[December 27, 2019] In December 1944, citizens all across the United States were holding their collective breath. The war in Europe was not over, but it seemed to be winding down. The allies were at ease, well a bit at easy anyway. It was winter, and Germany had not launched a winter military campaign since Frederick the Great in the mid-1700s.
On December 16th, that all changed. Hitler had quietly gathered his forces and sent them plunging through the Ardennes Forest to carry the fight to the allies. It worked and what was to become known as the Battle of the Bulge was on. The weather was cloudy and miserable, and that made it impossible for allied air power to protect ground troops.
Many American ground troops still had summer uniforms and were suffering. European winters are cold, but the winter of 1944-1945 was the worst in years. Americans knew our troops were in trouble. The 101st Airborne held the town of Bastogne, Belgium, but they were surrounded, outgunned, and running low on everything but courage. Bastogne was vital because it was a crossroads for the major roads in the area.
On Christmas Day, the American 2nd Armored Division and the 29th British Brigade were able to stop the German advance. U.S. Army General George S. Patton thought the Germans might launch such an attack and was ready. Although far south of the battle, he wheeled the Entire 3rd Army ninety degrees north and pushed through some of the worst possible conditions. Patton moved the 3rd Army 30 miles a day, and on December 26th, 75 years ago, he broke the back of the German advance and relieved Bastogne.
These were also terrible days for the people at home. Families generally knew where their sons and daughters were. News from the European Front filled the newspapers and the radio broadcasts. Women, families and neighbors supported each other. If bad news came to one house, everyone offered their support.
There were 77,000 American casualties in the Battle of the Bulge. WWII touched everyone in the United States, and the effects are felt today in the stories of its survivors. The Germans had expended everything by January 25th, 1945, and the German army began to collapse. It was still tough. The Germans were fighting for their homeland. Many older men and young boys were doing the fighting.
It is a good time of the year for all of us to think back and recall relatives, friends, and good times from the past. We must share those stories with others. Our memories, as well as the memories of others, comfort us all because they carry us back to a time when the world seemed to know what it was doing. Now we seem to be thrust into a time when there are people who are trying to tear the county apart by inflicting premeditated chaos on us all. We have been through times like these before but we, as a nation, came out alright because sensible heads prevailed.
Note: See the History Channel for more on the Battle of the Bulge: https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/battle-of-the-bulge