SECOND World War allies and former enemy Germany gathered yesterday to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. This was a crucial battle which stopped Adolf Hitler’s last-ditch offensive to turn the tide of the war which was ravaging Europe.

At dawn on December 16, 1944, more than 200,000 German soldiers began the most unexpected breakthrough

through the dense woods of Belgium and Luxembourg’s hilly Ardennes.

Making the most of the surprise move, the cold, freezing weather and wearied US troops, the Germans pierced the front line so deeply it came to be known as the Battle of the Bulge.

At a ceremony at the Mardasson memorial in Bastogne, Belgium, US secretary of defence Mark Esper paid tribute to more than 19,000 US troops who died in one of the bloodiest battles in the nation’s history.

“Their efforts not only defended America but also ensured that the peoples of Europe would be free again,” Esper said, calling the Battle of the Bulge “one of the greatest in American history”.

Even though German deaths also exceeded well over 10,000 in the battle that stretched deep into January, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier took special time to thank the US troops.

“On this day, we Germans would like to thank the United States of America. The American armed forces, together with their allies, liberated Europe and they also liberated Germany.” Steinmeier said.

“Those who died were victims of hatred, delusion, and a destructive fury that originated from my country,” he said.