Because the Germans had waited until snow and thick fog had grounded the Allies’ aircraft before launching their attack, troops on both sides had to contend with near-Arctic conditions as well as enemy gunfire and shelling. Blizzards often reduced visibility to almost zero, digging foxholes in the rock-hard earth was an exhausting task, and tanks often had to be chiselled out of the ice after freezing to the ground overnight. Many wounded soldiers froze to death before they could be rescued, and thousands of American GIs had to be treated for cases of frostbite and trench foot.
The American defenders of Bastogne suffered particularly badly. Priority had been given to the supply of fuel and ammunition, with the result that most of them were still in their summer uniforms. They could not light fires as that would give away their position, and there was no opportunity to wash, shave or put on dry socks.
American infantrymen of the 290th Regiment crouch in the snow near Amonines, Belgium