Skip to comments.US veterans, Belgian king recall Hitler's last gamble
Posted on 12/18/2004 9:41:53 AM PST by yonif
BASTOGNE, Belgium (AFP) - In snow and a chilling wind, US veterans and the king of Belgium paid tribute to Allied forces who, in a freezing winter 60 years ago, repulsed the last big German counter-attack of World War II.
The Battle of the Bulge, fought in the towns and densely forested hills of the Ardennes, was according to one veteran here, "hell all the way through."
With a blanket of snow underfoot -- just as it was in late 1944, one of the worst European winters in memory -- and a chilling wind which blew across the hilltop, King Albert II laid a wreath at a star-shaped monument to the US dead at Mardasson, just outside Bastogne.
Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt hailed the memory of the fallen.
"The only thing they could see was fog. The only thing they could hear were gunshots and the screams of their wounded buddies," he said in a speech. "The only thing they could smell was lead and death. The only thing they could feel was fear, pain, hunger and cold. It was so very cold."
Wreaths were also laid earlier at a memorial in Bastogne to General George Patton, then commanding the US Third Army whose units liberated the strategic town.
Participants included the general's granddaughter Helen and Bastogne mayor Philippe Collard.
Two lines of US soldiers alternating with local children grasped flags and emblems either side of the path to the monument.
The Last Post played, the flags were lowered, veterans and serving military saluted or held caps to their chest in a stillness broken only by the piercing bugle.
Afterwards a US Navy band played the American and Belgian national anthems, the US hymn being followed by clapping and scattered shouts of "thank you."
The scene was replayed a short while later, following a parade of past and serving US and Belgian soldiers clapped by an appreciative crowd, at McAuliffe Square.
The square, decked out like surrounding streets with US and Belgian flags, was named after Tony McAuliffe, the US commander in Bastogne who despite being virtually surrounded, famously rejected a German demand to surrender with the words "Aw, nuts!"
A US tank stands on the square as a permanent reminder.
"We will never forget your courage and your heroism", read a large placard in English held aloft by two women.
The Battle of the Bulge broke out on December 16, initially stunning the Allies who had not seen the Germans build up a force of 30 divisions backed by tanks and heavy artillery.
But amid huge losses -- an estimated 80,000 US troops were killed, wounded or captured, and possibly twice as many Germans -- the offensive was repulsed, fatally undermining Germany's ability to resist.
The ferocious battle was featured in "Band of Brothers," a US television series co-produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, which followed a company in the 101st Airborne Division as it fought its way into Germany.
"It was hell all the way through, not just the start," remembered Mitchell Kaidy, now 79 but then a young private in the 87th Infantry Division.
His unit was ordered to the region from 350 miles (550 kilometres) away as soon as word of the German offensive broke.
"I was very, very cold, there was a lot of snow and we had to dig holes all the time" to shelter from the weather and the German artillery," he said.
"I referred to it as being ass-deep in snow," interrupted Warren Jasper, a retired US major who was also in the 87th.
Patton was the driving force. "He always kept whipping us, he didn't run a static war," said Kaidy. "Every single day we woke up and there was an attack order. Every evening there were patrols to do."
Other ceremonies were planned this weekend in Luxembourg and other Ardennes towns to commemorate the start of the battle, including a reconstruction here of the battle for Bastogne and a parachute drop at Mardasson.
And yet they fought. The two elderly veterans I personally know who were involved in combat during the Bulge will each stress that they thought it was a make or break battle, when they feel like talking about it. One is my best freind's dad and he'll say that it was a heck of thing to go through when you're only nineteen years old and thought you would live forever. According to him, you got over that in one quick hurry.
Thanks for sharing this. Nice to see some Europeans haven't forgotten.
The stories of Congressional Medal of Honor Heroes of the Battle of the Bulge http://www.worldwariihistory.info/Medal-of-Honor/Bulge.html
Kudos to those brave soldiers. Their ranks are dwindling, but the memory of their courage will be forever honored.
Battle of the Bulge "NUTS" Comment at Bastogne-1944 =
Capt. HARRY W.O. KINNARD
Commanding General of the 1st Air Cavalry Division
during the Battle of the IA DRANG Valley-1965 =
Gen. HARRY W.O. KINNARD
(3rd Photo - General KINNARD greeting his Victorious 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry SkyTroopers at An Khe Base Camp after the 1st Major Battle of the Vietnam War in the Valley of Death known as the IA DRANG)
Nuets, Nuets, Nuts... Vas Is Das?
Didn't see 30 divisions mount up?
Eisenhower should be fired!
When the Germans surrounded the town of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge 50 years ago they sent in a Surrender Ultimatetum letter to the American General there.
When Gen. MacAULIFFE read it his first response was to cry out "NUTS" in front of his officer staff. He then turned to his staff and asked what would be a proper response to the Germans.
The General's Operations Officer Capt. HARRY W.O. KINNARD immediately came back that his "NUTS" response seemed like an entirely appropriate response to the occassion.
And the rest, as they say, is History.
Two months after the Attacks of September 11, 2001 I was blessed to have the opportunity to personally thank a now retired Gen. KINNARD for all he has done for us. I did this while kissing this genuine American Hero's forehead at our Annual Battle of IA DRANG Alumni Conference in Washington, D.C. He was smiling broadly.
This was a night when we were all honoring our fellow U.S. 7th Cavalry Brother RICK RESCORLA's sacrificing of his own life while saving 1,000's of others at the World Trade Center's Tower 2 on our 2nd Day of Infamy.
I talk about RICK RESCORLA in my 'A Witness to the Heroism of Many' contribution to the inspiring book titled:
'MODERN DAY HEROES: In Defense of America'
Hit: 'Resource Center'
Hit: 'Aloha Ronnie'
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.