Battle of the bulge | Episode Transcript
[00:00:00.68] Welcome back to the Monday American podcast. I'd like to say right off the bat I am sorry of how long it took for me to get this episode out to you guys. Sometimes things in life just take a little bit longer than you expected and I apologize. This episode of The Podcast is brought to you by Michael Cannon. Michael is the author of the book called Last Judgment last judgment takes you through the story of a man who is down on his luck and he finds himself pretty much in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's a great story about mystery in the sudden disappearance of the protagonist himself and also the journey of his friends and his family to find him. It's a phenomenal book and if you know anything about me you would know that whenever I recommend something means you should get it. You can find a book on Google Play. It's only eight dollars. And if that isn't a deal I don't know what is. Just click on the highlighted link in the show notes to get your copy. Now not only can you get that book but Michael Cannon is also currently working on a graphic novel coming out early next year that is based on the Last Judgment book.
[00:01:05.54] You follow the link in the show notes again and watch a preview of the upcoming graphic novel for yourself and check out the storyline and it's it's actually a very impressive storyline. In my humble opinion I won't spoil the whole thing for you but it does deal with humans discovering that aliens are among them and the subsequent fight for the survival of man. You can even help in the fight yourself by visiting the link that I included to donate to the project's funding. All on your own. See what I did there. That's quite a few links in the show notes but I think that you're gonna be able to handle it. I believe in you. And again go by the book Last Judgment. The best eight bucks you're going to ever spend. Check out that preview for the upcoming graphic novel and if you want to help out an author and the team in their production of that graphic novel you can visit the link to donate to their cause. Because when you think about it the survival of the human species depends on it. You're listening to the Monday America
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[00:02:30.72] Don't worry we'll be gentle. So as I'm sitting down here to record this episode I can't help but laugh to myself at my own inability to follow the very rule I gave myself in the last episode. If you listen to that episode I started off by explaining why I chose the topic and mentioning that I'm going to be try going to try to be careful to avoid topics that are too narrow. As far as just military history or just certain wars and that I'd be able to branch out a little bit more and that is the case. But this episode and laughing to myself because of it is on the battle of the Bulge which is a word or two military battle. One episode after I just said I was going to be more cautious to avoid just using military history topics. Maybe I'm just more of a do as I say not as I do kind of instruction giver. I don't know the reason I chose this topic was because I received an email back in April from Catherine Higgins who requested that I do do an episode part me on General George as Peyton and while this episode isn't exactly solely about Peyton he does play a very very large role in the story. So I decided to do this episode on one of the topics that I find the most interesting in almost all of American history which is the battle of the Bulge and incorporate that with cap Kathryn's topic request.
[00:04:04.53] So I hope you can excuse the humor of choosing yet another military topic. Immediately after I mentioned I wouldn't do that. But like I said Do as I say not as I do. For those of you that are not already familiar with what the battle of the Bulge exactly is it's one of the worst battles of the entire Second World War. And for that matter it's one of the worst battles in warfare history the world over. The Battle Of The Bulge took place in Belgium in the Arden forest. Now this was the late winter. It started on December 16th of 1944. There's quite a few different factors here that led to such an awful situation for the United States soldiers that were manning the front in that area. Let's back up a little bit remember that we invaded France on June 6 of 1944. And from that point on the United States Army and the allies had been pushing forward through France Liberating Paris and really the whole country. And they had fanned out from there as they approached the German border. And one of the reasons that this battle was bad was because we approached the German border so quickly and with such force that the overall consensus in the nation and in the army and the military thinking minds of the day was that the war would be over before the new year.
[00:05:34.32] The slogan was in the war in 44. And then eventually it became stay alive and 45 but this assumption that we would be done before the new year meant that these troops on the ground were in the same clothes that they landed in France with that summer. Now this is winter and it's in the Arden force of Belgium and its high altitude. It's cold and there's snow on the ground. Needless to say the troops didn't have the right clothing for the winter at all. That's an understatement. They had they had some of them didn't even have boots. Now another reason probably one of the biggest reasons why this battle was so bad is because at this point Hitler and the Vermont Army they were at a point of dire straits. They had retreated so rapidly and lost so many men they had no real chance of survival. And that's what everyone thought. And in the strategic minds of military experts the world over this is a situation where you have to make an attack in order to try to tilt the balance of the momentum of the war. And this was when Hitler chose to make his offensive. Now it wasn't really a surprise to the allies that there was an offensive coming they all knew it. They just didn't think it was going to be in the Ardennes Forest. Now the Ardennes Forest has been a site of a lot of World War history.
[00:07:11.58] The German army invaded France through that corridor in World War One. And they did so again in World War 2. And the reason that they did that was because it was a terrain that was incredibly unfriendly to a mobile army. It had very tall pines. It was mountainous. And it just didn't have good roadways. And that was exactly why Hitler decided to make his offensive there because it was a place that no one would suspect in because it was a place no one would suspect. We had been sending the army divisions that had fought a atrocious battle in the heart and forest just a few weeks before we had sent them to the frontlines in Belgium in the Arden region just to get some rest. So they were extremely worn out battle hardened and weary soldiers that were being sent to what was supposed to be one of the quietest fronts in the war. But when you as a military leader and as a group not just singling out one person assume that one area is a quiet zone or that there's just no action coming or even going on you tend to under man that area in order to send men elsewhere where they're needed. And that was exactly the case that had happened here. I mean there was so so little action that Marlene Dietrich.
[00:08:35.58] She was a incredibly famous performer at the time and a noted villain of the Nazis they hated her because she was German born and she didn't answer the call to serve the Third Reich. She was a mile away from the front lines performing the night before the operation began. So to say that they thought that nothing was really going on it really might be an understatement because it would be incredible propaganda for her to get captured by the Nazis at this time.
[00:09:08.28] But she was on a USO tour. You just don't have USO tours at the site of a battle right there. They're always behind the lines. But everyone felt so safe in that area that there wasn't gonna be anything going on that she was right up there that she just got to show you the casual nature of what was going on at the time in that casual nature was due to quite a few different things like I mentioned before. But just as a summation everyone thought Hitler was done. Everyone thought the German army had lost too much men too much material to be able to fully mount any type of meaningful offensive counter attack to the allies pushing ever farther east towards Berlin those that did think that they could do it. Thought the attack was coming elsewhere and the men were moved off the line in order to remain elsewhere. And the other men were sent there in order to rest and recover as well as the fresh troops who were sent there to start off their tour in Europe not in the hottest spot of the whole second world war. Right off the get go. And as we come to find out unfortunately those were all the wrong moves. One of the men that was high up in the army that actually understood that the German counterattack might be coming through that way was none other than General George S.
[00:10:35.9] Payton. He and his third army intelligence officer who is Brigadier General Oscar w Coke. They sensed what others didn't. That a dangerous in desperate enemy absolutely remained capable of wreaking havoc. Up until this point everyone assumed that the German reversal of ground in the recent months had been a rout or just a mass collapse of the army. The two men who understood that it was not anything of that sort. Were Peyton in his office Coke. They they knew that it hadn't been a rout and a total military defeat and that they were still capable of massing a large concentration of army groups. General Patton himself said quote The first army is making a terrible mistake and leaving the eighth corps static as it is highly probable that the Germans are building up east of them. But the concerns of Patton and his intelligence officer were essentially overruled by the consensus of the military minds above them. And like I said earlier just a few miles east of where Marlene Dietrich in her supporting cast were performing the war was still going on. And although it was a quiet sector of the war they were still dealing with the men on the front we're still dealing with all the usual complications of combat exposure to the elements. Fatigue and constant danger. General Norman Cota was the general in charge of the divisions that were stretched along a thin line of outposts and strong points that paralleled either side of the our river.
[00:12:11.69] And that is felt. Oh you are I don't know any other way to pronounce it. I'm sure it's wrong though. The divisions there were so sparsely manned. They were they were just very battered from the hurt in battle and the road from France to where they were at that point. Now initially they had the second infantry division to their north as their neighbor but just a few days before the German offensive was launched the brand new and entirely raw 106 and an infantry division had replaced them to the south. They had been bordered by a 9th armored division and the twenty eighth division bordered them. They had so much ground to defend. The general coda was forced to keep all three of his regiments on the front line in the north part of his sector of the hundred and 12th Infantry held the smallest sector who's actually in the middle of the Siegfried Line in the Siegfried Line is a line of defenses that the German army had built in order to keep out invaders. It was east of the river and it was in Germany itself just to the south of them was one hundred and tenth infantry and they were covering more than 13 miles of Ardennes territory. The hundred and tenth was responsible for twice as much territory as any regiment could be expected to control.
[00:13:33.86] Yet it only had two of its battalions at the front and to the south of the hundred and 10th was one hundred and Ninth Infantry and they were in a similar situation of their own patrolling more than ten miles of rolling country west of the river. So both of these divisions they didn't have any real bona fide defensive lines or plans they could only occupy towns and crossroads as a strong point in the vicinity of where they were supposed to be. So what they would do is they would outposts the river during the day and they would pull back at night in an after action report for the hundred and Ninth Infantry. It kind of described the area pretty succinctly. It said quote The terrain along the entire division front is extremely Hilly. Much of it covered with pine forests. Observation is difficult because of the many wood it draws. Hitler could not have planned a more perfect place to conceal a last ditch effort offensive. But by and large this front was very quiet. It seemed like neither side was really interested in doing much fighting at that point. You have to remember that these men aren't just going to always follow orders they are going to fight when they have to with help. They don't want to fight. They don't want to have a chance to die and they could all sense at the end of the war was coming.
[00:14:55.13] The surgeon for the 2nd Battalion of the hundred Ninth Infantry Bedford Davis recorded one such instance where it was clear that neither side had any interest in fighting each other. When he was visiting the frontlines with general Cota and it was a sunny day. Remember this is the winter it was cold and the weather had been horrible. So it was a sunny day they both observed soldiers from both sides out basically sunbathing. He said quote some of the men were lying on the ground outside their foxholes and slit trenches to absorb the welcome sunshine German soldiers. About 200 yards away were doing the same and as he watched he began talking to some of these sunbathing men and he said quote son do you see that man over there working a great uniform. And he replied yes sir. He said Don't you know he's your enemy. And he said Yes sir. He said Why don't you shoot at him then. And his reply is probably the best reply I think any soldier could give a non-combatant army or civilian anyone who isn't on the front line. He said quote sir he might shoot back they all laughed including General Koda. He wanted his troops to be aggressive but he knew in this quiet area of the war he was right. Why shoot at someone if he wasn't shooting at you.
[00:16:09.67] Occasionally a patrol from the German side would slip across the river. They'd look around for a bit and they pretty quickly go back. There was just rarely any shooting in the diary of private 1st class Robert pro back. He recorded witnessing a another kind of hilarious instance of the lack of war. He had been wounded earlier and he was just now returning to F Company of the hundred tenth infantry in on his way back. He said quote We would drive about three miles to the high banks overlooking the R river. We would wave to the Germans on the other side. Sometimes we would shout Good morning and they would respond the same way he said at times just to satisfy their superior officers the two sides would squeeze off a few rounds that were somewhat playful if that is even a possibility in war. They were unnamed shots at one another and naturally no one ever got hurt. Needless to say on the surface it seemed quiet on all fronts but for the combat soldiers who were living there day and night they were living near the enemy and watching the enemy's every move. Something began to seem a little bit strange. Gradually as the month of December unwound many of the frontline soldiers began to sense that the Germans were up to something in the accounts of some of the soldiers on those front lines.
[00:17:30.7] Afterwards they all describe it as a similar feeling an ominous disquieting troubling but distinct feeling they all had this new and serious concern that danger was building up out there and they were right. The Germans were after all moving more than a quarter of a million soldiers and thousands of accompanying vehicles and armor into position. Private Joe Norris and several of his buddies from B company of one hundred tenth infantry were on patrol one day when they heard the distinct sound of multiple vehicles from the direction of the German lines. They said quote we heard this massive noise just like trucks in a depot that we're getting ready to leave. You could hear the squeak of tank treads in an account from Private 1st Class Amos Meyers. He said quote throughout the night we heard engines running and noisy equipment moving about but all was hidden behind the hills in the nature of war is that it is controlled and planned by generals and people miles away in the unfortunate result is that it always comes down to the experiences of the people that are on the ground actually there they're always the first one to know what's going on as it's happening. The soldiers knew that something was going on and information was passed up the line but orders no real significant information or order was given in order to change the plans of the Army movements.
[00:19:00.18] Overall when you take all the information into account in just kind of run a final analysis of the preparedness of the allied army in the wake of the invasion the Americans didn't know the Germans were coming in the Arden forest because they didn't want to know their high level commanders and intelligence officers that just could not imagine that the Germans had any capability or even the audacity for a major offensive. It really couldn't be said any better than in the book called Time for trumpets written by Charles B MacDonald which is probably one of the best books written on the battle of the Bulge ever. He summed up the failures pretty perfectly by saying quote In no way did the intelligence officers alert their commanders to a threat in the Ardennes serious enough or imminent enough to warrant any change in Eisenhower's plans. North and South of the region allied intelligence officers had committed the most grievous sin of which one is capable. They had looked in the mirror for the enemy and seen only the reflection of their own intentions in regards to the weakness of the strength in that sector General General Omar Bradley called that sector a calculated risk. He and Eisenhower knew that they couldn't be strong everywhere and some portions of that 200 mile front had to be strengthened in the Ardennes simply seemed like the best place. And really that wasn't unreasonable.
[00:20:26.23] Like I said earlier Hitler in 1940 during his invasion of France chose the Arden forest in region because it did not seem to be a very likely place at all for an offensive. But although it didn't seem like the obvious place it was the place for one of the worst battles ever and it started on the other side of the R River where a mighty German war machine had amassed a massive army for their operation and offensive.
[00:20:54.29] Now I'm sure I will pronounce this wrong because I have a tendency to pronounce foreign languages incorrectly if I'm not very familiar with them. And this is German but the operation was called in German. The other man walked on Rhine which means Operation watch on the Rhine. They started with having a quarter of a million men. Hundreds of tanks hundreds of self-propelled guns thousands of trucks armored vehicles all that and even the Luftwaffe had assembled 1000 planes for this operation. And if you're unfamiliar with this era of the German or the word war to the Luftwaffe it was nearly obliterated entirely. So for them to assemble a thousand planes unnoticed is a massive feat and an overlook in the Allied intelligence. But it happened nonetheless for the entire watch on the Rhine offensive plan. Overall it was pretty ambitious but it was mainly basic in the northern sector of this offensive. The Sixth SS Panzer Army which was led by SS Gen. Joseph Dietrich was going to drive through mommy and essentially overrun the American army all the way to the city of Antwerp in Antwerp. It had been a contentious scene of battle during the entire war up to this point. It had changed hands several times and the reason was because it provided such a crucial port for an army's logistics. Logistical supplies and needs in that sector of where the fighting was that was the closest major port in an order for the German army to have any chance of life.
[00:22:36.05] They had to secure that port in general Joseph Dietrich the commander of this 6th SS Panzer Army was a notorious man all to himself like Hitler had been as well he had been an NCO a non-commissioned officer in World War 1 and he had no formal military education and in the early thirties he had formed Hitler's personal bodyguard that became known as the SS. He was a hard drinking man and he had fought on a lot of different fronts in this war and he earned a reputation for being pitiless and cunning. Hitler trusted him as much as he trusted anyone. In those days and he gave him the crucial task of racing to Antwerp in the south the fifth Panzer Army was supposed to basically envelop the lightly defended area capture the town of Saint 5th and roll north and that would put them right through the town of Bastogne. If you've ever watched the mini series Band of Brothers on HBO Bastogne should be a familiar town name for you. They were supposed to surge west through the Bastogne quarter general meant to full who's the commander of this fifth Panzer Army. He said quote The success or failure of the operation depends on an incessant and stubborn drive to the west and northwest the forward waves of the attack must not be delayed or tied down by any form of resistance Bastogne should fall on the second day of the operation or at least be encircled by then.
[00:24:10.7] This was a desperate offensive. It was not an offensive that they could afford to grind out slowly and so the overall objective of Operation walked on rhyme as it was initially called was to split the Allied armies in two and cut off and retake Antwerp which would ultimately force the Western allies into a negotiated peace as they thought. In that point Hitler assumed he could deal with the Soviet Union on his own. After that he actually assumed that the British and Americans would join the fight against the communists which is a ambitious assumption. It was an ambitious plan altogether but Hitler wasn't really the type to play it safe. He had always been a gambler at heart and he dreamed big dreams and courted major failures when he failed. Everything now depended on the speed of the operation but it also depended on an assumption. As for Hitler an article of faith he assumed that American soldiers would crumble in the face of adversity and that was the foundation of success really for this entire operation. The attack began precisely at 530 in the morning on December 16th of 1944 and it was opened by the German artillery opening fire and dropping what soldiers described felt like a sheet of flame onto their lines. Then it was accompanied by the sound of Panzer engines that were carrying along from the east and as the artillery crashed all around them.
[00:25:44.33] A rifleman in the ninety ninth division reflected quote you think the end of the world is coming and indeed it was coming through the trees. The infantry of German army emerged and shadowy figures in their snow suits and white caps. They were shouting and they were singing above that distinct with crack of rifle fire. One guy that was hiding in a barn among cows with another G.I. in they essentially just trying to avoid the slaughter that was all around them and coming towards them. He remembers distinctly whispering to the guy next to him that he felt like the entire German army had just landed in front of them. And although it would be just hours before the American commanders realized that the opening barrage was more than just a faint it would be days before some generals acknowledged the truth of what Gen. Runge debt had told his legions. In order that was captured by the Allies that early Saturday he said in German s gets Don's Guns which means everything is at stake. And they were attacking as though everything was at stake. It was a struggle that would last for more than a month. It would embroil more than a million men drawn from across half of this continent into this haunted scene of battle and because this battle is such a large battle with so many moving pieces simultaneously and it's hard to just over audio give you a precise description of everything that's happening.
[00:27:18.66] I've found some pretty good battle maps that pretty easily. You can see the movements of all the armies and groups that were involved and kind of see what happened. Those will be on the Web site on the episode of this on the Web site you will see a little button that you can push in and it will just say battle maps. If you are interested in that at all. Now I mentioned General D I think Field Marshal Dietrich or general Dietrich of the 6th SS panzer division that was leading the northern part of this attack for a specific purpose. I know I mentioned in the world war two series that I did a while back that the cultures of the German army the wear marked and the SS soldiers was wildly different. The SS was a bodyguard element of Hitler and they were the highly trained troops and they were the most loyal to Hitler himself. They would have they would have been more loyal to Hitler than Germany. The German army the very marked was just at the German army and their alliances differed. They were the army for Germany. The other was the army for the commander of Germany. And in any case an army that is severely loyal and devoted to the commander or the person over the country breeds fanaticism and that fanaticism unfortunately came out in large swaths during the Battle of the Bulge and one of the first instances was when the attacking portion of that northern sixth Panzer Division which was the first SS panzer regiment was just like the spearhead of that attack.
[00:29:01.38] It was commanded by a young lieutenant named Joakim Piper in his first SS regiment. They were an armored group of tanks and infantry men but they came into the town of Hunt's felt and they found the American vehicles had been parked in the doorways in the exhausted Americans were sleeping inside. And this was where the atrocities began commencing in an account of the instance it was said that eight soldiers were rousted outside in their underwear in their bare feet basically trying to surrender. They were lined up in the street and they were murdered with a machine gun. Five others emerged from a house nearby with a white flag. Four of them were shot in the Fifth pleading for mercy was crushed beneath a tank while he was alive. Four other Americans also carrying a large white banner of surrender were shot Piper's men would strip boots from the dead and they would press on to the next town of Bellingen to understand the fear of what it must be like to suddenly be at the business end of a sharp attack with no idea that it was coming on whatsoever. I found the story of these men hiding these American soldiers they were hiding in a cellar while the German army was advancing around them and it just it struck me as so unfortunate and sad about the battle and just the nature of warfare.
[00:30:28.91] I mean war is hell as the famous quote but they were so gripped with fear that these American soldiers they had a pet dog as a lot of army groups did. But they were so desperate after seeing all this murder before them that they had to strangle the dog to keep it from barking so that they could not be found. And if that doesn't show you the type of fear and carnage that was going on in front of these men I don't know what else would eventually Piper and his circus of horror had made their way to the Belgian town of Monte. As General Piper was coming up onto the town his armored armoured battalions and infantry they would already be there. You don't put your general in the front. But he remembered he stood there watching as the German soldiers had completely stunned and surprised and a group of American soldiers. I think it numbered about 200 and they were stripping them of their gear and you know going through the motions of accepting surrendering troops. No one ever knew which German soldier fired the first shot but once the first shot rang someone recorded the time was 215 PM. It was followed by an abrupt fusillade from two Panzer machineguns that chewed into the ranks of the prisoners that were still standing with their hands raised to surrender.
[00:31:56.57] Private 1st Class Homer D Ford was a military policeman who had been captured while directing traffic at the crossroads and he wrote about this event what it was like to be there while this was happening. He said that there were two whole minutes of gunfire that just tore through the ranks of these surrendering men. What would happen is these SS the SS men would they would walk through the bloody pile of dead men. They would kick groins of the men and they would issue the fatal verdict in German of duck Creek's knocked either loose which means this one still breathing. They were fired pistol shots into the skulls or the hearts of those that were still alive and he witnessed it and said quote I was wounded in the left arm while the group was being sprayed on the ground. I was laying in the snow and I was afraid they would see me shivering but they didn't. I could hear them pull the trigger back and then click. He was one of the lucky ones I guess. They were out of ammo. There was 20 minutes of essentially executioners prowling the field committing the atrocities that became known as the mommy massacre. And for the next two hours passing SS convoys would fire rounds into the mounted bodies until even the SS men tired of the sport. General Piper recorded later that he watched a German sergeant lead eight U.S. prisoners out back to Dave dig graves for three dead German soldiers.
[00:33:23.0] He then shot the Americans in the head killing seven of them and behind him and mommy. More than 80 corpses of surrendering men laid in the snow buried in quickly. Word of the melody massacre passed from foxhole to foxhole and up the chain of command. The ninth army war diary would note quote American troops are now refusing to take any more SS prisoners and it may well spread to include all German soldiers and one of the reasons that this war this battle is so notorious is because of the close nature of combat that ensued. This was a surprise attack and when you surprise your enemy you get right on top of them before he even knows you're there. That leads to the most gruesome and gory fighting that humans are capable of. It's the nightmare of hand-to-hand combat. But it also leads the advancing army the attacking army in this case the Germans into kill zones when they are advancing so rapidly they're not doing their due diligence to check and follow the normal I guess you could call them safety protocols of what you should do when you're making an offensive and such the case happened when the 112 infantry received a major enemy attack. It was in the town of Haas spelt in platoon sized groups the German army was attempting to rush the American position and it made them vulnerable to U.S.
[00:34:54.62] mortar and machine gun fire which either slaughtered them in large numbers or would force them to retreat. And one group of 50 enemy soldiers they somehow pushed past the town and approached Hill 5 3 9 on military maps. There was one company defending the hill with a 30 caliber machine gun. A couple of sections of those up there as the Germans ascended the Americans opened up. But the enemy just kept coming and we didn't know it. But they were like I said in the middle of a kill zone. Except they also had 50 caliber machine gun located just a few hundred yards from that hill and the First Battalion commanding officer was named Lt. Col. William Allen. He got on that gun and he fired a burst of 150 rounds right into the vulnerable German soldiers and it had a devastating effect. A 50 caliber bullet is enormous and fired like that. It tore off arms and shattered the heads and legs of humans in advancing column of German troops was coming from the town of Letson camp and that they had just taken and they were walking on the road and columns of twos and talking and laughing and joking. According to the recollection of one American soldier they were so oblivious that they got within twenty five yards of these 30 caliber machine guns not far away from that 50 before they opened up in a foxhole on the north side of the road private Cliff Hackett was blazing away at the Germans with that weapon and he could hardly miss.
[00:36:22.82] They were right in front of him still walking on the road. They went down in twos and threes and more just kept coming. A new guy standing next to hack it was firing his rifle at the enemy. In the next foxhole no one was shooting the two men were just hugging the ground cowering totally unhinged by fear and Hackett and his buddy just kept shooting clip after clip. It's an odd juxtaposition of war to have two men firing and slaughtering in advancing column of troops in the next foxhole over the other two are completely immobilized by a gripping fear to the south of them was the hundred and tenth infantry that was dealing with the attack of their own and they had the distinct advantage of using artillery to defend the advancing invaders. And one of the soldiers who was being defended by the artillery that they were using in that hundred and 10th to defend their position wrote about what it was like to watch an advancing column be mowed down by artillery. He said quote The German infantry was coming toward us in waves 20 30 min abreast the arc the artillery massacred the Germans the few Germans that got through the artillery fire. We then picked off with our rifles the German infantry kept coming out of the woods and we kept killing them with our artillery.
[00:37:44.07] They just kept coming. One wave after the other. It was one of the saddest things I'd ever experienced in my life a few miles to the south of them. The entire 3rd Battalion sector was aflame with attack. It was the hundred and tenth division. That was the only major unit directly between the Germans and Bastogne. And it was in serious trouble. They had a eighty two or eighty eight mile front and they were outnumbered by four times their amount of men. Now up until this point it was mainly just infantry versus infantry fighting each other in the one big thing to note is that when two infantry square off unless one has a massive numbers advantage or defensive fortifications built essentially they're pretty even it's just small arms against small arms and that's where tactics and position comes into play. But when one of those sides gets let's say armored tanks into the fray. Well it's quite a lopsided battle to say the least. And at four o'clock on that first day of the attack on December 16th the Germans finished building two bridges that allow them to cross their armored tanks over the our river and into the fight. One of the first towns they came across was lots and campaign in for about an hour to the Americans on the ground had heard German tank engines idling nearby while the enemy soldiers cleaned out the town of Letson campaign and as B company watched in horror the tanks accompanied by hundreds of infantry soldiers they emerged from the northern end of the town.
[00:39:19.83] Officers were calling for artillery frantically but there just wasn't any available. They had almost nothing with which to fight a tank in a foxhole on a hillside overlooking the town of Letson campaign. Private 1st Class Charles Hogg says he reflexively ducked in anticipation of the tank fire. He was sure was coming. He said quote The tanks seemed to crawl along about two or three miles an hour. We bit our lips and prayed the huge black obscene shapes they approached up the road from the middle of Watson camp and toward one of the farmhouses used by the company. All of a sudden there was a horrendous detonation from the cannon of the lead tank and the house collapsed and fell inward on itself in a shower of sparks. In one of these things that makes a tank so among the many things so horrifying to be going against is that a lot of them had flamethrowers. Reportedly the sound of the flame thrower was an eerie unearthly hydraulic terror private hog and his fellow runners had heard screams from somewhere up ahead. He said quote we witness the most horrible thing any G.I. dreams of. As he was talking about watching a tank a flamethrower tank stopping about 50 feet from an occupied foxhole and he said he continued quote as the two kids sat there helplessly a gigantic stream of roaring fire shot in on them.
[00:40:40.09] They had been burned to a crisp hog and many of the others around him were shaking uncontrollably crying in their holes and praying for deliverance and in what private Hogg described as one of the most amazing displays of fireworks he'd ever seen. The American artillery finally did muster up some resistance which knocked out some of their tanks and then the men were able to use shoulder fired bazooka type weapons and anti-tank guns that they did have which it can be good against a tank but it's really a last ditch effort to fight a tank. You want a tank or something bigger. Either way the enemy tanks and soldiers turned around and they headed back into the town carcasses of the destroyed German tanks continued to burn furiously so the Americans still firmly held the R in bridge. The survivors of B Company stayed in their foxholes and they kept watch in one of the most grotesque but recurring themes of warfare. The smell and the air stink around them reportedly of burned flesh which is supposed to smell like a sickly sweet distinctly crispy strange mixture of spoiled meat and charcoal and that would hang in the air for the entire rest of the evening. For those men and with that the first day of the counterattack was done. All of that was just the first day. Things would progress and get worse and the next day as the tanks were moving in for the Germans on the outskirts of a town named Fishback.
[00:42:20.41] There was a lieutenant. His name was Thomas Brierley. It was a tank battalion or I'm sorry a tank platoon of American tanks that had managed to make their way up to the front lines and try to repel the German tank advancing his platoon of tanks was descending a hill that was merely two miles away from the town of Mar Nock where they were trying to take all the sudden they were hit by an anti-tank gun which pretty much sliced through the lead tank Bali's account read that they basically methodically picked off each tank in the stalled column in the first one broke down. None of the other tanks could move to go back because of the steep shoulders on the road. It was a death trap and I think a lot of people out there when they're reading back on these accounts of history tend to think that the guys in the tanks were a little bit better off because they're not always just exposed to machine gun fire. But this account makes sure that there's a reality check for that perspective one by one those tanks got hit their targets were smashed their treads were shot off. The holes were blown open by high velocity shells. And when those shells would go inside they would just ricochet around inside it would shred these crewmen into dismembered pieces.
[00:43:40.6] Their gas tanks or their engines will catch fire. It would singe the skin burn the hair in his fixit the men consuming flesh and bones in awful awful flames. Lieutenant Bali's platoon D Company was almost virtually entirely destroyed in just 10 minutes it became clear to the command of the allied forces and General Eisenhower and all the higher ups of the military the military that were present that unless they acted fast they were in a dire situation. And in fact they had all been wrong in the attack was coming here. They needed to get a plane together. They needed to get it together fast on December 19th which was just the third day after the attack. General Eisenhower called a emergency war meeting in order to figure out just what in the world they were going to do in order to fix this situation. Among those in attendance was General George Patton. Now let's take a brief pause for a second just to describe to you the iconic an historic man that George Patton was he was. He came from a family of military history spanning all the way back to the Civil War and all his family was in the army and this was by no means his first real combat either. He first led an army group all the way back to the insurrection of Pancho Villa back in I think in 1913 ish. I mean that's that's 30 some years of military leadership experience Payton led his army's notoriously from the front.
[00:45:23.76] He had pretty harsh language and was fond of giving speeches with just riddled with obscenities. His troops loved it. It often caused a little bit of contention with the Allied higher ups. But as far as a tactical general and a leader there was almost no one that could be said to be better than General Patton. And as far as his troops are concerned there was no better leader. And truly he produced some great results in a speech that became ultimately notorious because of how riddled with obscenities it was. He demonstrated his ability to shall we say improved morale in a unorthodox method. And if there are children listening to this for the next 15 seconds you might wanna turn the volume down because I'm going to give you a passage of that speech just to give you an idea of the type of man that he was in a speech to his army. He said quote I don't want any messages saying I'm holding my position. We're not holding a god damn thing we're advancing constantly and we're not interested in holding anything except the enemy's balls. We're gonna hold him by his balls and we're gonna kick him in the ass twist his balls and kick the living shit out of them all the time. Our plan of operation is to advance and keep on advancing. We're going to go through the enemy like shit through a tin horn.
[00:46:47.25] Now how can you if that is your leader and you're a soldier help but feeling overwhelmed with a high sense of loyalty patriotism and morale was unorthodox. Sure but effective nonetheless. And now General Patton the man with the sharp tongue and cold calculated and unbelievably effective leadership was sitting in front of General Eisenhower and a few other men at the emergency war meeting trying to figure out just what was going to happen. After a while. Eisenhower made up the plan that they would essentially hold in the middle where there was already a bulge in the lines forming. And that is how they got the nickname of The Battle of the Bulge. General Patton in his third army which currently held a 80 mile front would pivot north to fight into the exposed German left flank and push through eventually becoming the tip of the spear that reunited those men that had been holding out and had become surrounded entirely by the Germans. Peyton was the one who drove his army through and rescued them although they never admitted they needed rescue. They just said they were happy to have more ammunition. So Peyton was going to plan the attack and leaning forward on the table in this conference room. General Eisenhower asked how soon could he get the attack off and General Patton replied pretty matter of factly he said quote on December 22nd with three divisions the Fourth Armored the 26 and the 18th and as Eisenhower leaned forward he calculated the space the time and all those divisions kind of in his head and on his fingers.
[00:48:34.85] It was a maneuver that will require making a sharp left turn with a full core and then moving nearly 100 miles over winter roads. General Eisenhower wasn't sure that that type of attack could be planned so quickly without facing total disaster. And he even said that he would be happy with an attack on the twenty third if it meant an extra day of plans. General Patton replied in his typical trademark way saying quote I'll make a meeting engagement in three days and I'll give you a sixth division coordinated attack in six days. Someone at the table laughed. There was an uneasy shuffling of boots that could be heard on that bare floor. In glancing at his staff officer just to make sure that that was something they could do. He looked at him and he added quote We can do it. And as he left he phoned his army's headquarters told them of the orders and he finished it with the quote Everyone is a son of a bitch to someone be better sons of bitches than they are. And if you're wondering what a general war meeting would have been like during those days with Peyton in attendance there's your answer. And so the plan was made. The orders were given but on the front lines there was no plan.
[00:49:46.38] There was just survival. They knew that their orders especially units like the hundred and 12th Infantry their orders were to hold at all costs. And they did just that. They were slowly biding time and giving ground and taking a lot of casualties but giving the Germans a hell of a time trying to court cross part me. The R.N. in our rivers. The entire purpose of this was just to buy time so they could funnel as many reinforcements as they possibly could in order to reinforce the town of Bastogne. The critical road juncture that would propel the army. The German army all the way to their main goal the port of Antwerp. It's a set of orders that are incredibly difficult to give an incredibly brave to follow. I think sometimes when you hear the standard fight to the last man it's it's kind of overlooked of what that actually entails. Keep in mind a lot of these German armies that were coming in to the American lines had been preparing for this from for a very long time. They had been collecting American uniforms a lot of these German soldiers would approach the American lines looking like Americans in one account private Bob pocketing a soldier from the headquarters company of the 2nd Battalion. He peek over the edge of his foxhole and he saw him coming. He actually thought that the tanks even might be American. He sat down in his hole and a tank stopped five yards away.
[00:51:15.23] Infantry soldiers jumped off and they began running from hole to hole in the area where his friends were taking refuge. He said quote They went down the row in machine gun those guys they had hand-to-hand combat. I heard a lot of moaning and groaning. To make matters worse even if they weren't in American uniforms there was such a thick fog that there were accounts of German soldiers walking up as close as five feet in front of a foxhole before they opened fire because they just didn't see him and all of these consequences of following the order were known to the men that chose to do it. And they all chose to do it. They were critical in slowing down the German advance to Bastogne although they did hold off for an impressive amount of time and they took a staggering amount of casualties and inflicted a staggering amount of casualties in outnumbered outgunned and undersupplied army can only hold so long. Eventually the middle of the 20th division had been blown wide open the direct route to Bastogne had been ripped open for the Germans and they were pouring through that gaping hole. And so now there was a race to the city of Bastogne. It was the Germans versus the hundred and first airborne division that was gearing up and getting ready to enter the battle. The race was on now the road to Bastogne for the Germans was full of American resistance.
[00:52:45.92] The road to Bastogne for the hundred and first airborne of the Americans was full of horrific premonitions about what was in store for them. Up ahead it was about six miles until the town until they started running into the stragglers that had retreated or somehow escaped and made it and we're walking back trying to find help. One private wrote about looking at these stragglers he said it was you would feel for them with this sort of mixture of sympathy and simultaneous revulsion. He said quote They shamble along in shock and fear blocking the road completely. Eyes staring straight ahead mumbling to themselves. I had never before or since seen such absolute terror in men. Another private wrote about one of the troopers that was coming back. He said he was quote jogging long and slogging along. No weapons or anything. And he was actually crying. The hundred and first airborne would make it into Bastogne on December 18th and when they were there the German advancing army was only six miles away. Now one of the reasons it was so important to get them there was because the only other troops other than the hundred and first were green. They were fresh they hadn't most of them hadn't seen battle or they had been in boot camp for mere eight weeks. And now they found themselves on the business end of the largest German counter offensive of the entire war. And when you're dealing with green troops you're going to have a lot of inexperience and on coordination and lack of communication what have you.
[00:54:22.2] But one of the elements that a lot of people don't tend to consider in a situation like this where there's these troops who've never seen combat before. You're dealing with a lot of men who haven't killed anyone yet. And the difficulty of pulling that trigger is something that I assume you won't know until you do so in the account of Corporal Elmer Oakes who's a 20 year old rifleman from Smallville Virginia during a firefight. His first firefight he spotted a German soldier raised his rifle and he fired it. He wrote about the experience of Killing for the first time and he said quote It went off and the guy fell. The bullet went right through his eye and tore the back of his head off. When it came out. Corporal oak said he was so frightened that he was shaking. He said he had been nauseated by what he just did. And after the firefight was over and the shooting had died down he went over and he looked at the dead German he had shot. He looked at him. He turned away and he threw up. There's so many factors in war that you can't truly know or understand until you've experienced them firsthand. And it seems like just about every one of these factors of war they were all combined into one gory gruesome battle in a frozen hell.
[00:55:44.11] That was the Battle of the Bulge and one of the worst aspects of the entire battle was the incessant and overwhelming artillery shelling that these American and allied soldiers had to just bear in with stand in the psychological but also the horrible wounds it would inflict if you're not familiar with the artillery of an army essentially what they're doing is just lobbing up explosive shells into the air. And the only way to get away from it is to dig a hole in the ground because when the shell explodes it explodes in all directions. Normally it just fires onto the ground and blows up and being under the ground and in your hole the metal and the shrapnel will just fly over you. It was the distinct feature I guess you could say of the Ardennes forest that made the shelling so much worse. The shells would be lobbed up. They would hit the trees because they were so tall. They would explode in the air and they would send shrapnel in every direction. So you weren't even safe in a hole you just had to hope you got lucky in the account of Sergeant Lane Weickert. He wrote about an injury he received during one of these shellings. He said he was walking to go check on something or another and he heard the crack of a self-propelled gun. And he said a second later there was an explosion a tree a few feet above him.
[00:57:05.74] And then everything went black. He later regained consciousness and he felt something tickling his neck and he thought that it might have been a German soldier that was trying to stick him with his bayonet. Finally he came to a little bit. He realized that what was tickling his neck wasn't a German soldier. Instead it was his left arm that was broken and twisted around behind him tickling his neck with cold clammy shaking fingers. A medic came to Weicker and gave him some sulfa pills and morphine and a few minutes later two of his buddies found him and they dragged him back to the road. And he said quote The distal end of my fractured humerus bone was sticking out of my jacket as my men ran between two trees the bone hooked onto a tree his useless hand flopped up and slapped him in his own face. The pain he said was immense but it snapped him out of his stupor from the morphine. The men were dragging him through him onto a jeep but the Jeep was careening through the woods and because he couldn't hold on for obvious reasons he ended up falling off. He ended up wandering up and down his own column finding a medic or stationary vehicle or something because they were under fire the whole time. That could help him. At last he found a half track that was a radio vehicle. He said quote I opened the back door of the half track and asked if I could get in because I was exhausted.
[00:58:25.99] The radio operator said sure. So I crawled in and laid down on the floor gobs of blood were running from his shredded arm onto the floor of that half track. He said that the radio operator took one look at his arm and he threw up being wounded in war is essentially a nightmare but it must be some sort of distinct nightmare to be going through a shelling into receive the wounds and to see the wounds that happen from an artillery barrage and the Allies in Bastogne were going through some of the most intense barrage of the entire second World War outside of Bastogne one of the last main army units that wasn't the hundred and first airborne was the 10th Armored Division they were in a town called Nashville. It was about two miles outside of Bastogne and was a critical defense point in holding the town. It was also the scene of a particularly hellish and gruesome battle one of the privates that was there named private Brigette was lying in a ditch next to a stone wall in the north eastern edge of the town. While there was a horrendous shelling going on he heard the voice of one of the replacements screaming for a medic. He ran around the corner of a building. He said that the man was quote screaming his guts trailing in the dirt behind him.
[00:59:50.93] He was holding most of them in his arms. He and two other men jump from cover and started to give him first aid. Brigette went on and said quote He lay there sobbing and whimpering shaking his head from side to side. His eyes wide and glassy staring at nothing. Private Brigette said he pulled out his raincoat and he laid it on the ground and another soldier took out his canteen in Port some water on the raincoat then laid his guts on the coat and began washing them. He said it was like quote picking off the largest pieces of dirt and stone with our fingers before forcing his guts back into his belly. Then we bound him up tight around the midsection with strips cut from my raincoat shot him with morphine and dragged him into the ditch to wait for a medic. During this battle if you were wounded and you survived you were retreated to Bastogne and in and around Bastogne. The medics were doing the very best that they could in the face of insurmountable casualties and constant danger. The battalion surgeons set up their aid stations and a few houses a few hundred yards behind what they thought were the front lines. The intensity of this combat meant that the medics were getting overwhelmed with more cases than they could handle. If you remember back just a few minutes ago the account of getting hit with the shell with the arm that was tickling his neck.
[01:01:07.28] Sergeant Weicker felt himself found himself in another awful situation. He had managed to find himself in a brick house that was a makeshift aid station there the medics put his arm in a splint and they threw him on an ambulance. The ambulance was trying to make it out of Bastogne but it took a machine gun fire and crashed. Sergeant Weicker says quote I went sailing through the air hit my head on the windshield and slid down behind the steering wheel. My head was so close to the driver's chest that I could hear him breathing through holes in his chest put there by bullets from the machine gun. Elsewhere in Bastogne Private 1st Class Garson and his platoon mates were dealing with a steady stream of horribly wounded soldiers. He said quote They looked miserable. We had quite a few wounded of course principally from shell fire and men who were losing limbs and a number that just died on our hands. The men who got caught and tanks were often burned to death or suffered tremendous burns. We would smear them with all kinds of jellies and ship them back as fast as we could. The hospitals. We weren't a regular hospital. It was more immediate aid to try to staunch their blood immobilize their limbs try to keep them from going into shock and getting them back as fast as we could. We had blood.
[01:02:19.49] We also had sailing solutions and a lot of morphine. I could go around jabbing them with morphine threats making sure they didn't suffer too much before we send to the rear. But that was about all they could do. In back in Nashville the Germans were unleashing a titanic barrage of artillery shelling. The shelling had started at 530 in the morning of December 20th and now two hours afterwards. It was still going on. It was an immense and overwhelming barrage of noise. Private Donald Byrd get was in the cellar of a house in that town and he and his squad were sitting around a small candle listening to the explosions outside his squad leader Sgt.. Veteran was sitting on a barrel right next to the stairs. He checked his watch. He knew it was almost dawn and he knew that when the sun rose and the shelling stopped the Germans were surely going to attack. A few minutes later the sound of explosions finally began to die down. He stood up with complete confidence and authority and just said let's go. The paratroopers there climbed out the stairs of that cellar and the town that they saw was first of all covered with a what they said was a lead blanket of fog. And when they advance through that fog to the positions that they had held just the afternoon before as they retreated for the evening and came back to the positions during daylight it was like a whole new town.
[01:03:43.25] Along the way they were looking around and almost hypnotically he said they surveyed this awful scene of destruction from the night before. Private forget wrote quote The whole city of Nashville was in flames. The buildings were in ruins great holes gaped in the walls of the houses and the floors were scattered with broken glass and debris piles of bricks stone and rubble amidst the burning shells of buildings were all that was left of the town. The burning hulks of tanks half tracks jeeps and trucks were scattered throughout the ruined city. The broken and torn bodies of Jean Isley haphazardly throughout the village countless German corpses formed a ghostly perimeter around Nashville scattered and uncomfortable grotesque heaps are cremated and burned out tanks and other vehicles of war. It was a scene marking the awful capability of destruction that war brings with it and what makes this battle of Nashville or no. I'm not sure how to pronounce it. Even worse is that the men who were fighting there. The men who decided to stay and be the last defenders of that critical Bastogne juncture they were choosing to die. They literally knew that they had no chance of making it out in a best case scenario. They would spend the rest of the war or in their mind they had no idea how long in a German concentration camp one of the men that was on the ground in Nashville when the Germans came roaring through with those tanks was private.
[01:05:22.92] Sims he said about the thought of dying. Quote I was seized by a terrible sinking feeling that almost knocked me out. I felt physically sick. The main feeling I had was a numb overwhelming dread of oblivion. And although he was convinced he was about to die staring directly into the turd of a tank he wouldn't even consider running away and we have here people knowing that they are making a choice of life or death. It's a situation that I don't think anyone understands until you are staring that decision in the face he said about a quote I found myself in the unhappy position of literally choosing to die if you don't think that is earthshaking. Try it sometime. I can promise you you'll never be the same again. But other than his internal thoughts everything on the outside was normal. Par for the course activity as far as war goes. His sergeant was calling in I'm sorry his lieutenant was calling in friendly artillery fire to try to get the tanks back. His platoon sergeant was still sitting in the basement covering a wound caused by an inch square fragment that went all the way through him was pressing against the skin of his abdomen. Nearby another wounded man was sitting with his back against the cellar wall fidgeting uncomfortably from the pain of a terrible eye wound. He wrote that his eyeball was hung halfway down his cheek and a bloody Vásquez mix of goo.
[01:06:52.37] The Germans now were attacking Neville from every single direction prompting yet another barroom brawl type of close quarters fighting the fog that was present limited visibility to ten or twenty yards German tanks and infantry were all over the place fighting in small disjointed groups and for sure the copious amounts of rubble and wreckage. That was all around combined with that thick led blanket type of fog made it extremely difficult for the Germans to coordinate their attack. Eventually the sheer numbers and raw power of the German forces would overcome the obstacles they had put in their own way or overcome any type of resistance that the American forces could muster up without any type of supplies or reinforcements. Eventually the order was given for the men and Neville. All the forces in Nashville to retreat into the last stronghold of Bastogne private 1st class Dawn adder was a communications soldier and as he looked back at Nashville he said quote There was nothing left but a pile of rubble. The last thing I saw of the town was a battered sign sticking up through a pile of rubble. It proclaimed the town's name was Nashville. Less than two days of fighting had reduced the town into a shattered husk of its former self. Now it's important to note here is that even though they were treating in the battle of Nashville was finally over for the last two days a mixed group of American infantrymen in tankers.
[01:08:22.49] Very few tankers had held off in attacking force that outnumbered them by 10 to 1. The price of doing that was incredibly steep. The tanker team that was there lost 11 of its 15 tanks 11 1/2 tracks and more than a dozen trucks at least 63 of its soldiers were killed wounded or missing out of an original complement of 325 men. Now the 1st Battalion of the 506 parachute infantry they incurred devastating losses in the defense that whole battalion had gone into Norville with four hundred and seventy three soldiers. Two hundred and twelve of them became casualties. They lost 45 percent of their battalion strategically the battle of Nashville being claimed as a victory by the Germans meant one very important thing for the battle of the Bulge entirely that the struggle for Bastogne had just changed from a race to a siege. The American forces were essentially cut off and surrounded. And on Thursday morning December 21st an enemy column of German soldiers they severed the last open road south in Bastogne was officially cut off. Reportedly the general Terry McAuliffe as he was getting ready to go back into Bastogne he was looking at his commanding officer in the last order that was given to McAuliffe before he went back into Bastogne was quote Above all don't get yourself surrounded. And reportedly both of the men looked at each other smiled chuckled a little bit knowing that they were going to get surrounded and parted ways in on Thursday the Germans sent a messenger with a note essentially saying there is only one possibility to save the encircled troops from total annihilation.
[01:10:14.71] And that was to surrender. And then one of the most famous quotes of World War Two period General McAuliffe answered one word with nuts. Now we don't use that word quite the same way that they did back then. Essentially it was the same as saying that's ridiculous. We're not going to do that because although they were surrounded and cut off the hundred and first infantry airborne they were nearly at full strength. Now they had no winter clothes and very little ammunition. General McAuliffe even had rationed down each rifleman to 10 rounds per day telling them to wait until they could see the whites of the enemy's eyes to fire. But they were still at full strength. And now we fast forward two days later thinking that things couldn't get quite worse than they already were. The soldiers on the ground were about to experience a heavy heavy snow and even worse after that it was followed by a killing cold in the continental weather phenomenon that was known as a Russian high radiators and even gas tanks were freezing. But it's always darkest before the dawn. And that Russian high brought out clear skies for the first time since the German offensive attack began allied aircraft filled the sky.
[01:11:38.26] Immediately they flew twelve thousand offensive sorties in two days before Christmas as well as a resupply run they got the men and the medics the supplies that they drastically drastically needed to hold out just a little bit longer until they could be re linked with the Army upon the arrival of General George S. Payton. And speaking of General Patton in the Belgian barracks that served as the headquarters for the hundred and first G.I. sat at a switchboard and he got a coded message that said quote Santa Claus is coming to town. It was Peyton's coded message that promised a quote unquote Christmas present. Hold on. But there wasn't any sign of relief from the column from the south that had been reported. General McAuliffe was notably disappointed but he held his disappointment from his men. General Payton on Christmas Eve December 24th of 1944 attended a Christmas Eve church service at the town he was in. On his way to Bastogne and in one of my personal favorite quotes of his ever. He stared up into the scar starry sky. Part of me noticed that it was clear and he said quote No well no well what a night to give the Nazis hell. He went back inside and wrote in his diary about the weather and he said quote a clear cold Christmas lovely weather for killing Germans. Comedy aside as far as his zeal and gusto for his job and what he was doing he had made good on his what some called reckless promise at the Verdun war council to attack with three divisions by December 22nd.
[01:13:24.31] He did it. He was largely regarded as the best field commanding general that the United States had and he was proving that point. More and more as he went in order to get to Bastogne as quickly as possible he told his tanks quote drive like hell. And he told his staff that no SS prisoners were to be taken alive. He had predicted that he would reach Bastogne on December 24th but he had ordered a perilous night attack that gained only 400 yards and left one tank battalion with just 14 Sherman's remaining. This was seven miles outside of Bastogne and in a moment where you see Peyton's ability to put aside his ego and his bravado and personality he wrote into his diary quote This was probably my fault because I had been insisting on day and night attacks. It takes a long time to learn war to really learn how to fight. He would fight on for another two days. On Monday afternoon December 26 his battalion crested a ridge three miles southwest of Bastogne. They're so close they can nearly shout at each other. They reached the village of asan war. This time the offensive was put on by the Allies allied artillery rained down in those tiny streets with a tank column speeding through to get to Bastogne as fast as possible.
[01:14:58.6] It surprised the German occupiers and it forced them out into the streets. It was a fighting of chaos and confusion. The official history from the Volga Grenadier German column that was occupying it called it quote a shooting clubbing stabbing may lay. Gunfire was ripping through the fir trees shooting down surprise Germans standing in a mess line and three tank shells killed a dozen more that were just standing in a concrete block house. And finally on Dec. 26 at four fifty p.m. sharp the siege of Bastogne was over. When the first tank rolled in and they made contact with a battered but not broken hundred and first battered bastards of Bastogne as they became known the defensive these surrounded Bastogne would last for eight days. It was just a drab market town in Belgium before this but it had cost more than 2000 American casualties and losses in the fourth armored they added another thousand to the tally. The total U.S. losses for the last two weeks of December starting from the 16th all the way to the end included nearly 600 tanks. Fourteen hundred jeeps 700 trucks 2400 machineguns guns seventeen hundred bazookas five thousand rifles and sixty five thousand overcoats. I'm not sure why they noted that but someone noted that they still said they lost sixty five thousand overcoats. The Germans had accumulated such a large amount of American vehicles that American pilots were ordered to bomb any column that they saw including both allied and German vehicles.
[01:16:40.72] It would take until the end of January to regain the lines that they had on December 16th in the official army tally. The United States battle losses in the Arden region from December 16th to January 25th was one hundred and five thousand casualties including nineteen thousand two hundred and forty six dead now because I'm pretty fond of putting numbers into perspective in the past because those are those are just large numbers but you don't really get an idea of how large that is. Keep in mind this is one month in nine days and if you account that one month and nine day period into the total amount of casualties that were sustained in combat during World War 2 for the United States one in ten of them would occur in the battle of the Bulge. That is including the Pacific theater that is every world war to combat casualty one in ten in one month in nine days in one region of those numbers more than 23000 were taken prisoners and they would spend the duration of the war in German camps although those numbers are staggering. It was quite a bit worse for the Germans who had been waging war for more than five years. They have lost four million German soldiers killed wounded or captured. The loss of this operation on the Rhine operation watch on the Rhine for the Germans marked the end of their offensive effort and the war it was their last offensive effort and it's nearly undisputed that it was basically the beginning of their short decline to the end.
[01:18:25.09] In a fitting prediction I guess because he predicted that they were capable of doing that in the first place. General Patton sensed that they were done. He said quote When you catch a carp and put him in the boat he flips his tail just before he dies. I think this is the Germans last flip. And speaking of General Patton among the top commanders of the Battle of the Bulge he had absolutely proven himself to be the most distinguished in his action. George Patton displayed a truly remarkable amount of agility when he fought the Germans 7th Army half of the 5th Panzer Army in a large portion of the sixth Panzer Army in that agility and his ability to fight them on different fronts like that. It earned him the compliment of Gen. Omar Bradley when he said that he was quote one of our great combat leaders and it was directly because of his actions during this battle of the bulge in this offensive and his race to Bastogne that there is still to this day a statue in Luxembourg honoring his bravery his courage and his sacrifice for the people of the area. It was the actions of him and all the men that were involved in this conflict that made Winston Churchill remark that there was no greater exhibition of power in history than that of the American army fighting the battle of the garden with its left hand and advancing in the islands in the Japanese warfare in the Pacific.
[01:19:56.95] The cost for the loss of the bold offensive for the Germans was detrimental to their military success from that point on. Half of the entire fuel production for Germany in November and December had supported their offensive. And now hundreds of German tanks and assault guns fighting the Russians were mobilized on the eastern front just for a lack of gasoline and because of that stagnation of their armor and the amount of people in the Red Army and the quickness that they were pushing the Germans back into a retreat of the Reichstag the fatherland. It's an odd bit of irony but pretty much unanimously agreed upon by historians of this era that a thousand kilometers from the R den was the Eastern Front. But yet it was the greatest consequence of the Battle of the Bulge for the Germans. The battle of the Bulge had done many things for different sides on a variety of different levels. One thing that the battle of the Bulge had absolutely affirmed was that once again war is never linear. Instead it's an odd chaotic mix of reversal an advance blunder in success and despair and joy. The battle in the art in the battle of the Bulge was unlike any seen before in American history and there won't be any like it again.