WWII Battle of the Bulge during the freezing winter of 1944-45
The Battle of the Bulge was the last major German offensive in Europe during World War II.
It is considered one of the largest and bloodiest battles the United States fought in during the war.
It involved 610,000 Americans, 55,000 British, and 72,000 Free French, fighting along Europe's Western Front.
There were 89,500 American casualties and over 100,000 German casualties.
Beginning with a Nazi surprise attack on December 16, 1944, it lasted nearly 40 days, until January 25, 1945.
Leading up to it was D-DAY, JUNE 6, 1944, and the advance of the Allies into Europe, pushing back the forces of the National Socialist Workers Party, or Nazi.
After six months of fighting, the Nazis were running short on fuel for their army.
Adolf Hitler personally devised the plan to send his remaining forces in a last-ditch effort to break through the Allies' line.
His intention was to recapture the port of Antwerp, Belgium, to have access to its shipping and oil.
On December 16, 1944, three Nazi armies were amassed, consisting of 13 Panzer and Infantry divisions, made up of an estimated 300,000 men.
They executed their enormous surprise "Blitzkrieg" lightning attack against the Allies in the Ardennes Forest of Belgium, France, and Luxembourg.
Being caught off-guard, the Allies were hard-pressed to keep their lines from breaking under the intense assault.
Allies' lines "bulged," but did not break.
General Eisenhower stated in his order, DECEMBER 22, 1944:
"By rushing out from his fixed defenses the enemy may give us the chance to turn his great gamble into his worst defeat.
So I call upon every man, of all the Allies, to rise now to new heights of courage ... with unshakable faith in the cause for which we fight, we will, with God's help, go forward to our greatest victory."
Bastogne was a town in Southern Belgium of immense strategic importance as eight roads crossed there.
Six Nazi Panzer divisions were on a mad rush to occupy it, but the night before, in freezing sub-zero temperature, American troops of the 101st Airborne were trucked in to hold it.
Also defending Bastogne were the U.S. 10th Armored Division and the African American 969th Artillery Battalion.
The German commander Heinrich Freiherr von Luttwitz demanded surrender:
"To the U.S.A. Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne.
The fortune of war is changing. This time the U.S.A. forces in and near Bastogne have been encircled by strong German armored units.
More German armored units have crossed the River Our near Ortheuville, have taken Marche and reached St. Hubert by passing through Hompre-Sibret-Tillet. Libramont is in German hands.
There is only one possibility to save the encircled U.S.A. troops from total annihilation: that is the honorable surrender of the encircled town.
In order to think it over a term of two hours will be granted beginning with the presentation of this note.
If this proposal should be rejected one German Artillery Corps and six heavy A.A. Battalions are ready to annihilate the U.S.A. troops in and near Bastogne.
The order for firing will be given immediately after this two hours term.
All the serious civilian losses caused by this artillery fire would not correspond with the well-known American humanity.
-The German Commander."
On December 22, 1944, U.S. Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe answered:
"To the German Commander.
-The American Commander."
This unusual response caused the Nazi commander to hesitate. Then the Nazis attacked -- over 50,000 Nazis assaulted the 15,000 Americans.
General McAuliffe wrote to his troops, December 24, 1944:
"What’s Merry about all this, you ask? We’re fighting — it’s cold, we aren’t home.
All true but what has the proud Eagle Division accomplished with its worthy comrades the 10th Armored Division, the 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion and all the rest?
Just this: We have stopped cold everything that has been thrown at us from the North, East, South and West.
We have identifications from four German Panzer Divisions, two German Infantry Divisions and one German Parachute Division.
These units, spearheading the last desperate German lunge, were headed straight west for key points when the Eagle Division was hurriedly ordered to stem the advance.
How effectively this was done will be written in history; not alone in our Division’s glorious history but in World history ..."
"The Germans actually did surround us, their radios blared our doom.
Their Commander demanded our surrender in the following impudent arrogance ..."
In conclusion, McAuliffe stated:
"Allied Troops are counterattacking in force.
We continue to hold Bastogne. By holding Bastogne we assure the success of the Allied Armies. We know that our Division Commander, General Taylor, will say: 'Well Done!'
We are giving our country and our loved ones at home a worthy Christmas present and being privileged to take part in this gallant feat of arms are truly making for ourselves a Merry Christmas."
After eight days, the Americans were nearly out of ammunition.
Marching to their rescue was General George Patton and the U.S. Third Army.
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Unfortunately, the Third Army was pinned down due to foul weather which prevented planes from flying to give air cover.
General Patton directed Chaplain Fr. James O'Neill to compose a prayer, which was printed on cards and distributed to the 250,000 troops to pray:
"Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle.
Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies, and establish Thy justice among men and nations.
The reverse of the card had General Patton's Christmas Greeting:
"To each officer and soldier in the Third United States Army, I wish a Merry Christmas. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We march in our might to complete victory.
May God's blessings rest upon each of you on this Christmas Day.
-G.S. Patton, Jr., Lieutenant General Commanding, Third United States Army."
Miraculously, the next day the weather cleared and the planes gave air support.
General Patton's troops punched through the Nazi lines to rescue the exhausted 101st Airborne and thwart the Nazi advance.
Running out of fuel, Nazi tanks ground to a halt.
The Battle of the Bulge ended January 16, 1945.
Less than four months later Hitler reportedly committed suicide and the National Socialist Workers Party surrendered.
A popular Christmas carol during World War II was "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas," written in 1942 by Irving Berlin.
Irving Berlin, a Russian Jewish immigrant to America, had served in the U.S. infantry during World War I.
He wrote some of the country's most popular songs, including "God Bless America."
Irving Berlin's "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" was featured in the 1954 movie White Christmas, starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney, aunt of actor George Clooney.
"I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know
Where the treetops glisten,
and children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow ...
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write
May your days be merry and bright
And may all your Christmases be white."
On CHRISTMAS EVE, December 24, 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt had told the American people:
"It is not easy to say 'Merry Christmas' to you, my fellow Americans, in this time of destructive war ...
We will celebrate this Christmas Day in our traditional American way ... because the teachings of Christ are fundamental in our lives ... the story of the coming of the immortal Prince of Peace."
(Get William J. Federer's book There Really is a Santa Claus-The History of Saint Nicholas and Christmas Holiday Traditions www.AmericanMinute.com)