After the Diary

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It is unclear why the diary ends so abruptly after December 23rd.  It is possible that the arrival of the supplies, the activity from the fighter planes of the 9th Air Force, and the advance of Patton’s 4th Armored Division from the Third Army, that the situation was indeed improving.  In light of these positive circumstances, the diary might have served its purpose.  It documented the most uncertain and volatile period of the Siege and now that the tide was turning, victory and survival were tangible realities.

General McAuliffe's Christmas message to the 101st Airborne. US Army photo

Although the diary stops on the 23rd, the Siege of Bastogne was still ongoing.  In fact, despite the improving circumstances for the 101, the German generals facing defeat were insistent on making one last push.  The American generals were anticipating something.  Despite the positivity aired by General MacAuliffe in his Christmas message to the troops, MacAuliffe privately lamented to General Middleton on the phone, “The finest Christmas present the 101st could get would be a relief tomorrow (Marshall, 155-156).”

On December 24th, Christmas Eve, the Germans showered Bastogne with mortar and artillery fire.  The first bombing hit the medical aid station of the 20th Armored Infantry Battalion, 32 wounded soldiers and several village nurses were caught inside the flaming building.  In the second bombing, the headquarters of Combat Command B was hit.  The blitz was a sobering reminder that war takes no holiday.  On the front, several US soldiers reported hearing “Stille Nacht” being sung by German soldiers in their foxholes on the other side of the defensive perimeter.

In the early morning on December 25th, Christmas Day, the Germans launched an attack on the north and northwest perimeter held by the 502 Parachute Infantry Regiment near Rolle.    At the same time, the 327th Glider Infantry Division was overwhelmed near Champs.  The thrusts were initiated by the 15th Panzer Division between Champs and Hemroulle and the 77th Grenadier Regiment between Champs and Longchamps.  Intense rifle fire from US troops in trenches around this area was able to split the Panzer Division in two.  The Panzers headed towards Hemroulle were taken out by the 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion, rifle fire, and close range bazookas.  A single Panzer broke through Champs but was quickly stopped by 57 mm antitank gunfire and bazookas.  The Panzer breakaway, headed towards the 327th Glider Infantry rear Rolle between Champs and Hemroulle, was destroyed by M4 tanks, 105 mm howitzers, and bazookas.  Out of the 18 Panzers that initiated the attack none survived.

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Toland, Battle:The Story of the Bulge pp. 264-265

 

The Christmas attack was the last offensive push initiated by the Germans before the long awaited arrival of Patton’s Third Army on December 26, 1944 approximately ten days after the Ardennes Offensive began.

The Siege of Bastogne was effectively over on December 26th but fighting continued in order to gain control and secure the roads.  Once the roads were secure and supplies had been replenished the US objective was to push the Germans back and eliminate the “Bulge” created in the Ardennes.  It would take continual advance through German resistance and winter weather to regain the territory lost in the German offensive.  The Battle of the Bulge ended on January 28, 1945 over a month after the initial burst.

The Battle of the Bulge was the most deadly engagement for US forces during the whole of World War II.  8,407 men were killed, 46,170 were wounded, and 20,905 were missing.  The German losses are estimated at 11,171 killed, 34,439 wounded, and 23,150 missing.

The 101st Airborne received a Distinguished Unit Citation on March 13, 1945 by order of the Secretary of War, George C. Marshall by distinguishing “themselves in combat against powerful and aggressive enemy forces composed of elements of 8 German divisions during the period from 18 December to 27 December 1944 by extraordinary heroism and gallantry in defense of the key communications center of Bastogne, Belgium.”

The 101st Airborne Signal Company, 19th Tactical Air Support Command, of which William H. Hale was a Corporal,  was recommended for the Bronze Star for Meritorious Service by Major of the Signal Corps, Oliver Handelsman.  “The team distinguished itself at Bastogne where there they were subjected to intense Aerial Bombardment and straffing plus mortar and shell fire.  Their Radio Set and Net, so vital to the defense of Bastogne, were kept in operation at all times.”

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