On December 16th, 1944, Hitler mounted the largest offensive in the West since 1940. It was his last, desperate offensive of World War II.
With Germany’s industrial heartland in ruins, its factories pulverized by Allied air raids, and opposing armies advancing on two fronts, the Third Reich appeared on the verge of collapse. The sudden and fierce riposte caught the Allied forces by surprise, forcibly demonstrating Germany’s ability and will to continue the war.
It was the Führer’s last great gamble, and when American and British forces recovered to smash the brutal offensive, Hitler had spent the last energies of his crumbling empire. That final, desperate assault became known as the Battle of the Bulge.
At dawn on December 26th, pilots of 1st and 4th Staffels of 1/Gruppe JG-26 took off to provide cover for the forward Panzer divisions, which were coming under attack from P-51 ground attack fighters. Although flying brand new Focke-Wulf Fw 190-Ds, on take-off they immediately lost radio contact with their controllers, forcing the Gruppe to adopt Free Hunt tactics. It made no difference, they quickly found the opposition!
Nicolas Trudgian’s painting captures the Fw 190s of JG-26 at full tilt as they power across spectacular winter landscape in the Ardennes. Flying at tree-top height to avoid radar detection, the Luftwaffe pilots hurtle above German tanks and trucks lumbering towards the battlefront. The early morning glow glistens in the crisp morning snow, bringing an air of serenity to a poignant and historic scene.
Each print is authenticated with the individual signatures of two leading Luftwaffe Aces and one Panzer tank commander – all holders of the coveted Knights Cross.
Generalleutnant WALTER KRUPINSKI – Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves / 197 victories
Major GERHARD SCHÖPFEL – Knights Cross / 40 victories
Oberst EBERHARD STEPHAN – Knights Cross / One of the leading Panzer commanders of WWII