But Hitler's forces were busy getting ready for one last blitz. They knew that time was running out for the Reich, but they also felt that one more swift and furious push against the Allies might do the trick. If they could break through and capture the Belgian port at Antwerp, they could divide American and British forces and hopefully get a limited surrender instead of total capitulation or, better still, win the unconditional victory for Germany. Ever resilient and proud, they weren't going to go down to defeat easily.
Seventy years ago yesterday their intentions became clear. With lightning speed and intensity, the Germany Panzers initiated a blitkrieg assault from the East into Belgium where they knew there was some weakness. As the advance became evident, American forces quickly summoned lightweight and fast moving forces, the 101st Airborne Division to move to Bastogne to replace the units that had been decimated. Bastogne was a key crossroads town for it had seven roads entering and seven exiting roads, perfect for the Panzers as they moved onward. If they could get through Bastogne, it would be a cakewalk to the port city.
The Germans pounded the area with all they had. Huge guns, tank assaults, you name it, yet the men of the 101st held on despite being short on weapons, food and winter clothing. The hardships were great and they were surrounded with no way out, and perhaps the spirit and determination of these brave souls was best exemplified by the response of the division to the German commander's demand for surrender.
Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe was commanding the force and received a surrender demand from the Germans stating that all Allied Forces would be treated humanely under the conventions of warfare and needed medical care would be provided. Yet despite the cold, the fog which kept air support grounded, and the growing casualties, McAuliffe replied with a one word answer: "Nuts!". That said it all for the 101st as they hung on until the troops of Lieutenant General George Patton's Army arrived and the skies cleared, allowing Allied planes to begin strafing and playing havoc with German forces.
By late January, slightly more than a month from its sudden start, the Germans retreated from their last great assault. Movement on to the German mainland and the final conquest was finally in reach.
The Battle of the Bulge was costly. Allied losses included over 20,000 dead, 42,896 wounded and over 27,000 lost in action or captured. German force losses were also horrific, but had this battle not been decisively won, the entire advance through Europe up to this critical point could have been all for naught.
So as we approach Christmas and the good will that it brings, remember the sacrifice that those great soldiers gave for us. After all, had things gone different we could be speaking German right now. And let's also use this great example of determination to vow once again that we will never let America lose her freedom, for freedom is what makes us special and what our founding was all about.
God bless you all and may God always bless America.