Friday, December 26, 2014

Fullbore Friday

One more Christmas story, as it was the day after Christmas where the last high-water mark of the Western Front in WWII was at last turned at the Battle of the Bulge.

Via Frank Woolner's account from 1945;
There was a family living in the cellar of the house we occupied. They were Germans, for this was border country and, for all we knew, they might have been Nazis. Yet, there were several children among them. There were the parents, too, and an old grandmother. They were all very poor - for the war had swept through this area - and they had very little to eat.

So, naturally, we collected together all our chocolate bars and candy for the children. We gave cigarettes to the elders and we slipped them a few gallon cans of C-ration meat and vegetable stew.

The Germans were still driving ahead on Christmas Eve but, between guard stints out in the frigid night and occasional dives for the floor when a shell came screaming in, we presented our small gifts to the children of the house and drank toasts with the elders. They couldn't speak English or French, so all our conversation was in halting German.

Down toward the point of the great Christmas offensive, Germany's panzer armies were piling their dead against a steel wall of Allied resistance, but they were still taking ground, yards at a time. On Christmas Day heavy fighting was in progress everywhere. The artillery of both sides hammered a ceaseless, drumfire barrage.

Christmas was clear and cold, brilliant with sunlight and drifted snow. It was a beautiful day, but we felt the terrible depression of all soldiers who fight with their backs to the wall. It seemed that the enemy would never break and we were bone-weary with cold and battle.

The only cheering note on Christmas Day was the sight of American bombers passing overhead to blast the enemy. Thousands of Fortresses and Liberators, in tight formations, like shoals of tiny silver fish, coursed over the blue, inverted bowl of the sky.

It was a stirring Christmas present from the Air Forces to the struggling ground commands.

On Christmas night the Nazis redoubled their efforts to blast through the American lines. On the 3rd Armored Division front, waves of fanatic enemy troops, supported by artillery and tanks, surged forward only to break in confusion at the last. One of our infantry battalions beat back twelve separate attacks that night. Bob Gray of 11 Winthrop Street [Worcester], can tell you all about it, if he chooses, because he was there with nothing but an M-1 rifle between him and the fanatic soldiers of the SS.

The Christmas offensive came to a crashing climax on Christmas night. German dead were piled in the snow in front of American positions but, at long last, the Allies held firm. By dawn of December 26, Kraut armies were digging in. They were finished and there was nothing for them but the long, terrible road back to ultimate defeat.

It was another two weeks before the "bulge" was deflated, but the last tide of Nazi conquest turned on Christmas Day, and the offensive that was meant to win a smashing victory as a gift to Adolf Hitler, came to an abortive end.

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