Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Following the 10th Armored (11): No Truce for Christmas

This is part of a series following my father's 10th Armored Division in World War II seventy years ago. He was a medic with the 80th Medical Battalion assigned to the 10th Armored, part of Patton’s Third Army.

Exactly thirty years before the Battle of the Bulge the “miracle” of the impromptu Christmas Eve truce made history in the trenches of World War I. No such “miracle” occurred for the men in Bastogne and the surrounding area in 1944. It had been a week of continuing hell! Between December 19 and 24 Combat Command B (CCB) of the 10th Armored had fought its way around and into Bastogne. Words like “chaos, panic, and utter disorganization" were used to describe the hard-hit units.

On the map, the 10th Armored troops are in the right-hand side. 
  • Team O'Hara behind the German line south of Wardin; 
  • Team Cherry behind German attack line on the far right side; 
  • Team Desorby behind German attack line at the top of the map; 
  • HQ of Team Cherry in Neffe just outside the Bastogne perimeter; and 
  • CCB HQ in Bastogne.
22 Dec
The tide of battle may be about to shift though. The German thrusts have repeatedly been stalled by fuel shortages and pockets of American resistance. Better still the days of sleet and low cloud, which have protected the Germans from Allied air power, are about to end, according to the forecasters.

Meanwhile, Patton's Third Army is on the move. (The 10th Armored, part of the Third Army, was already there and engaged). Eisenhower did not believe Patton when he promised that he would be at Bastogne by today; he had to disengage his men from battle on the Saar front, execute a 90 degree change of course and move over 130,000 vehicles 75 miles to the north. And he has done just that.

23 Dec
In the U.S. Third Army area, improving weather conditions permit extensive air support, particularly in the Bastogne area, where 260 USAAF IX Troop Carrier Command C-47 Skytrains drop 334 tons (303 metric tonnes) of supplies in parapacks on several drop zones inside the besieged American positions at Bastogne.

The German forces that have bypassed Bastogne do not have the strength or supplies because of the growing effectiveness of Allied air support. The US 101st (and CCB of the 10th) in Bastogne holds out.

The circumference of the ring around Bastogne would be approximately 25 kilometres.

Much of the above information is from a World War Two Chronology.
The following is from Art of Manliness
On Christmas Eve, 1944, General Anthony McAuliffe, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, issued a flier to his men. It was headlined “Merry Christmas,” and the general wrote, “What’s merry about all this, you ask? We’re fighting. It’s cold. We aren’t home.” He went on to praise Allied troops for stopping flat everything the enemy was throwing at them. Then he described a story that happened two days earlier.

On December 22, the commander of the German army had sent word to McAuliffe. The enemy commander had painted a bleak picture of the Allied position, and insisted there was only one option to save the Allied troops from total annihilation.


When McAuliffe read the demands, he fumed, then sent back to the German commander a reply of only one word.


When the messenger asked for further explanation, he was told, “It’s the equivalent of saying, ‘Go to hell.’”

--from Art of Manliness

The tide is turning, but a lot of battle will continue.

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