Christmas 1944: Battle of the Bulge

In 1944 at Christmas the American and German armies were fighting it out in the Battle of the Bulge, the last German offensive of the War.

Patton’s Third Army fought its way through to relieve the Americans desperately fighting to defeat the attacking German forces.  The weather was atrocious and Allied air power was useless.  Patton had a prayer written for good weather.  Patton prayed the prayer, the scene from the movie Patton depicting this may be viewed here.  The skies cleared after Patton prayed the weather prayer, and Allied air power was unleashed on the attacking Germans.

During the Battle of the Bulge, the 101rst Airborne Division made a heroic stand at Bastogne from December 20-27 which helped turn the tide of the battle.  On December 25, a packed midnight mass was held in Bastogne, with Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe, who commanded the 101rst troops at Bastogne, in attendance.  Afterwards the General listened to German POWS singing Silent Night, and wished them a Merry Christmas.

General McAuliffe issued a memorable Christmas message to his troops:

Headquarters 101st Airborne Division Office of the Division Commander

24 December 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 of 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.

December 22nd 1944 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 Ourthe near Ortheuville, have taken Marche and reached St. Hubert by passing through Hombres 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

The German Commander received the following reply:

22 December 1944 To the German Commander:

NUTS!

The American Commander

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.

A. C. McAuliffe

Today we have troops serving in harm’s way.  From the bottom of a grateful heart I wish them and their families the Merriest of Christmases and the Happiest of New Years.

9 Responses to Christmas 1944: Battle of the Bulge

  • Thanks so much for this reminder of the greatest one word reply in the history of warfare.

    May God remember the souls of these men for good and not for evil.

  • Somewhere in the writings of Maria Valtorta Jesus did say that he had mercy on the soldiers.

  • Manhood catches up with youth. As I traveled by auto with my own very young family from England to France in 1962, we drove directly through some of the fiercest fighting of the Battle of the Bulge and, earlier, the defense of England on the coast of France. When we traveled through Bastogne, stopping there for a break, we did view the tank in the village square. Sadly, only as I grew up a bit more (age), did I learn about where we went, Gen. McAuliffe’s reply “Nuts” and the history of the areas we had to travel through.
    In retrospect, I concluded that we cannot know everything all at once and that history, good and bad, ought to be taught so as not to take a lifetime to learn.
    As I often do, having visited many American Cemeteries in Europe and Hawaii, a generic Salute to all my brothers and sisters in arms that have gone to their rest, as well as for those that are still among us. SMS, USAF, Retired.

  • Thanks for this Don.

    These events are vivdly portrayed in Spielberg’s “Brothers in Arms” – an excellent series on WWII.
    May all those who gave their lives for our freedom, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
    Let us also remember to pray for those who, in our day, would have us forget these events and leave us open to further deception. There are those who even now, are seeking to re-write history, and so deceive us, so that this tyrrany, in another form, may overtake us.
    St. Michael the Archangel – defend us in the hour of conflict.

  • Amen Don! My brother when he was in the Army always wore a St. Michael necklace, as did many of his colleagues, most of whom were not Catholic.

  • Thank you for your service Robert.

  • My father-in-law was an 8-year-old boy, living on a farm just outside Bastogne at the time of the battle. His family had a young German soldier (just a teenager, he said) that his family had to quarter.

    During the battle, his family hid in the cellar, and they heard American troops moving through the house.

    After the battle, he said that he and his older brother actually played see-saw on the frozen body of a dead soldier. In the Spring, after the melting of the snows, they would find guns and grenades in the forest. They turned the guns over to his father; but, they kept the grenades, using them in the nearby rivers to “fish”.

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