Battle of the Bulge - Rui Pires

Humanity can´t forget that Christmas Eve of 1944


Bastogne Siege, 24th of December of 1944

Ardennes, 1944


The Siege of Bastogne was an engagement in December 1944 between American and German forces at the Belgian town of Bastogne, as part of the larger Battle of the Bulge. The goal of the German offensive was the harbour at Antwerp.

In order to reach it before the Allies could regroup and bring their superior air power to bear, German mechanized forces had to seize the roadways through eastern Belgium. Because all seven main roads in the Ardennes mountain range converged on the small town of Bastogne, control of its crossroads was vital to the German attack. The siege lasted from December 20–27 when the besieged American forces were relieved by elements of General George Patton's Third Army.

In December of 2014, under braving snowy weather, Americans and Belgians gathered in the Bastogne to mark the 70th anniversary of one of the biggest and bloodiest US battles of the second world war, the Battle of the Bulge. Jean-Claude Klepper, 62, of Virton, Belgium, and his 15-year-old daughter Aurélie dressed up like US GIs to mark the occasion. “We must never forget what happened in 1944,” the elder Klepper said. “Many American soldiers came here to defend Europe. We must honour them for what they did.”

Stephen Sams, 41, a US soldier based in Germany, said for him the battle waged in the dense forests and narrow valleys of Belgium and neighbouring Luxembourg epitomised “the unwillingness of American forces to give up in the face of adversity”. Starting on 16 December 1944, and for nearly six weeks, more than 600,000 American soldiers, fighting in freezing conditions and often hungry and dog-tired, took part in desperate efforts to contain, then throw back, a surprise German counter-offensive masterminded by Adolf Hitler himself.

The British prime minister, Winston Churchill, hailed the ultimate result as “an ever-famous American victory”. But it came at a high cost: 80,987 US casualties, including 10,276 dead, 47,493 wounded and 23,218 missing, according to the US army’s official history. Total German casualties are estimated at 81,834, including 12,652 dead and 30,582 missing. After the end of the battle, on 28 January 1945, Allied forces attacked Germany in unison, eventually leading to the Nazi surrender and the end of the war in Europe.

In the town of Bastogne, where soldiers of the 101st Airborne held out despite being cut off and surrounded, shops and windows were decorated with American and Belgian flags. One local restaurant posted a drawing of an American flag and the message “thank you”.

It was on the 22nd of December that General von Lüttwitz submitted the following demand for surrender to his American counterpart commanding the American forces in Bastogne, Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe:

"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 armoured units. More German armoured units have crossed the river Our near Ortheuville, have taken Marche and reached St. Hubert by passing through Hompre-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 honourable 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"


Within a short time McAuliffe responded thusly to von Lüttwitz:

"To the German Commander :

NUTS!

The American Commander :”

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