Battle of the Bulge, 16 December 1944


SSSO 1&2/Plank Owner
Sep 13, 2006
Red dot in a blue state and all. Be sure to check at the link for the slideshow of pictures.

The Battle of the Bulge: Sixty-Two Years Ago
Courtesy The United States Army Center of Military History

Early on the misty winter morning of 16 December 1944, over 200,000 German troops and nearly 1,000 tanks launched Adolf Hitler's last bid to reverse the ebb in his fortunes that had begun when Allied troops landed in France on D-day. Seeking to drive to the English Channel coast and split the Allied armies as they had done in May 1940, the Germans struck in the Ardennes Forest, a seventy-five-mile stretch of the front characterized by dense woods and few roads, held by four inexperienced and battle-worn American divisions stationed there for rest and seasoning.

After a day of hard fighting, the Germans broke through the American front, surrounding most of an infantry division, seizing key crossroads, and advancing their spearheads toward the Meuse River, creating the projection that gave the battle its name.

Stories spread of the massacre of soldiers and civilians at Malmedy and Stavelot, of paratroopers dropping behind the lines, and of English-speaking German soldiers, disguised as Americans, capturing critical bridges, cutting communications lines, and spreading rumors. For those who had lived through 1940, the picture was all too familiar. Belgian townspeople put away their Allied flags and brought out their swastikas. Police in Paris enforced an all-night curfew. British veterans waited nervously to see how the Americans would react to a full-scale German offensive, and British generals quietly acted to safeguard the Meuse crossings. Even American civilians who had thought final victory was near were sobered by the Nazi onslaught.

But this was not 1940. The supreme Allied commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower rushed reinforcements to hold the shoulders of the German penetration. Within days, Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. had turned his Third U.S. Army to the north and was counterattacking against the German flank. But the story of the battle of the Bulge is above all the story of American soldiers. Often isolated and unaware of the overall picture, they did their part to slow the Nazi advance, whether by delaying armored spearheads with obstinate defenses of vital crossroads, moving or burning critical gasoline stocks to keep them from the fuel-hungry German tanks, or coming up with questions on arcane Americana to stump possible Nazi infiltrators.

At the critical road junctions of St. Vith and Bastogne, American tankers and paratroopers fought off repeated attacks, and when the acting commander of the 101st Airborne Division in Bastogne was summoned by his German adversary to surrender, he simply responded, "Nuts!"

Within days, Patton's Third Army had relieved Bastogne, and to the north, the 2d U.S. Armored Division stopped enemy tanks short of the Meuse on Christmas Day. Through January, American troops, often wading through deep snow drifts, attacked the sides of the shrinking bulge until they had restored the front and set the stage for the final drive to victory.

Never again would Hitler be able to launch an offensive in the West on such a scale. An admiring British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill stated, "This is undoubtedly the greatest American battle of the war and will, I believe, be regarded as an ever-famous American victory." Indeed, in terms of participation and losses, the battle of the Bulge is arguably the greatest battle in American military history.
The Weather Channel is going to be running a feature series about how weather changed history, and one of the shows advertised is going to be about the severe winter weather during the Battle of the Bulge. I just went to the Weather Channel web site, and unfortunately could not find a broadcast date.

I have two relatives who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. One was in the 509th PIR and was wounded after the first week; the other was shelled in the Ardennes and suffered from severe shell shock for the rest of his life. It was a harrowing experience for both of them. To me the most impressive thing about the conduct of the war and the triumph of America was in the bravery and heroism of the ordinary men who were in harm's way.
Couple of things....

I don't think there's a single paratrooper who believes that Ned Almond actually said, "Nuts." :D

If one can have a "favorite" battle in history, this one's mine.

Don't know whether Dick Winters actually said it, or some striking Hollywood writer came up with it, but one of the best lines to come out of "Band of Brothers" was: "We're paratroopers, lieutenant. We're supposed to be surrounded."
I used to live down the street from someone who was there. Very nice guy. Turned out he was one of the "Filthy Thirteen".

"The Filthy Thirteen was the name given to an elite unit within the ranks of the HQ/ 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and within the 101st Airborne Division, of the United States Army, which fought in the European campaign in WW II. This unit was selected and trained for the purpose of demolishing enemy targets behind the lines. They were assigned to destroy a bridge over the Douve River, a mission that cost the lives of most of these men during the Normandy Invasion of Europe in June 1944. The group was airdropped for the mission by aircraft of the 440th Troop Carrier Group of the U.S. Army Air Force.

This unit was best known for the famous photo which appeared in Stars and Stripes, showing two of its members wearing Indian-style "mohawks" and applying war paint to each other.

It is believed by many that this unit was the inspiration for E M Nathanson's The Dirty Dozen. While there were similarities between the Filthy Thirteen and the Dirty Dozen, there were also many differences. For one thing, the Filthy Thirteen was not a unit of convicts, though they did have a well-earned reputation for hard living, drinking and fighting.

Jake McNiece, Jack Womer, Jack Agnew, Lt. Charles Mellen, Joseph Oleskiewicz, John Hale, James F. Green, George Radeka, Clarence Ware, Robert S. Cone, Roland R. Baribeau, James E. Leach, Herb Pierce and Andrew Rassmussen. Others including Frank Palys and Charles Plaudo were additional members of the group."

Frank was a good guy and would talk about his experiences. Had great photos from the Bulge. He was attached to intelligence and had the ability to get his film developed. Told a great story of stealing Patton's jeep.
I don't think there's a single paratrooper who believes that Ned Almond actually said, "Nuts."

I beleive he too has denied ever saying it.

Very interesting battle with highs and lows for both sides.
I didn't think Ned Almond was with the 101st at Bastogne.

I have driven and walked the battlefields in that area. In the middle of winter. It's fantastic.