"Nuts" & a little Xmas History


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444
December 26, 2005, 12:49 AM
When the Christmas season rolls around, I can't help but think about the men of the 101st Airborne, surrounded, out of ammo, no winter clothing: pretty bleak Christmas. So, I was sitting here reading a little bit about it. Hopefully, others might find it kind of interesting. I copied this stuff from other webpages, I hope it isn't a problem.
God bless our soldiers: past and present.


Headquarters 101st Airborne Division
Office of the Division Commander

24 December 1944

What's Merry about all this, you ask? We're fighting - it's cold - we aren't home. All true but what has the proud Eagle Division accomplished with its worthy comrades of the 10th Armored Division, the 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion and all the rest? just this: We have stopped cold everything that has been thrown at us from the North, East, South and West. We have identifications from four German Panzer Divisions, two German Infantry Divisions and one German Parachute Division. These units, spearheading the last desperate German lunge, were headed straight west for key points when the Eagle Division was hurriedly ordered to stem the advance. How effectively this was done will be written in history; not alone in our Division's glorious history but in World history. The Germans actually did surround us. their radios blared our doom. Their Commander demanded our surrender in the following impudent arrogance.

December 22nd 1944
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 armored units. More German armored units have crossed the river Ourthe near Ortheuville, have taken Marche and reached St. Hubert by passing through Hombres 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 honorable 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

The German Commander received the following reply:

22 December 1944
To the German Commander:

NUTS!

The American Commander

Allied Troops are counterattacking in force. We continue to hold Bastogne. By holding Bastogne we assure the success of the Allied Armies. We know that our Division Commander, General Taylor, will say: Well Done!

We are giving our country and our loved ones at home a worthy Christmas present and being privileged to take part in this gallant feat of arms are truly making for ourselves a Merry Christmas.

A. C. McAuliffe

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Christmas Eve Combat
As in 1944, our soldiers know we will prevail.

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

Surprise attacks in supposedly secure areas. A spike in casualties. A few baffled American commanders. Suspicions of degrading morale within some units. Outright refusal to carry out lawful orders in others. Troops stretched too thin. Blame heaped on planners and those said to be responsible for unreliable intelligence.

Sound familiar?

It all began 60 years ago — this very Christmas season — when the German army, in a last-ditch effort, smashed through the Ardennes and struck the primary Allied lines in Belgium. The attack created an enormous salient or "bulge" in the lines — thus it was known as the Battle of the Bulge (Dec. 16, 1944, to Jan. 28, 1945) — and threatened to cut American and British forces in half.

As the Germans continued deepening, the salient, fresh American units were hurriedly trucked forward from France, including the U.S. Army's crack 101st and the 82nd Airborne Divisions.

The 82nd, the lead division on the road north, was tasked with blunting the enemy's advance along the Salm River. The 101st followed.

En route, the advancing Germans passed between the 82nd and the 101st, separating the two.


"THE BATTLING BASTARDS OF BASTOGNE"
The 101st, under the command of Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe, was about to make history. The division was rushed toward the strategically vital town of Bastogne.

The allies believed that by holding Bastogne they could regroup their forces and launch a counterattack. The Germans also realized the value of the town: It served as a major highway junction and a potentially important hub for mechanized forces. Control of the roads was critical: The surrounding terrain was rugged and not particularly vehicle-friendly. Consequently, both the Germans and the 101st raced to the city.

In their haste, the American paratroopers had been unable to properly equip themselves. They were desperately short of ammunition, food, water, medical supplies, and winter clothing, much less vehicle armor and personal body armor, which was virtually nonexistent in those days.

On the road, the men of the 101st were shocked to see frightened, fleeing American soldiers (non-Airborne), most of whom were green 18-year-old draftees who had seen little if any combat. The paratroops demanded much-needed ammo from their retreating "leg" brethren. The latter happily complied.

The paratroops arrived first on the 18th and quickly set up defensive positions. The Germans arrived the following day, surrounded the 101st, and laid siege to Bastogne. At that point, some 18,000 Americans in the town were facing 45,000 Germans. Worse, the weather was so poor that Allied aircraft were not able to provide close air support or make resupply drops. But despite the weather, sub-zero temperatures, dwindling supplies, and numerous enemy attacks, the 101st was committed to holding at all costs.


IKE AND PATTON
On the 19th, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, called a meeting of his chiefs at Verdun. "The present situation is to be regarded as an opportunity for us and not a disaster," Ike said, trying to set a positive tone. "There will only be cheerful faces at this conference table."


Lt. Gen. George S. Patton agreed, adding, "Hell, let's have the guts to let the sons of bitches go all the way to Paris. Then we'll really cut 'em off and chew 'em up." Of course, Patton's brassy suggestion was not an option.

Eisenhower's immediate concern was Bastogne. He asked Patton when he and his Third Army would be able to mount a rescue operation. Patton responded, "on the morning of December 21st."

An impossible boast in Ike's mind, he gave Patton an additional two days.

"NUTS"
On December 22nd, German officers, under a flag of truce, delivered a rather long-winded message from Lt. Gen. Heinrich von Luttwitz to General McAuliffe at Bastogne. The message, demanding the Americans surrender, appealed to the "well-known American humanity" to save the citizens of Bastogne from further suffering. McAuliffe was given two hours to reply.

Having no intention of surrendering, McAuliffe was initially at a loss for words. One of his aides remarked that the general's first comment upon receiving the surrender demand might be wholly appropriate. McAuliffe agreed and penned his now-famous response to the Germans. It simply read, "NUTS."

The message was then delivered by American Col. Joseph Harper to a group of German officers waiting in nearby woods. Harper handed the note to one of the Germans who read it and then looked at Harper in confusion.

"What does that mean?" the German asked. "Is this affirmative or negative?"

Harper responded, "It means you can all go to hell."


Meanwhile, Patton ordered his chief chaplain to compose a prayer asking God for good weather in which to fight. The resulting prayer reads:

Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations.

The following day, the skies were clear and aircraft were up, but the situation was becoming increasingly desperate at Bastogne.

CHRISTMAS EVE, 1944
On Christmas Eve, Gen. McAuliffe visited with captured German prisoners and wished them well. He also shared with his own men the story about his response to the surrender demand, and he presented a Christmas message, a portion of which reads:

What's merry about all this, you ask? We're fighting. It's cold. We aren't home. All true. But what has the proud [Screaming] Eagle Division accomplished with its worthy comrades...? Just this: We have stopped cold everything that has been thrown at us from the north, east, south and west. We have identifications from four German panzer divisions, two German infantry divisions and one German parachute division. These units, spearheading the last desperate German lunge, were heading straight west for key points when the Eagle Division was hurriedly ordered to stem the advance. How effectively this was done will be written in history; not alone in our Division's glorious history but in world history. The Germans actually did surround us, their radios blared our doom. Allied troops are counterattacking in force. We continue to hold Bastogne. By holding Bastogne we assure the success of the Allied armies.

Out on the perimeter, cold, hungry soldiers shook hands with one another and said goodbyes. Despite McAuliffe's words, the situation was bleak, and the paratroopers knew it. They were running perilously short of food and ammunition. Frostbite and pneumonia casualties were thinning their ranks almost hourly. And there was a numerically superior enemy force surrounding them in the darkness.

On the 26th, Patton punched through to Bastogne, and within hours the Germans began falling back.

Did the men of the 101st ever complain about their situation or question their superiors? No more than any soldiers have done throughout history, and probably less than some, because the amazing consensus among the paratroopers who fought at Bastogne was that they did not need to be relieved by Patton's forces.

In fact, following the relief at Bastogne, the airborne soldiers were tasked with seizing a
number of Belgian towns and hamlets, which they did with the same dash and aplomb they would have had after a period of rest and recuperation. Why? Because the men of Bastogne — like their descendents today serving in Iraq — understood the rewards reaped from hardship.


CHRISTMAS 2004
"Thriving under harsh conditions is something that is bred into us from the beginning of boot camp," 19-year-old Marine Cpl. Richard B. McCluskey told NRO. "It is in our heritage and tradition that we thrive under hardship."


Staff Sgt. William R. Bilenski, a ten-year veteran of the Marine Corps and a transportation chief currently serving his third tour in Iraq, agrees. "Regardless of the situation, if it's a legitimate order, you shut your mouth and do it, no questions asked," he told NRO.

And the morale here is high. My Marines go on the road every single day, and they look forward to going out every single day. They drive for countless hours, man the crew-served weapons, and provide their own security teams. That is all they live for out here — accomplishing the mission — that is what takes them to the next day.

Despite the media-coached National Guardsman (certainly not a frontline combatant like those slugging it out in Fallujah and elsewhere) who publicly questioned the U.S. defense secretary, comments like McCluskey's and Bilenski's are the heartfelt sentiments of the vast majority of combat Marines and soldiers who know — like their great-grandfathers at Bastogne — America will prevail.

— A former U.S. Marine infantry leader and paratrooper, W. Thomas Smith Jr. is a freelance journalist and the author of four books, including the Alpha Bravo Delta Guide to American Airborne Forces.

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444
December 26, 2005, 12:50 AM
Christmas Past

TruthNews Commentary, December 25, 2005

I received several "Holiday" cards this year inscribed with the words "Peace on Earth." Unfortunately, most of our past Christmases have not seen peace on earth. Indeed, on many Christmases, American military men have been engaged in desperate fighting around the world. The very first Christmas day after the declaration of American independence saw significant military action.

On Christmas day of 1776, General George Washington led an army of 2,400 men in a crossing of the Delaware River in order to attack the British garrison at Trenton, New Jersey. Earlier that year, the British had captured New York, and Washington pulled his army back into Pennsylvania. The British then garrisoned various cities in New Jersey. On Christmas day of 1776, Washington assembled his troops at McKonkey's Ferry, Pennsylvania. The password for the day was "Victory or Death."

Washington and an advanced party crossed over first to secure a landing site. The troops broke camp at 2 p.m., and began crossing the river in 30 Durham boats. The Durham boat was a 60-foot flat bottomed boat used to carry freight on the Delaware. Washington's original plan called for the entire army to be disembarked on the New Jersey side of the Delaware by midnight, but a storm of hail and sleet broke out early in the crossing. In addition, the winds were strong, and the river was full of ice floes that had been drifting downstream for several days, so it was not until 3:00 a.m. on the morning of December 26 that Washington's army completed the crossing.

The British had garrisoned Trenton with 1,500 Hessian troops, German soldiers from the state of Hesse who had been rented by King George to help suppress the American Revolution. Washington began his attack around 8:00 AM, and the battle lasted an hour and a half. The American attack took the Hessians by surprise, and Washington's army killed 106 Hessian soldiers and captured 896. No Americans were killed in the attack, and by noon, Washington's army had re-crossed the Delaware back into Pennsylvania, taking the prisoners and captured supplies with them. A week later, Washington crossed the Delaware again to attack the British garrison in Princeton, New Jersey. Again, the surprise attack led to American victory.

Following the defeats of the previous year, Washington's daring attacks in the heart of British-held territory renewed hope among the army, Congress, and the people. The war raged for another 6 years until Washington trapped British General Cornwallis and 7,000 British soldiers in Yorktown, Virginia, on September 28, 1882. After a 3-week siege, Cornwallis surrendered. Sporadic fighting continued for another year until the British signed the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783.

Thirty years after the Battle of Yorktown, a new war broke out with Great Britain over the Royal Navy's practice of kidnapping American sailors to serve on British warships. The War of 1812 began during the height of the Napoleonic Wars and was at first only a sideshow to the British. However, in April of 1814, Napoleon was defeated and forced to abdicate. The British then began shifting large numbers of troops to North America in order to crush American independence once and for all. The British succeeded in sacking and burning Washington D.C. in August of 1814, but a subsequent attack on Baltimore and Fort McHenry failed, leading Francis Scott Key to pen "The Star Spangled Banner" with the immortal words, "Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution."

The British came closest to success at New Orleans. American General Andrew Jackson had only 6,000 troops against 12,000 British troops who had been led by the Duke of Wellington in defeating Napoleon. In December of 1814, the British forces landed along the lower Mississippi River and began moving toward New Orleans. However, two days before Christmas, Jackson made a surprise attack on the British at the Villerι plantation. The British ended up with 277 casualties and decided to await reinforcements before making their attack on New Orleans. This gave Jackson time to build up his defensive positions on the south side of the city. When the British made their main attack on January 8, 1815, Jackson's forces, aided by Jean Lafitte an his band of pirates, killed 700 British soldiers, including the British commander, Sir Edward Pakenham. Only 13 Americans were killed. The British then turned tail and sailed for England. The Treaty of Ghent ended the war on February 17.

During World War II, the Battle of the Bulge, the last major offensive of the German army, began shortly before Christmas. On December 16, 1944, the German army threw a quarter of a million men at a weak point in the Allied lines in the Ardennes forest in Belgium. The Nazi attack made considerable headway towards the Meuse River during one of the worst winters in Europe. On December 19, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, called a meeting of the senior Allied commanders to discuss the situation. Eisenhower asked General George Patton how long it would take to turn his Third Army north to counter-attack. Patton replied that he could do it in 48 hours, to the disbelief of the other generals present, because the Third Army was then 50 miles south in France pressing eastward. But before he had gone to the meeting, Patton had ordered his staff to prepare to turn north, and the movement was already underway.

By December 21 the German forces had surrounded Bastogne, which was defended by the 101st Airborne Division. When the Nazis demanded the Americans to surrender, General Anthony McAuliffe replied with the one-word answer, "Nuts!" Bad weather had kept the Allied air forces grounded, but two days before Christmas, in response to Patton's prayer for good weather, the skies began clearing, allowing the air forces to attack. The U.S. Ninth Air Force launched devastating bombing attacks on the German supply points in the rear, and P-47s began destroying the German troops on the roads. Patton's Third Army fought on throughout Christmas day, and on December 26 the lead elements of the Third Army reached Bastogne, ending the Nazi siege. By February 1945, the Germans were once again in full retreat. Hitler blew his brains out on April 30, and Germany surrendered eight days later.

Twenty-eight years after the Battle of the Bulge, the U.S. armed forces were embroiled in a war against communists in Vietnam. Despite the destruction of the Viet Cong communist insurgency in South Vietnam, many in America were demanding an "exit strategy," and Richard Nixon had been elected president in 1968 on a pledge to end the war. In December 1972, in an attempt to force the communists back to the negotiating table, Nixon ordered a massive bombing of Hanoi, the capitol of North Vietnam. The operation, called Linebacker II, was the heaviest bomber strike of the Vietnam War, and the only time that heavy bombers were sent to bomb Hanoi. The mews media dubbed these attacks the "Christmas Bombings," although today they would no doubt have been called the "Holiday Bombings." American prisoner of war Col. Ted Guy, who was held in a prison camp in Hanoi, said "The floor and the walls started to shake...We observed, through the tiny peep hole in the door, hundreds of SAMs [Surface-to-Air Missiles] streaking into the night sky followed by horrendous explosions. By this time, the whole camp was rocking and rolling and all my fellow jailbirds were screaming encouragement to the attacking bombers. The guards tried to contain us, but soon ran for cover and were not seen the rest of the night...I knew then that the war would soon be over."

The attack began a week before Christmas and continued for 12 days. American aircraft dropped over a hundred thousand bombs on Hanoi and Haiphong. At the time, Hanoi was second only to Moscow in the strength of its air defenses, and 15 of the 121 B-52s participating in the attacks were shot down. The communists fired 1200 missiles at the attacking aircraft, expending most, if not all, of their air defense arsenal. Following the attack, the communists immediately returned to negotiations, and the Paris Peace treat was signed on January 27, 1973, officially ending U.S. involvement in the Vietnam war. As part of the peace treaty, the communists released 591 American POWs, mainly downed airmen. Colonel Guy later said, "The Christmas bombing was indeed 'The Greatest Show on Earth' and in my opinion the single most important factor that led to our release."

A tenuous peace was observed in Vietnam for the next two years. But in 1975, the communists broke the peace treaty. In early March, the North Vietnamese army, then the fifth largest in the world, began a large scale invasion of South Vietnam. The U.S. Congress refused to allow President Ford to aid the beleaguered South Vietnamese, and South Vietnam surrendered on April 30, 1975, thirty years to the day after Hitler's suicide.

Today, as on many past Christmases, U.S. forces are engaged in battle. As in Vietnam, many in Congress are calling for an exit strategy, even when U.S. troops are enjoying considerable success. So, as those of us at home feast on turkey and goose, let's keep the American troops and their families in our thoughts and prayers. If you don't know what to pray, Patton's prayer would be a good start:


Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations.

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