Assault Gun - 17.SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Gotz von Berlichingen, Ardennes, 1945 German Sd. Kfz. 167 Sturmgeschutz IV Assault Gun - 17.SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Gotz von Berlichingen, Ardennes, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The German Sturmgeschutz (StuG) was one of the most successful armored fighting vehicles of the Second World War. It arose from an original concept of the pre-war panzer divisions, whereby a special vehicle for infantry support work was planned.

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German Sd. Kfz. 182 PzKpfw VI King Tiger Ausf. B Heavy Tank - "313", schwere Panzerabteilung 501, Ardennes, 1944 German Sd. Kfz. 182 PzKpfw VI King Tiger Ausf. B Heavy Tank - "313", schwere Panzerabteilung 501, Ardennes, 1944 (1:72 Scale)

In January 1943, a new Tiger tank was ordered by the Waffenant, this time with a turret large enough to mount the fearsome 8.8cm L/71 gun. Besides improving its tank killing capabilities, the new Tiger was also intended to be more survivable on the battlefield.

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