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World War Two - Edge of the Abyss

Updated on March 21, 2013

In the ninth part of Lost Films, this landmark series of films of life on the frontlines during World War 2, Allied forces endure the Battle of the Bulge in Belgiums' Ardennes Forest and push on toward the Rhine and the end of the war.

The Bulge

Free Stock Photos.
Free Stock Photos.

Ardennes Forest, Belgium

December 1944

In Belgiums' Ardennes Forest region close to the German border, a force of 250,000 German troops aided by 600 tanks are mounting a surprise offensive against the American lines. This is Hitler's final offensive to try and turn around a rapidly losing war.

The Germans have the upper hand with the Americans being too thinly spread and lacking adequate supplies of food, ammunition, medicine and winter clothing to repel the harsh German winter. because of this the Americans become overwhelmed and within a few days have been forced back nearly 40 miles, creating a bulge in the American lines.

The American objective is to hold the defensive lines until re-inforcements can arrive, a task that will not be an easy one. Winter storms are now setting in and temperatures drop below zero, the situation for the Americans is steadily becoming worse.

Dave Harris Art

  • World War 2 pictures
    Three new World War 2 pictures by Dave Harris available as limited edition giclee prints. El Alamein "Rats Against the Fox", RAF Dambusters mission in May 1943 and Band of Brothers night before D-Day.

Near Odeigne, Belgium

Late December, 1944

The U.S. Army's 84th Infantry Division are holding foxholes dug out of ice and snow. For days now they have successfully managed to hold their defensive positions against the Germans. The American troops are suffering from the falling temperatures with only the uniforms they wore during the invasion of Europe back in the summer months to warm them. Only some units received the adequate winter clothing, but due to shortages and miscommunications, many did not.

The 84th Infantry Division are having to withstand the freezing hell of holding the line in the Ardennes Forest, still expecting a German counter-attack. The battle for the Ardennes has lasted for two weeks and the freezing elements has incapacitated both forces.

American airpower has been grounded and the mobility of the German artillery has been severely restricted. The temperatures are well below freezing and the weather is now claiming lives, with trenchfoot and frostbite setting in to some of the men.

January 1945

The 84th Infantry Division are moving through the Ardennes after a large scale offensive by Allied bombers on the German supply lines. American units are moving north, whilst British units push south. In early January, Hitler begins to withdraw his forces and by the end of the month the Battle of the Bulge is at an end.

It has been the largest and costliest battle ever fought by the U.S. Army with over 19,000 killed and over 60,000 men captured or wounded. Despite these heavy losses, the Allies are now ready to make the final assault on Germany, and they have the Germans on the run.

Livadia Palace, Yalta, Crimea

Early February 1945

As the Germans retreat, President Roosevelt travels to the Black Sea resort of Yalta in the Crimea to meet with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. The Allied leaders are discussing plans for the final offensive against the Nazis. They release a joint statement re-affirming their acceptance of nothing less than Hitler's unconditional surrender.

"Of course we know, that it is Hitler's hope, the German warlord, that we would not agree, that some slight crack might appear in the solid wall of Allied unity. A crack that would give him and his fellow gangsters one last hope of escaping their just doom. But Hitler has failed"

President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Herford, Germany

April, 1945

With the German Army in full retreat, the Allied forces move through German towns and villages with white flags and bedsheets draped from every window. The 84th Infantry Division, moving eastward through the destroyed towns, encounter along the way, whole battalions of surrendering German troops, no longer willing nor able to put up any kind of resistance.

While the Allies crush Hitler's plans for a thousand year Reich, American forces pound Japan from the air. The Japanese brought America into the war by attacking Pearl Harbor three and a half years earlier, now B-29 bombers are bombing Japan's cities on a daily basis. From the skies the end seems near, but on the ground, soldiers and Marines are having to continue the struggling fight which intensifies with each passing day.

Ulithi Atoll, Caroline Islands

March 25th, 1945

Just 350 miles south of Japan is the island of Okinawa, capturing this island will enable the Americans to form a staging area for men and materials to launch an attack on the Japanese mainland.

Defending the island is more than 100,000 Japanese soldiers who must save the island in order to protect their homeland. Expecting a resolute defence of Okinawa, the Americans have amassed a massive force of over 1,500 ships carrying 183,000 American troops to assault the island, a larger force than that which had invaded Normandy in the days surrounding D-Day.

Although the force is higher, so are the stakes and many feel the force is not large enough.

Okinawa

April 1st, 1945 - 0830Hrs

After days of shelling the island, two army and two Marine divisions approach Okinawa's beaches and by 0900Hrs, 16,000 army soldiers and Marines begin landing on the island, so far opposition is minimal. They are met with a relatively eerie silence as they only have a few Japanese snipers to contend with.

Almost immediately, two army divisions move inland and secure Kadena Airfield. At the same time two more Marine divisions take Yontan Airfield further north of the island. by midday Okinawa's two main airfields are securely in American hands. Hundreds of native Okinawan civilians hand themselves over to the Americans, not the fanatical opposition they had expected.

This however is unsurprising when the Americans learn that the Okinawans, who are considered inferior by their Imperial occupiers, have been starved, tortured and murdered by the Japanese. Therefore, those who have managed to escape are eager to seek refuge with the Americans.

A few miles away, the 1st Marine Division are on the edge of Yontan Airfield as the first day of the invasion draws to a close. The Japanese are renowned for attacking at night and so the men are predictably on edge as sat here they are an easy target.

April 6th, 1945

In the first five days on the island, the Americans have managed to unload twice the amount of supplies expected and casualties are relatively low with 175 dead and less than 1,000 wounded.

Suddenly the Japanese who have been unexpectedly silent, launch their attack, in an attempt to leave the American troops on the island stranded, they begin attacking the American fleet with a viscious and deadly Kamikaze raid with hundreds of planes.

In the next 48 hours the Japanese attack with almost 900 aircraft, they have managed to sink 11 U.S. ships and have damaged a further 22. For the following 6 weeks more than 2,000 Japanese planes attack the American fleet and nearly 5,000 U.S. soldiers and sailors are killed.

The Kamikaze has become Japan's most lethal weapon against the U.S. Navy and for once the men feel safer on land.

Okinawa

April 9th, 1945

Casualties on the island are now rising too as the troops move eastwards toward the island's capital Naha. Resistance is heavy, especially among the army's southern line. In an attempt to assist the battered troops, Marines in the north are re-deployed south and are now nearing the main Japanese defensive line known as the Shuri Line. This stretches from Naha on the west coast to Yonabaru on the east coast and is heavily defended along it's rocky ridges.

The 1st Marine Division are slowly moving south towards the Shuri Line. Thousands of Japanese defenders are dug in to heavily fortified caves and bunkers concealed along the ridges.

From these defensive positions they are subjecting the American forces to intense artillery and machine gun fire. Ordered to relieve the battered 27th Infantry Division, the 1st Marine Division's troops close in on the Japanese front.

Death of a President

April 12th, 1945

President Franklin D. Roosevelt is at his retreat in Georgia recoupperating from exhausting overseas travel.

At 1:00pm in the afternoon he collapses in his living room and by 3:35pm America's longest serving President has passed away.

Although rumours of the President's deteriorating health had persisted for over a year, his sudden death stuns the American people and leaves the fate of the war uncertain.

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    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 

      3 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      Me, too.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Great Hub with detailed and informative text and an excellent choice of pictures. I appreciate your work.

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