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Christmas “Nuts!” at Bastogne

 

 

Seventy-two years ago 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. 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 101st Airborne Division made a heroic stand at Bastogne from December 20-27 which helped turn the tide of the battle. Massively outnumbered, battle weary from already having done more than their share of fighting in Normandy and Operation Market Garden and short on food and ammo, they stopped the advancing Germans cold in their tracks.

On December 25, a packed midnight mass was held in Bastogne, with Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe, who commanded the 101st 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.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

7 Comments

  1. The Lutheran Minister aptly provides the answer to us as to what we need to do about Islam. Thanks for the clip. Battleground is a great movie, one well worth watching. I believe it is on Netflix. Thank you, Donald. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  2. I think of those hard men (cold, hungry, giving them Hell) whenever I hear the Christmas song, “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” The older I get, the less I can stand cold weather.
    .
    These men that had fought through D-Day and Market Garden were highly effective soldiers. Still, The Bulge was “above and beyond . . . ”
    .
    Greet them ever with grateful hearts.

  3. If any have not read the first-hand eye-witness account of “7 Roads to Hell” (which aptly describes Bastogne and the fulcrum of The Bulge battle) by Donald R. Burgett, it is highly recommended. It is a great read, actually part of a 4-part set, starting with his air-drop behind the Normandy beaches on D-Day. But “7 Roads”, for its sheer honesty, shock-effect, and rawness, is the best of them all.

    The author, at the time a 19-year-old battle-weary paratrooper (101st Airborne, 506th Parachute Infantry Reg.), and his equally worn 1st Battalion, were hustled into the Bastogne cauldron —- after having been so certainly promised a 6-week R&R—and then the Bulge offensive hit.

    They had pretty much been fighting constantly since June 6th (they also participated in the disaster of Operation Market Garden)—but because they were so effective, the US Army couldn’t leave them out of so many of the engagements that followed. Including Bastogne and the Bulge.

    Burgett was (ostensibly) a life-long atheist, but was so moved and bothered at the dead that had to be left where they were killed in the woods, strewn on the snow, that he thought that was a grave wrong to the men who gave their lives in this maelstrom. He made it a point to help the recovery corps find the snow-covered frozen dead. Even atheists respect the sacrifice of a life for a desperate cause.

    By the way, Burgett is still living, age 91, and lives in Howell, MI, and has often contributed to a number of History Channel productions.

  4. I was a K9 MP in Germany for three years during the Cold War. How cold was it ? The official rule stated that if it got down near Zero, the dog ( my K9 friend’s name was “Ex”) stayed in his nice warm kennel. We went out on Post without the dog !
    I would like very much to move to Arizona; but, we have eleven Grand children, and three
    Great Grand children here. Whenever I bring up that subject, I get “The Look” from the Misses. I describe all of this in my book, “Wings held up by Hope”
    Timothy

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