Christmas in Belgium, Bastogne, 1944

From Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose.

On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, the men received General McAuliffe’s Christmas greetings. “What’s merry about all this, you ask?” was the opening line. “Just this: We have stopped cold everything that has been thrown at us from the North, East, South, and West. We have identification from four German panzer Divisions, two German Infantry Divisions and one German Parachute Division. . . . The Germans surround us, their radios blare our doom. Their Commmander demanded our surrender in the following impudent arrogance.” (There followed the four paragraph message, “to the U.S.A. Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne” from “the German Commander,” demanding an “honorable surrender to save the encircled U.S.A. troops from total annihilation,” dated December 22.)

McAuliffe’s message continued: “The German Commander received the following reply: ’22 December 1944. To the German Commander: NUTS! The American Commander.’

“We are giving our country and our loved ones at home a worthy Christmas present and being privileged to take part in this gallant feat of arms are truly making for ourselves a Merry Christmas. A.C. McAuliffe, Commanding.”

The men at the front were not as upbeat as General McAuliffe. They had cold white beans for their Christmas Eve dinner, while the division staff had a turkey dinner, served on a table with a tablecloth, a small Christmas tree, knives and forks and plates.

On the day after Christmas, Patton’s Third Army broke through the German lines relieving the siege of the American troops at Bastogne.

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