Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Followng the 10th (13): The New Year Begins

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.

As 1944 turned into 1945, the Battle of the Bulge continued, although it was probably clear that the Allied forces were on the offensive now. The battle around Bastogne had broken the siege, but not the ongoing fighting. The story remained the weather, the coldest weather in the area in thirty years. Here's some of the information of the last week or so from a history of the 4th Armored Division:

Friday, December 29
Weather: Arctic air, heavy snow, blizzards, greatly reduced visibility. Wounded, if not quickly evacuated, died of exposure

Saturday, December 30
Weather: Early AM fog, then clear enough for flying. Extremely cold. So cold that plasma freezes in aid stations and men die for lack of it. A wounded soldier not immediately evacuated dies of freezing

Monday, January 1, 1945
Weather: Morning cloudy and dark. Afternoon clear and cold.
In Bastogne area, all Third Army guns fire New Year's salute from 2359 to 0019. Reports that artillery causes heavy enemy losses.
Ambulance in Bastogne

Tuesday, January 2
Weather: Clear enough to fly.
Bastogne: Hitler again orders the capture of Bastogne. At 0200 the Luftwaffe bombs the 6th Armd Div west of Bastogne.

Monday, January 3
Weather: Cold, no air support possible in stormy weather.

Thursday, January 4
Weather: Miserable .

Saturday, January 6
Churchill, British leader sends letter to Roosevelt praising the bravery and skill of American soldier. Effort to heal wound caused by Montgomery. {British commander Montgomery had made some disparaging remarks about the American troops and Eisenhower's leadership.}

Sunday, January 7, 1945
Weather: Cold, deep snow on ground
Allied Leadership Crisis: Montgomery calls press conference in which he intimates that he had saved the Allies during the crisis days of the Battle of the Bulge. Newspapers in England and the United States carry the story. Many British editors enlarge on Montgomery's role. Bradley and Patton explode. Bradley holds one of few news conferences to explain why Montgomery had been given the two American Armies. Winston Churchill later (January 17) makes a historic statement in Parliament to soothe situation.


By this time, the news embargo had been at least eased. Hugh Schuck, war correspondent for the New York Daily News, reported on January 4:
With the U.S. Third Army- As details of fighting in the early stages of [the Battle of the Bulge] emerge... it becomes more and more apparent that the initial... impetus of the German drive was broken by isolated American units which chose to fight to the last cartridge against overwhelming odds.
It was such a last-ditch effort by ... part of [the] 10th Armored Division which kept the Germans from capturing the City of Luxembourg and its road network over which Lieutenant General George S. Patton later moved his divisions to launch a counter-attack. And it was that kind of American resistance that centered around Berdorf, 17 miles northeast of the City of Luxembourg. [That is the area where most of the 10th Armored, minus Combat Command B, were located.]
Memorial in Berdorf to the 10th
The parts of the Battle away from Bastogne did not, of course, get the huge press that Bastogne did. But it allowed the Allied forces to be as successful as they were. As the 10th (minus CCB) headed back toward Metz, Prince Felix, Crown Prince of Luxembourg, visited the 10th's commander, General Morris. As Nichols reports it, he brought
Plaque on memorial in Berdorf
the heartfelt thanks of his people and declared that the Tenth had saved Luxembourg from certain capture by the Germans as a result of the courage and superior combat shown by the Armoraiders.

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