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Siege Of Bastogne — December 20th – December 26th, 1944

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 Commanding.

For seven days in what should have been a quaint postcard village, the men of the 101st Airborne would endure a siege that would compare to that of the Alamo.

On the evening of December 15th, men of the 5th & 6th Panzer Army, as well as the 7th and 15th armies moved into place. The next morning would see them launch a massive attack along a front from Belgium and Luxembourg. For four days their attack seemed to be unstoppable.

On December 19th, General Eisenhower called his senior commanders to emergency session in an underground bunker at the famous battleground of Verdun. He wanted it be known that this was an opportunity to really maul the Germans. When they were out in the open, they could be easily destroyed. He then turned to Patton to ask him how soon he could have his 3rd Army on the move. He replied that plans were already in motion to attack.Shroom Tech Banner

Things however had gotten considerably worse around the town of Bastogne. By December 21st, the town had been surrounded by elements of the 2nd Panzer, the Panzer-Lehr, and 26th Volksgrenadier Divisions.

Inside the ever shrinking perimeter, were the 101st Airborne Division, Combat Command B of the 10th Armored Division, and the segregated African-American 969th Artillery Battalion.

The situation inside the perimeter worsened everyday. Medical supplies were almost non-existent. The main hospital had been captured on the 20th with most of the medical personnel. Ammunition and food supplies were not much better with artillery rounds limited to 10 rounds a day.

Sometime during the 22nd, the German commander General von Lüttwitz came over to the perimeter and asked for a formal parlay. In this he gave to the Americans a now famous letter which reads

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 Hompres-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 the 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 hour’s term.

All the serious civilian losses caused by this Artillery fire would not correspond with the well known American humanity.

The German Commander”

General Anthony McAuliffe replied with the defiant “NUTS” meaning “Go To Hell!!!!”

The next day General McAuliffe posted a memo to all the troops explaining what went down.

MERRY CHRISTMAS

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 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 imprudent 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 Hompres-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 the 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 hour’s 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:

N U T S !

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!”Shop Now Banner

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
Commanding.

At around 4:50 in the evening of the 26th, Company D of the 37th Tank Battalion of the 4th Armored Division entered the town lifting the siege. The 101st Airborne Division’s casualties from 19 December 1944 to 6 January 1945 were 341 killed, 1,691 wounded, and 516 missing. The stubborn defense would go down in history as a testament of American determination and show the world that American soldier is a force to be reckoned with.

 

 

 

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Jeremy Scott is a 36-year-old military history buff from Houston, Texas. He has been interested in military history since the age of 8 years old. His interests are the Napoleonic era, the American Civil War, and both World wars I and II. He has a deep respect for the “boots on the ground” the common military soldier, and hopes that his humble writings interest those soldiers. If you have a twitter account, you can follow him @UncleBubba80

1 comment on “Siege Of Bastogne — December 20th – December 26th, 1944

  1. Tennessee Budd

    The story of Tony “Nuts!” McAuliffe is the first war history I remember reading as a child, & it always stuck with me; it may not have hurt that Dad had been in the 101st, albeit in the ’60s.
    Now I have to reread the story: I’d never before seen, or hadn’t noticed, the German error in punctuation, using “two hour’s term” instead of “two hours’ term”.

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