In the early hours of 16 December 1944, out of nowhere, hundreds of panzers and thousands of troops poured forward as Hitler launched the last great German offensive of the war and, for once, the Allies had been wrong-footed. The thinly-held Ardennes was the last place they’d been expecting a counter-attack, but now three German armies were heading west across an 80-mile front.
Caught off guard the Americans rushed in reinforcements, including the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions encamped near Reims, over a hundred miles away. Exhausted by the fighting in Holland during Operation Market Garden, they had been sent to Reims to recuperate. They never got the chance. Thrown into the thick of the action the 82nd helped to blunt the Germans’ advance to the north, whilst at Bastogne, a pivotal town further south, the 101st, surrounded, out-numbered and besieged, refused to surrender. The line held and three days before Christmas the panzers ground to a halt, stalled by lack of fuel. As the weather improved the Allies could now bring their airpower into play. Hitler’s last gamble had failed.
Anthony’s magnificent painting portrays P-47 Thunderbolts of the 509th Fighter Squadron, 405th Fighter Group, as they pass low over paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division advancing through heavy snow during the Battle of the Bulge, early January 1945. Major Robert ‘Blackie’ Blackburn, in his distinctive aircraft Chow Hound, leads his unit as they head out on a morning low-level bombing mission.
Each copy of Anthony Saunders' Limited Edition, Thunder in the Ardennes, is signed by:
First Lieutenant EDWARD J. LOPEZ DFC PH - Flew P-47s with the 365th Fighter Group and later the 387th Fighter Squadron during the Battle of the Bulge.
Colonel HERBERT L. PREVOST DFC - Flew P-47s with the 387th Fighter Squadron in the Ardennes and was awarded the DFC for helping to destroy seven tanks, three armored vehicles and five trucks in a single day.
Private 1st Class ARTHUR ‘ART’ PETERSEN - Jumped on D-Day with Fox Company, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne,. Wounded during Operation Market Garden, he re-joined in time to defend Bastogne.
Private 1st Class SALVADOR ‘SAL’ PEREZ - Jumped on D-Day with the Service Company, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne and fought throughout Normandy, Operation Market Garden and at Bastogne.
Staff Sergeant LEO A. DUMOUCHELLE - Served in the 82nd Airborne Division with the 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion (C). Wounded in Belgium in September 1944 he returned to fight in the Battle of the Bulge.
Captain DEAN McCANDLESS - Made four combat jumps with the 505th PIR, 82nd Airborne at Sicily, at Salerno, on D-Day and finally Operation Market Garden before fighting during the Battle of the Bulge. He was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart.
Captain WAYNE COLEMAN - Flew P-47s with the 78th Fighter Group on dive-bombing and strafing missions in support of the Normandy invasion and in the Ardennes. He later converted to P-51s and shot down three Fw190s in a single mission and an Me262 jet.