In a desperate attempt to regain the initiative, halt the allied advance, and retake the port of Antwerp, the Germans, in December 1944, launched their last major offensive of the war. Thirty German divisions were secretly massed in the Ardennes Forest and then thrown against a weakened American line on December 16, 1944. The Americans were completely taken by surprise, and the Germans made excellent headway.
At Bastogne, a vital road interchange, members of the 101st Airborne Division held out against the German attack, completely cutoff from reinforcements or supplies.
Patton's Third Army, fighting south of the Ardennes, disengaged from the enemy, turned north, and, within several days, engaged the Germans in the Ardennes and relieved Bastogne. By December 22, the German advance had stalled, while the Americans were able to mass more and more men and armor. In January 1945, the Americans attacked from the north as well, but were unable to cut off the German retreat. However, the bulge was closed and the Allies again went on the offensive, this time against considerably weakened Germans, who had used most of what they had left in the Ardennes Offensive.