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Christmas NUTS! Anthony McAuliffe and the 101st Airborne at Bastogne

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Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

On December 16th 1944 the German Army launched an assault in the Ardennes Forrest completely surprising the thinly spread American VIII Corps.  The German 6th Panzer Army, 5th Panzer Army and 7th Army attacked and forced the surrender of 2 regiments of 106th Infantry Division, mauled the 28th Division in the center of the American line while battering other U.S. forces.  To the north the 2nd and 99th Infantry Divisions were tenaciously defending Elsenborn Ridge while to the south the thinly spread 4th Infantry and 9th Armored Divisions resisted the 7th Army advance. As elements of the two German Panzer armies advanced west Eisenhower dispatched his only reserves the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions to meet the threat. The 82nd moved to the town of St Vith to aid the 7th Armored Division while the 101st was dispatched to hold the key road center of Bastogne.

By the 22nd of December the besieged American defenders of Bastogne were causing Hasso Von Manteuffel’s 5th Panzer Army headaches. Manteuffel’s leading Panzer units of the 2nd Panzer Division and Panzer Lehr had been thwarted from taking Bastogne by a Combat Command of 10th Armored Division and lead elements of the 101st Airborne Division. After failing to take the town the Germans invested it with the 26thVolksgrenadier Division, and a regiment of Panzer Lehr while the  2ndPanzer and the bulk of Panzer Lehr continued their westward advance.

Cut off from any other American forces the 101st and a collection of stray units including CCB 10th Armored Division and remnants of CCR 9th Armored Division, three 155mm artillery battalions including the African American 969th Field Artillery Battalion held out. By the 21st of December they were completely surrounded by strong German Forces with no relief in sight.

The Commander of the American garrison was Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe. McAuliffe was the acting commander of the 101st and normally was the commander of the Division Artillery. Major General Matthew Ridgeway and many key commanders and staff were away from the division when it was hastily deployed to the Bulge to combat the German offensive.  McAuliffe now commanded a division which was surrounded, and that was short of ammunition, food, and cold weather gear.

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General Der Panzertrüppen Heinrich Freiherr von Lüttwitz

The German forces surrounding the city were commanded by the veteran General Der Panzertrüppen Heinrich Freiherr von Lüttwitz, commander of XLVII Panzer Corps.  Lüttwitz believed that resistance to his forces was futile sent the following message under a flag of truce to McAuliffe

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 Our near Ortheuville, have taken Marche and reached St. Hubert by passing through Hompre-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

McAuliffe’s response has become one of the immortal responses to a surrender demand in military history. According to staff members present when he received Lüttwitz’s note he simple said “nuts.” One of his staff officers suggested that he use “nuts” as his official reply to Lüttwitz and the following reply was typed:

To the German Commander

NUTS!

The American Commander

The reply was delivered by the commander of the 327th Glider Infantry Regiment Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Harper and his S-3 Major Alvin Jones. When Harper delivered the message he told the German delegation that in “plain English” it meant “Go to hell.” The scene has been immortalized on film in the movie The Battle of the Bulge

Likewise it is also depicted in the mini-series Band of Brothers. 

And in the 1949 film Battleground 

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The garrison held out until it was relieved on December 26th by the 4th Armored Division of General George Patton’s 3rd Army.  Despite that the situation remained tenuous and the town was the scene of much hard fighting over the next two weeks.

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McAuliffe’s Christmas Message to his Soldiers

McAuliffe went on to command the 103rd Infantry Division by the end of the war.  He returned to Europe as Commander of 7th Army in 1953 and U.S. Army Europe in 1955. He retired in 1956 with the rank of General.  He died in 1975 at the age of 77. His adversary Von Lüttwitz died at the age of 72 in 1969.

As we remain engaged in the current war it is always worth our time to remember the heroism, courage and faith of those that served before us.

Peace

Padre Steve+

Post Script: To read more about the Battle of the Bulge on this site go to Wacht am Rhein: The Battle of the Bulge

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Filed under film, History, leadership, Military, nazi germany, us army, world war two in europe

Surviving Birthdays, My Closet of Anxieties, Rumors of Revolution and Coups and a Losing Streak Ended

anniverary 2009I didn’t mess up the Abbess’s Birthday this Year…Cheers!

I am terrible at doing birthdays…mine included.  Unfortunately this can be detrimental in my primary and many other relationships.  In particular I have made my fair share of messes when it comes to birthdays, especially those of Judy.  This began shortly after marriage and there have been a number of times that I regret, especially in choice of gifts.  A large part of this was due to selective hearing on my part in what she wanted and to what she would refer to as the “damage to the brain caused by the male hormone.”  The biggest of the goofs was when in seminary I got her the Bible that I wanted…not smart. I will not add to the fire of my self-immolation here by describing the others.  I can say that like a pitcher has hung one too many curveballs in the center of the plate to good hitters and seeing it go over the fence, the memories flash through my mind beginning in the middle of September until the birthday is successfully negotiated.  It is like making sure that I get the last out before I can rest.

This year went well.  In fact it has been like an extended celebration for her milestone birthday. We brought her college roommate here for 6 days, we had lunch with her friend Diane and dinner at Gordon Biersch together and breakfast today with her friend Pat and her father today.  Saturday evening we will make the close to the week by having a number of people over for dinner and cake.  Even the gifts that I chose were things that she wanted or actually liked.  The key to me successfully negotiating a birthday is to actually listen to what she wants.

We have had a couple of good days of leave and enjoyed our time together.  The cool thing is though she has reached this milestone, she neither looks nor acts her age.  Since I neither look nor act my age most of the time, though I am feeling it more, I think that we are a good match.

closet of anxietiesOpen for Business

At the same time the week has seen my “Closet of Anxieties” open up again.   Part is obviously  PTSD induced and part life induced.  My mom as always has managed to add stress to my life.  My dad continues to slowly circle getting worse in the nursing home.  My German friend wants me to come to Germany in early December but I am nervous about making the flight.   I was able to handle flying much better before Iraq.

left wingers

Finally I am concerned about things going on in the country as some people on the political right are advocating a military coup or violent revolution to overthrow President Obama.  The scary thing as these are not people on the nutty fringe but people more in the mainstream of current conservative thought. What is even more alarming is that a lot of these folks are also prominent Evangelical Christians.  One should never forget that many German “conservative Christian values voters” supported Hitler because they so hated the left. Hitler, like many right wing politicians in this country played to their fear and hatred of the left for their political support.  I’m afraid of the same thing happening here.

A good article about this is found at blogger Polycarp’s site which is linked here: http://thechurchofjesuschrist.us/2009/09/phyllis-schlafly-endorses-bloody-revolution-columnist-plans-for-armed-coup/

bundesarchiv_bild_146-1970-051-65_kapp-putsch_berlinThe Kapp Putsch

To me the political situation is looking more like the Weimar Republic every day and unlike the folks cited in the article I don’t see President Obama as a Nazi or Marxist.  I think that people are playing with fire in suggesting bloody revolutions or military coups.  If either happens there is no going back. They will have to coin a phrase “destroyed the Constitution in order to save it.”  What is scary for me to see a national columnist like John Perry writing in the mainstream conservative news online publication Newsmax.com , suggest a military coup when the military is engaged in two wars.  The military is perhaps the most trusted institution in the country and to look to it in time of war to overthrow the government in a partisan action is madness and even borders on treason.  Even if this Wolfgang Kapp wannabee was able to get some misdirected military leader to pull a Lüttwitz[i] and attempt to seize power.  Such an attempt would be futile and doomed to failure.  Such an attempt could never gain the support of the entire military and would be dependent on many younger soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who do not necessarily support the or are as radical as those pushing this on the political right.  The military is not a reactionary or monolithic institution despite the wishes of some on the right.  When one sees this kind of talk combined with street brawls at political town meetings and people carrying semi-automatic weapons at rallies where the President is speaking one sees a recipe for disaster that could destroy the country. If this continues  and at best poison the political and social atmosphere for decades to come.  I felt the same way when people on the left suggested a military coup against President Bush a couple of years ago.  We have a political process that has worked relatively well for 200 plus years.  Yes we are divided and having problems but nothing is insurmountable if we decide to work and play well with each other.  We have survived as a nation so long precisely because we have had the wisdom to step back from the brink, with the exception of the Civil War and we all know how well that turned out for everyone concerned.

044Jeff Fiorentino in Norfolk

However tonight a final source of anxiety was lifted when the Orioles broke their 13 game losing streak against the Tampa Bay Rays tonight.  O’s lefty Chris Waters, who I have met a number of times in Norfolk got the win and Jeff Fiorentino came up big with a 2 out RBI single that provided what would be the winning run.  It was good news for both players, Waters needed the win just to regain confidence and hopefully get another look by the O’s and other teams.  Fiorentino is now being talked about as having a place on the 2010 Orioles.  He certainly has earned it.  With the win the Orioles go home to the confines of Camden Yards to finish the season against the Blue Jays.

Peace, Padre Steve+

Note: The last time I posted something about faith and politics I had a couple of really nasty and personal comments by those on the right all but calling me a non-Christian and Marxist traitor.  This should be fun.


[i] Wolfgang Kapp was a German politician who worked with disaffected radical elements of the Army to attempt to overthrow the Weimar Republic in 1922.  He gained the support of General von Lüttwitz who commanded the military district around Berlin and used a radicalized Freikorps, the Erhardt Brigade which was slated by the Army for demobilization to attempt to seize control of the government.  The attempt floundered but hindered future cooperation between the Army and the Majority Socialists where the Nazis began their rise to power.

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