In the beginning of the operations, the US 106th Infantry Division was overrun, and the 101st Airborne Division went to secure the critical city of Bastone. And it's arguable, this was the Finest Hour, for the American Army. This week marks the 75th Anniversary of this epic battle. I think I gotta watch Pattonthis weekend.
‘Nuts!’ US troops thwarted Hitler’s last gamble 75 years ago
BASTOGNE, Belgium (AP) — Pvt. Arthur Jacobson was seeking cover in the snow behind a tank moving slowly through the wooded hills of Belgium's Ardennes, German bullets whizzing by.
That was when he lost his best friend and Bazooka team partner to sniper fire. “They couldn't hit him, he shouted," Jacobson said wistfully. “Those were his last words.”
The recollection of his worst day in the Battle of the Bulge still haunts him, three quarters of a century later during the first return of the 95-year-old to the battlefield....
The fighting in the bitterly cold winter of 1944 was unforgiving to the extreme...
...What Jacobson didn't know then was that he was part of the battle to contain Nazi Germany's desperate last offensive that Adolf Hitler hoped would become his version of the Allies' D-Day: A momentous thrust that would change the course of World War II by forcing U.S. and British troops to sue for peace, thus freeing Germany to focus on rapidly advancing Soviet armies in the east.
“WE WERE THERE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT"
The Battle of the Bulge "is arguably the greatest battle in American military history,” according to the U.S. army historical center. Such perspective came only later to Jacobson, who was barely 20 at the time.
“They really didn't tell us anything," he said . "The Germans had attacked through Belgium, and we were there to do something about it.”
Out of the blue at dawn on Dec. 16, 1944, over 200,000 German troops counter-attacked across the front line in Belgium and Luxembourg, smashing into battle-weary US soldiers positioned in terrain as foreign to them as it was familiar to the Germans.
Yet somehow, the Americans blunted the advance and started turning back the enemy for good, setting allied troops on a roll that would end the war in Europe less than five months later.
This battle gained fame not so much for the commanders' tactics as for the resilience of small units hampered by poor communications that stood shoulder to shoulder to deny Hitler the quick breakthrough he desperately needed. Even though the Americans were often pushed back, they were able to delay the German advance in its crucial initial stages. The tipping point was to come later...
...“The thought was that Germany was on its knees and could no longer raise a big army,”said Mathieu Billa, director of the Bastogne War Museum.
Still, Hitler believed Germany could turn the tide, and centered on regaining the northern Belgian port of Antwerp with a push through the sparsely populated Ardennes.
The 120-mile (170 kilometer) dash seemed so fanciful that few of Hitler's own generals believed in it, let alone the allied command. Allied intelligence heard something might be afoot, but even on the eve of the attack the U.S. VIII Corps daily note said that "There is nothing to report."
For days to follow, the only reports would be bad for U.S. troops retreating amid word that SS troops were executing their prisoners — like at Malmedy, where 80 surrendered soldiers were murdered in a frozen field...
...Nowhere was that tipping point more visible than in the southern Ardennes town of Bastogne, where surrounded U.S. troops were cut off for days with little ammunition or food.
When Brig. Gen. Anthony C. McAuliffe of the 101st Airborne received a Dec. 22 ultimatum to surrender or face total destruction, he offered one of the most famous — and brief — replies in military history: “”Nuts.""
Four days later, Patton's troops broke the encirclement. And so it went with the Battle of the Bulge too, with the U.S. troops gaining momentum after Christmas...
The German's had the initial advantage of surprise, and poor weather that kept Allies air grounded. However, the German's never got to their first objective of Antwerp, and the Allies quickly recovered:
...firm resistance by various isolated units provided time for the U.S. First and Ninth Armies to shift against the northern flank of the penetration, for the British to send reserves to secure the line to the Meuse, and for Patton's Third Army to hit the salient from the south. Denied vital roads and hampered by air attack when the weather cleared, the German attack resulted only in a large bulge in the Allied lines which did not even extend to the Meuse River, the Germans' first objective. The Americans suffered some 75,000 casualties in the Battle of the Bulge, but the Germans lost 80,000 to l00,000. German strength had been irredeemably impaired. By the end of January 1945, American units had retaken all ground they had lost, and the defeat of Germany was clearly only a matter of time. In the east the Red Army had opened a winter offensive that was to carry, eventually, to and beyond Berlin.
The father of a close friend was in one of Patton's "three divisions" that broke though to Bastone, relieving the 101st. The youngest veterans of that fight are now in their 90s. Damn, has time flown. But to borrow the phrase from Lincoln's Gettysburg address, "...The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here...."
To the men who have passed, Rest In Peace. To those who are still here, thank you is all we can say. God knows, we can never repay our dept to you.