On December 16, 1944, Hitler and the German forces initiated the largest offensive of World War II on the Western front. The success of the initial attack allowed the Germans to penetrate into the Allied held territory in Belgium, France, and Luxembourg, creating a significant bulge in the line. The Allies were caught almost completely by surprise making the first few days of the offensive the most dangerous and uncertain. Ultimately, the Germans were unable to advance past the village of Bastogne where Allied forces, including the 101st Airborne division, held the line long enough for reinforcements to arrive.

William Hale “waiting for a beer” somewhere in Holland

The first eight days, known as the Siege of Bastogne, was the most crucial defense to prevent the Germans from capturing vital transportation lines and cutting off Allied supply routes.  The Battle of the Bulge raged until January 25, 1945 finally concluding the largest and deadliest battle fought by US forces during the war.  Had Bastogne been seized and the offensive succeeded, the war and history today would be drastically different.

What was it like behind the lines? What did the soldiers think when they realized what was happening? Did they even know? What might they say if they thought the end was near?  There are hundreds of books written about World War II and a comparable number written on the Battle of the Bulge but how would a personal account compare to published history? This project will be an attempt to answer those questions by allowing one personal perspective to speak for itself.

Continue to the Project

This website was created by Stephanie Johnson (Schmeling) for completion of a Master’s degree in Archives from New York University Graduate School of Arts and Science, May 2011.  She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York and is the Head of Cataloging and Archives at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.  This website is dedicated to her grandfather, William H. Hale, a quiet man with a strong heart and a genuine spirit.

Contact me at: stephanie.schmeling@gmail.com

5 Responses to Welcome

  1. Al Schmeling says:

    Now I am overwhelmed by what you have done, I don’t have words to describe my emotions other than simply:
    Stephanie, well done. You should be proud I am.


  2. Michael W. Hale says:

    Thank you Stephanie for taking the time to document this so painstakingly. I chose the 18th, your graduation day, to sit and read every morsel of what you did. My Dad’s been gone some 8 years but in your work you brought him back to life for me, if for just a short while. It’s a remarkable thing you did. I apologize for being so brief but I’m really feeling very quiet inside, like my Dad is here with me again.
    Thank you for all you did.
    And thank you to all those who served or are serving Our Country.

    Your Uncle Mike

  3. Emily Adams says:

    I came across your website while searching for personal accounts of the WWII Battle at Bastogne. I wanted a better understanding – a personal account of what those days in time felt like.

    Thank you for sharing your family history with the public. Through sites like yours, younger Americans gain a better understanding of WWII, and the sacrifices brave men like your grandfather made for our country, and are still making today.

    What a gift this site is to Americans far and wide, and most importantly, your grandfather and family.

    Thank you!

  4. Tom Angell says:

    This is an exceptional piece of work putting into human scale a major historical event. More materials like this are needed to graphically relate events in a way that makes them more accessible to the casual reader. Kudos on a job well done!

  5. Mike Angell says:

    This is really a fascinating work of archivism. Most impressively, you took a subject from your own family, and treated it with great precision and objectivity. It was interesting to see how service men right behind the lines could actually know so little of the larger situation. And (my) Uncle Bill was in the Signal Corps! The first hand descriptions of daily conditions and action are amazing. What a great source are such first hand accounts. Well done, and best wishes on your current work!