|German Self-Propelled Artillery, Bastogne Barracks|
At 5:30 in the morning on the 16th of December, 1944 a massive artillery bombardment was launched by the German army at Hosingen in Luxembourg, marking the start of what later became known as the Battle of the Bulge.
|German Panzer tank, Houffalize, Belgium|
|Ike demands action|
German forces quickly pushed forward and managed to surround Bastogne which occupied a critical road nexus in the German's path.
|Brigadier General McAuliffe, "Nuts", Bastogne|
"On the 22nd December 1944, general Heinrich Freiherr von Lutwitz, Commander of the German troops which were besieging Bastogne sent Major Wagner and Lieutenant Helmut Henke with a demand for the surrender of the American garrison. When Brigadier General Anthony C. McAuliffe, the Town Commander in Bastogne. was brought the note he laughed, and made his legendary comment, "Nuts". He was then reminded that the emissaries awaited a written reply, to which he asked: "What should I say then?" "Your first comment is exactly right, Sir," opined Colonel W. O. Kinnard. Those present laughed and applauded, while McAuliffe sat down, writing as his answer a single word - "NUTS!". Colonel Harper handed the intermediaries the answer, but Lieutenant Henke, the spokesman was uncertain. "Is the answer to the affirmative or to the negative?" "Certainly not to the affirmative, said Harper, "Go to Hell!" Source: The Battle of the Bulge, Jean Milmeister, 2011.
Bastogne was besieged and bombarded from the air and attacked throughout Christmas week. American forces were resupplied by air drops in C-47s from the UK. The "battling bastards of Bastogne," who lacked a medical headquarters, refused to surrender.
|Commander K. at Patton monument, Bastogne, Belgium|
|Commander K. and Sherman tank, Bastogne, Belgium|
The Battle of the Bulge was a decisive American victory in the Second World War. By the end of January, the Germans had been thrown back to their original starting positions. Out of approximately 500,000 Germans engaged in the battle, there were 81,834 casualties including 12.652 killed. Out of approximately 600,000 Americans who fought in the battle of the Bulge there were 80,987 casualties with 10,276 killed. Hitler had fired his last bolt and missed. The Germans had been critically weakened making it easier for the Red Army in the East to sweep forward towards Berlin and for the Allies to cross the Rhine into Germany.
If you have a chance to visit the Bastogne area today, you will find many museums and monuments dedicated to the bloody events of December 1944. Stephen Ambrose's book Band of Brothers and the HBO miniseries (filmed on location in the UK, by the way) has brought new popularity to the Battle of the Bulge. There is a "Nuts" Cafe on the square in Bastogne.
|Nuts Cafe, Bastogne, Belgium|
|"Easy" company roadside monument, Belgium|
|Commander K. in "Easy" company foxhole, Bois Jacques, Belgium|
|Wasted Youth, German cemetery Recogne, Belgium|
Special thanks to Henri Mignon who guided us through Bastogne on Monday 10/8. Henri was born in Belgium in 1936 and was a child witness to the battle -- he remembers hearing the distinctive piercing whine of V-1 and V-2 rockets flying overhead on their way to England. His father, a Belgian forester, was sadly killed during the battle shrapnel from an artillery shell. You can reach Henri to book a tour at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Henri Mignon and US Sherman tank turret|
You can now find Commander Kelly's first book, America Invades, here www.americainvades.com or on Amazon www.amzn.com/1940598427