On the 16th of December 1944 the Germans launched a last offensive against the fast moving allied forces on the Western Front. No fewer than 24 German Divisions were involved in the attack. The purpose of the German offensive was to force a breakthrough in the Ardennes which would divide the allied troops in two and then to move towards Antwerp. The allies were completely surprised by the German attack and from 16 to 20 December the German troops advanced towards Stavelot, Sankt Vith, Houffalize and Bastogne. Bastogne was a crucial hub in the Ardennes for traffic, which controlled the north - south and east - west routes. Eisenhower realized the strategic value of the Bastogne cross roads and sent the 101st Airborne Division to the town. The city had to be held at all cost. On 20 December Bastogne had been surrounded by the Germans. They employed all possible efforts to conquer the town, which led to the Battle for Bastogne. The deceleration the German progress suffered from because of the Battle for Bastogne proved to be crucial for the further development of the offensive.