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Sixty Years Ago at Dawn

 
 
Foxfyre
 
Reply Fri 17 Dec, 2004 12:21 am
Some will remember. Historians will know. THe rest should learn. Some things just put other things into clearer perspective.

Sixty years ago at dawn
Paul Greenberg


December 16, 2004 | Print | Send


On December 16, 1944, General Bradley came to my headquarters to discuss ways and means of overcoming our acute shortages in infantry replacements. Just as he entered my office, a staff officer came in to report slight penetrations of our lines in the front of General Middleton's VIII Corps and the right of General Gerow's V Corps in the Ardennes region. . . . - Dwight Eisenhower, "Crusade in Europe"

It had started with the dawn: an unexpectedly heavy artillery barrage. How had the retreating Germans managed to mass so many guns? Was this just a local attack, or a feint to distract the attention from a major blow elsewhere?

Soon it became clear that the enemy had massed more than artillery. The Sixth Panzer Army, a mobile reserve that had disappeared from the view of Allied intelligence, reappeared. When the barrage lifted, German armor came pouring out of the woods, headed for the seam between the British and American armies.

Instead of sheltering behind the Siegfried Line, the "retreating" Germans were advancing. Through an only lightly defended 50-mile stretch of the Ardennes.

Allied intelligence had collected reports of a transfer of German troops from the Eastern to the Western front in the fall of 1944, and there was ample evidence that they were being reassembled in the Ardennes, but word never filtered up to headquarters. No one had connected the dots. (Sound familiar?)

The weather wasn't on our side, either. The coldest, snowiest winter in European memory made Allied air superiority irrelevant. The panzers sped on, opening a growing wedge. Allied headquarters was compelled to sacrifice unity of command as the German advance split the British and American armies; Ike had to designate separate commanders for each sector of a crumbling front.

In the heat of battle, confusion reigned. Disguised as American MPs, English-speaking, American-accented Germans were sending relief convoys down the wrong roads, or into murderous ambushes. Just liberated French cities were exposed again, and Paris was jittery. The British press demanded that Eisenhower turn command of the land forces over to Montgomery - or anyone else competent.

Von Runstedt and his staff had taken everything into account except the sheer cussedness of the American resistance. The 7th Armored held onto the crossroads at St. Vith longer than anyone would have imagined possible. And at Bastogne, the key to the battle, the 101st Airborne refused to yield at all, and entered legend.

According to the German battle plan, Bastogne was to be overrun on the second day of the operation; it never was. General Anthony McAuliffe's one-word response to the German commander's surrender terms would become a classic summation of American defiance: "Nuts!"

Forced to split up and go around isolated pockets of American resistance, the German advance slowed. Unlike 1940, there was no breakout. Methodically, the Allied command drew up new defensive lines, then held. And to the South, Patton was turning the whole Third Army on a dime and hurtling to the rescue . . . .

Before it was over, the Battle of the Bulge would involve three German armies, the equivalent of 29 divisions; three American armies, or 31 divisions; and three British divisions augmented by Belgian, Canadian and French troops.

More than a million men would be drawn into the battle. The Germans would lose an estimated 100,000 irreplaceable troops, counting their killed, wounded and captured; the Americans would suffer some 80,000 casualties, including 19,000 killed - that's a rate of 500 a day - and 23,554 captured.

But the Allied forces held. And the war went on, moving across the Rhine and then into the heartland of the enemy. Against all bitter expectations, the conflict in the European theater would be over in four months.

There's a different kind of war on now, but war itself remains the same brutal experience. And it invokes the same admixture of fear and desperation, bloody miscalculation and incredible heroism, over-confidence and unchanging defeatism.

Much was gained by that decisive victory in the Ardennes 60 years ago, but victory obscures as much as it reveals. How the Battle of the Bulge turned out may seem inevitable now that history has unfolded but, as Wellington was supposed to have said of Waterloo, "it was a damned close-run thing."

The passage of time erodes memory, and we tend to forget the pain, the sacrifices, the mercurial swings of public opinion, the alternating hopes and fears, the daily uncertainty of war . . . and the necessity of endurance.

http://www.townhall.com/columnists/paulgreenberg/pg20041216.shtml
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JustWonders
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Dec, 2004 12:28 am
The MSM would no doubt be crucifying Eisenhower for failure in seeing the German counter attack if there'd been 24 hour cable news back then.

Right up CNN's alley.
0 Replies
 
Magus
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Dec, 2004 10:03 am
Some people obsess over Cabbage Patch dolls, some people obsess about "My Pretty Pony", and others choose to obsess about the Glory of War.

There's no accounting for taste...
0 Replies
 
McGentrix
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Dec, 2004 10:07 am
A hero remembers the Battle of the Bulge

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- After 58 years of marriage, Lyle Bouck and his wife, Lucy, are still helping each other down the front walk.

"I didn't think we'd live that long," laughs Lucy.

At one point, Lyle didn't even think he'd make it to the altar.

Sixty years ago, Bouck was a young, whip-smart lieutenant, commanding a U.S. Army intelligence and reconnaissance platoon made up of 18 elite soldiers -- the eyes and ears of a fragmented Allied force pushing through Belgium toward the German border.

By mid-December 1944, they had just about reached the border. But there was a huge gap in the front lines, and Bouck's platoon was ordered to plug an isolated stretch of it, on a hill.

"We weren't trained to occupy a defensive position in the front lines. We were trained to patrol and get information about the enemy," says Bouck.

But the enemy found them.

On December 16, a huge column of German paratroopers got wind of Bouck's platoon, dug in on that hill.

The Germans threw some 700 men, in three waves, at Lyle Bouck and 17 other Americans.

The GIs had their orders.

"They were told to hold at all costs. Basically that meant 'until you get killed or taken prisoner,'" says Alex Kershaw, whose new book, "The Longest Winter," recounts the story of Bouck's platoon.

But by day's end, hundreds of Germans were dead.

Some Americans were badly wounded, but not one was killed, and they were captured only when they ran out of ammunition.

While he was interrogated inside a house nearby, Lyle Bouck watched a clock strike midnight. At that moment, he turned 21 years old -- and thought of what an aunt had told him years earlier.

"She had said if you live to be 21, you're going to have a good life. I guess ... that was significant," says Bouck.

Bouck and his men didn't realize they had been among the first Americans to confront Germany's desperate final offensive of the war: the Battle of the Bulge.

"Had they not stood and held the Germans and halted their attack, or rather postponed it for a crucial 24 hours, the Battle of the Bulge would have been a great German victory," says Kershaw.

Instead the Allies re-grouped, subdued the Germans and pushed to Berlin.

Bouck and his men spent four months in freezing, disease-infested prison camps -- and were near death when their own Army division freed them.

After he was liberated, Lyle Bouck was too weak physically to file a combat report -- and not of the mind to do it. The 21-year-old hero simply didn't think he'd done anything extraordinary.

"We were in those foxholes and ... what we did was to defend ourselves and try to live through it," says Bouck.

Bouck says he still has no idea why those German paratroopers didn't kill him and his men after their capture.

Alex Kershaw has an idea.

"The paratroopers said, and others have said since, 'We had too much respect for you. We put ourselves in your position and imagine what we would have done: 18 guys, massively outnumbered. You fought like lions,'" says Kershaw.

Sixty years later, an old lion can laugh about it.

Source
0 Replies
 
JustWonders
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Dec, 2004 10:25 am
Thanks, McG. I live in constant awe of the type of men America produces, and see examples of it everyday. There sometimes are no words to describe the quiet courage of men like Lyle Bouck sixty years ago, or Rafael Peralta just one month ago, but I think it's important to know about them and acknowledge them.
0 Replies
 
Foxfyre
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Dec, 2004 10:33 am
That there can be nobility even in the ignobility of war is one of the wonders of humankind I think. And those who are unable to recognize that, including those who are unable to see or admit that any good result can come from it, are the very ones who, however unintentionally, encourage those who make war necessary.
0 Replies
 
BumbleBeeBoogie
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Dec, 2004 10:45 am
BBB
My first husband was a paratrooper in WWII with the 101st Airiborne Screaming Eagles Unit. His unit was dropped into the Battle of the Bulge to help rescue encircled troopsin Bastogne. He was nicknamed "Mort" because he was the unit's motarman.

His parachute landing was rough and he dislocated his right knee when he hit the ground. He was treated by the unit's medic and then he hobbled around for the next few days carrying out the unit's mission. He was a constant target of enemy fire because he was firing the mortar. The snow was deep and he suffered frost bitten feet, which plagued him for years.

He and his unit was awarded both the French and Belgium Croix de Guerre.

I witnessed some of the aftermath of that battle during our marriage. Once, a car backfired near us while we were walking on the sidewalk. He grabbed me and we both went face down on the sidewalk. He always warned me not to touch him to awaken him from sleep; just call his name, so he wouldn't react to my touch as if he was being attacked and harm me.

There is no glory in war, only survival.

BBB
0 Replies
 
Foxfyre
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Dec, 2004 12:06 pm
There is a difference between glory and nobility. What your husband did was noble and should never ever be described as anything else.

Every male sibling and most cousins of my mother and father were over there and several of these and other relatives were in other wars as well. They all have the horror stories to tell, and they all were also affected by their experience. And every last one of them said they would go again in a heartbeat if their country needed them or called them to do so. And every last one of them believed there was far more goodness than evil accomplished. I'm sorry if your husband doesn't feel that way about it BBB. I'm sure some did have more negative than positive views of it all. I do think those are in a distinct minority however.
0 Replies
 
Magus
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Dec, 2004 12:26 pm
The unscathed often have a perspective that differs from the perspective of the casualties.
0 Replies
 
panzade
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Dec, 2004 12:28 pm
McG, thanks for posting Bouck's story. I read about him in a fine book called "A Time For Trumpets: The untold story of the battle of the Bulge" by Charles R McDonald
0 Replies
 
cjhsa
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Dec, 2004 12:59 pm
Folks like Magus are the ones rewriting the history books for consumption by our public schools. Sad state of affairs.
0 Replies
 
BumbleBeeBoogie
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Dec, 2004 01:30 pm
Foxfyre wrote:
There is a difference between glory and nobility. What your husband did was noble and should never ever be described as anything else.

Every male sibling and most cousins of my mother and father were over there and several of these and other relatives were in other wars as well. They all have the horror stories to tell, and they all were also affected by their experience. And every last one of them said they would go again in a heartbeat if their country needed them or called them to do so. And every last one of them believed there was far more goodness than evil accomplished. I'm sorry if your husband doesn't feel that way about it BBB. I'm sure some did have more negative than positive views of it all. I do think those are in a distinct minority however.


Where did you get the idea that my ex-husband's thoughts about his experience were negative. You certainly read a lot into my post that was not there. What's your point.
0 Replies
 
Foxfyre
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Dec, 2004 01:53 pm
Sorry if I misinterpreted it BBB. Your post didn't reflect anything positive about his experience so I assumed he didn't think of any of it as positive. And assumptions are often wrong. My bad.
0 Replies
 
Ticomaya
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Dec, 2004 02:11 pm
Magus wrote:
Some people obsess over Cabbage Patch dolls, some people obsess about "My Pretty Pony", and others choose to obsess about the Glory of War.
...


And some obsess about what others post on A2K ...
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Dec, 2004 03:46 pm
Why was this posted in the Politics forum?
0 Replies
 
Magus
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Dec, 2004 03:51 pm
My obsession... how the mindset of 1930's Germany seems to have been reborn in contemporary USA.
Fascism is on the rise.
Mean-spiritedness, elitism, "pragmatism", militarism and Imperialism have re-emerged... and, as we all know, the only element neccessary for the triumph of Evil is for good people to remain silent.


If the neo-nazis are not countered and opposed, they will arrogantly repeat their previous performance... persecute, victimize, dominate and destroy.

When they inevitably go down in flames, they take with them everyone they can... "scorched earth" is a policy of madmen.
0 Replies
 
Ticomaya
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Dec, 2004 04:03 pm
joefromchicago wrote:
Why was this posted in the Politics forum?


my guess ....

Quote:
... There's a different kind of war on now, but war itself remains the same brutal experience. And it invokes the same admixture of fear and desperation, bloody miscalculation and incredible heroism, over-confidence and unchanging defeatism.

Much was gained by that decisive victory in the Ardennes 60 years ago, but victory obscures as much as it reveals. How the Battle of the Bulge turned out may seem inevitable now that history has unfolded but, as Wellington was supposed to have said of Waterloo, "it was a damned close-run thing."

The passage of time erodes memory, and we tend to forget the pain, the sacrifices, the mercurial swings of public opinion, the alternating hopes and fears, the daily uncertainty of war . . . and the necessity of endurance.



The message is a reminder of lessons learned.
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Dec, 2004 03:29 am
The ceremonies have been held yesterday in Bastogne.
Hundreds of veterans, led by the king of Belgium, took part in the event.

LINK to the Belgian website (in English)

US-American 60th Commemoration of the Battle of the Bulge
0 Replies
 
Foxfyre
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Dec, 2004 08:59 am
Thanks Walter.

From the website you linked:
Quote:
Today, having grown from its history, Bastogne is resolutely turned towards peace. Safeguarding the memories of the tragic events which took place during the war is of huge importance, but conveying a message of life and hope to our youth is equally so.


If only those who see nothing but gloom and doom in our current efforts would have this kind of vision, our military would be encouraged and I believe the duration of the conflict would be shortened and there would be fewer tragic events.
0 Replies
 
panzade
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Dec, 2004 11:13 am
I'm afraid that is a pipe dream good friend Foxfyre.
The real work of spreading democracy has been achieved in the Ukraine, quietly and behind the scenes.
All through the 90's the National Endowment for Democracy and the Open Society Institute poured millions of dollars into Ukraine's politics and popular movements that eventually seized the moment to overthrow strongmen.

The stark contrast between Iraq and the Ukraine shows that this administration hasn't thought things all the way through.
We're mostly all agreed that spreading democracy is a good thing. The question is, what is the best way to achieve this.
0 Replies
 
 

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