Tag Archives: Military History

Remembering Richard Winters on D-Day: The Battle of Brecourt Manor

Richard D. Winters Monument
Richard D. Winters Monument

The caption says, “Wars do not make men great, but they do bring out the greatness in good men.” Now let’s see what Dick Winters did during World War II.

MIssion: locate and destroy artillery
Mission: locate and destroy enemy artillery

Brecourt Manor

I want to link to this article from Investors Business Daily about Lt. Winters action at Brecourt Manor.

Here’s the summary of what Dick Winters did on the morning of June 6th, 1944:

First Lt. Dick Winters leapt into leadership on D-Day, June 6, 1944. His commander’s aircraft was shot down as the men parachuted at 600 feet. When Winters headed to earth, he was in charge of a small platoon.

When he landed, he had to command Company E with 148 men, because his commander had been lost along with the plane.

Yet in the chaos, Winters could locate only a dozen other soldiers for their first task: take out a 50-man German artillery battery.

“Winters ordered his assault force to strip down to only essential weapons — guns and grenades — to use against the well-prepared defenses, then deployed his machine guns to cover his advances,” Keith Huxen, senior director of research at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, told IBD. “Waiting for the proper moment, he led a charge across an open field, gaining the first gun placement, and then they moved down the trenches, systematically destroying each gun.

“In the process, Winters discovered a map detailing all German gun positions to kill American soldiers coming up from Utah Beach, which saved many lives.”

Joined by five reinforcements during the fight, Winters lost four dead and six wounded. The Yanks managed to kill 15 Nazis, capture 11 and wound many others.

Winters’ maneuvers are still studied at West Point as a case of successfully attacking a fixed position, despite being outnumbered.

Winters (1918-2011) was born in Ephrata, Pa., and the family moved to Lancaster when he was 8.

He later attributed his character and desire to go to church regularly to his mother.

Winters attended local Franklin & Marshall College and earned an economics degree with top honors in 1941. He enlisted in the Army in August to shorten his service time, rather than wait to be drafted if America was to join the war.

The diagram below shows where everything was positioned. The Rangers attacked through the trenches containing the four guns, while being raked with fire from multiple MG42 heavy machine guns across the open field.

Assaulting the guns at Brecourt Manor
Assaulting the guns at Brecourt Manor

The operation was one of the most famous actions in the Normandy invasion, and you may have seen it portrayed in the Band of Brothers DVD series.  But the article notes that when Dick Winters read the script for that series, “he asked that the profanity be cut from the dialogue of his character, since he never swore”. When the producers told him it was too late to change it, he wrote them a letter of resignation from the production, because “I don’t want these boys and girls thinking it is acceptable using profanity”. In the end, the movie makers removed the swearing by the actor portraying Winters.

If you are looking for a reason to buck the culture and stop swearing, there’s a good reason for you right there – Dick Winters never used profanity.

You can watch the scene from Band of Brothers in low resolution here:

If you play Combat Mission, like I do, you can watch a 28 minute AAR from the simulation of the battle.

Operation Market Garden

More from the article I linked above, this time from Operation Market Garden:

Near Nijmegen on Oct. 5, Winters’ platoon was a position where any movement carried risks. Rather than retreat when fired on by a larger force behind a dike, he led a charge to the top and on the other side discovered a company of 150 Nazi SS troops. Despite having only 40 men, the Americans opened up with everything they had, then shot up a company of enemy reinforcements.

The fray ended with 50 Germans dead, 11 POWs and countless wounded, with few casualties among the Americans.

“This was Easy Company’s crowning achievement of the war and my apogee as a company commander,” Winters told Kingseed. “This demonstrated its overall superiority, of every soldier, of every phase of infantry tactics: patrol, defense, attack using a base of fire, withdrawal and, above all, superior marksmanship with rifles, machine guns and mortar fire.”

Dick Winters is a brave man, someone I admire him very much. And I am grateful for men like him.

I blogged about another hero of the 101st Airborne Division, Ronald Speirs, in a previous post.

Three reasons why Christians should read military history

Robert Trimble, standing second from the left, in front of his B-24 Liberator
Robert Trimble, standing second from the left, in front of his B-24 Liberator

I was sharing with the administrator of memes on our Facebook page recently how disappointed I was in public schools teaching children a distorted view of American history, such that they hate their country. As a result, children of today think too much of their own values and abilities, and they have no gratitude for those who went before, like our Founders and our armed forces.

Well, I am reading “Citizen Soldiers: The U. S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany” right now, but I wanted to talk to you about the book I just finished, which is called “Beyond The Call: The True Story of One World War II Pilot’s Covert Mission to Rescue POWs on the Eastern Front”. It’s about a World War 2 heavy bomber pilot who completes 35 missions, and then goes into the Soviet Union (our allies, at the time) to rescue American POWs who were starving or being kidnapped or murdered by the Soviet secret police.

I found a very good article about it from Stripes, to just quickly introduce the story:

Later, after making contact with POWs roaming the Polish countryside, [Capt. Robert Trimble] fully embraced his mission. He saw the desperate plight of those who had been liberated from Third Reich prison camps. Many were sick, emaciated, often clothed in rags and left to fend for themselves during a brutally harsh winter.

Trimble risked his life numerous times over six weeks, helping to rescue hundreds of POWs. He came to the aid of others, too. In one daring rescue, nearly foiled by Russian agents who had become suspicious of his activities, Trimble helped 400 French women make it out of Poland and back to France.

Although he was being constantly trailed by Russian spies and informers, he would evade them, and bring food and money to the POWs, then put them on a train to Odessa, Ukraine, where they could get onto a ship going home.

Why I read military history

It is hard to develop virtues just by wishing and hoping. Something has to go into your mind that causes you to think differently, and feel differently. Everything that you watch on TV, hear on the radio, or see in the movie theater, is made by secular leftists. They aren’t trying to build your moral character. They’re goal is to break down your resistance to their unBiblical worldview and moral values. Instead of giving people who hate Jesus your money, just so you can be entertained, why not try to put something in front of your eyes that will make you better?

Look at this famous passage from the Bible.

Romans 12:1-2:

1Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 

2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

And also this from Philippians, my favorite book of the Bible.

Philippians 4:8:

8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

So you can see that when I am reading, my goal is to work on my character. I want to have feelings about things that are appropriate for a Christian man.

So why military history? Here are three reasons why I read these military history books.

Humility

First, humility. Humility used to be one of my biggest challenges. So I thought to myself “instead of seeing yourself as some heroic figure, why don’t you read about some real heroes… people who willingly gave their lives for their friends, like the Bible urges, and like Jesus did by example”.

Remember this from John 15:13?

13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

Military history is filled with stories of courage, bravery, self-sacrifice, endurance, unselfishness, and many other virtues. When you read about people who are better than you, doing more important things than what you’re doing, it really helps you to be humble.

The best thing for humility is reading Medal of Honor citations. You can find a bunch of them online here. And if you want a book to read, try these books about Medal of Honor recipients:

Endurance

Second, endurance. I sometimes feel badly about not having found someone to marry and not having lots of children. I wanted a good marriage to be a model for others, and also to have an influence in the next generation through my children. However, whenever I read military history, I see a lot of young men dying in battle. And I think, they too won’t know what sex is like. And, they too won’t know what marriage is like. And, they too won’t know what having children is like. But it’s not just the ones who die, it’s the hardships they have to go through, as well. Cold, hunger, imprisonment, pain, loss of their friends, etc.

I remember reading about one of my favorite battles – probably the most famous battle of the Korean War, which is our most moral war. It’s about Fox Company of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Regiment, 1st Marine Division. They had to hold a hill beside a vital road against overwhelming numbers of Chinese soldiers during the freezing cold North Korean winter. I remember reading about how one soldier got up to go to the bathroom, and was nearly shot by a sniper. He fell over on his own poop, which had already frozen by the time it hit the ground. For months after, I would always think about this whenever I went into a bathroom. We have pre-warmed water in our bathrooms at work, along with soap, lysol spray, febreeze, contact lense cleaner, hand sanitizer, and other things. Just understanding what other people have to go through in war helps me to be more patient with the little tiny setbacks that I experience. I used to get very anxious when anything went wrong, because of I was raised by strict immigrant parents. That anxiety seemed to last a long time, but since I started to read military history, I’ve been much more patient. I know that things could be worse.

Thankfulness

The third thing that I’ve experienced is thankfulness. Not just for all the things that I have because of what our armed forces have done, e.g. – basic human rights, prosperity, liberty, security, etc. But also specifically about those who gave their lives so that I could live free in a free country, and practice my Christian faith without fear.

Here are two of my favorite Medal of Honor stories from World War 2, in the Battle of Pearl Harbor:

Congressional Medal of Honor
Awarded Posthumously
PETER TOMICH

Rank and organization: Chief Watertender, U.S. Navy.
Place and date: Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941.
Born: 3 June 1893, Prolog, Austria.

Although realizing that the ship was capsizing as a result of enemy bombing and torpedoing, Tomich remained at his post in the engineering plant of the U.S.S. Utah, until he saw that all boilers were secured and all fireroom personnel had left their stations, and by so doing lost his own life.

And:

Congressional Medal of Honor
Awarded Posthumously
JAMES RICHARD WARD

Rank and organization: Seaman First Class, U.S. Navy.
Place and date: Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941.
Born: 10 September 1921, Springfield, Ohio.

When it was seen that the U.S.S. Oklahoma was going to capsize and the order was given to abandon ship, Ward remained in a turret holding a flashlight so the remainder of the turret crew could see to escape, thereby sacrificing his own life.

I do think that it’s important for Christians to read these kinds of stories in order to feed their own awareness of what it must have been like for Jesus to give his life voluntarily for us.

There is no shortcut to gratitude. You have to constantly reflect on the sacrifices made by others for you, if you are to have any concrete reason for feeling grateful. The more you read about examples of people giving their lives for others, the more you’ll appreciate what Jesus did for you. It will make you grateful.

There is a very annoying idea out there in the culture that says that people just do whatever is easy and fun for themselves, and since everyone else is always doing what makes them feel good, then there is no need to be thankful for anything. It’s comforting for people to delude themselves with that belief, but it’s false.

My reading list

You can check out the “What I am Reading” section of the blogto see which military history books I’ve been reading.

Remembering Richard Winters on D-Day: The Battle of Brecourt Manor

Richard D. Winters Monument
Richard D. Winters Monument

The caption says, “Wars do not make men great, but they do bring out the greatness in good men.” Now let’s see what Dick Winters did during World War II.

MIssion: locate and destroy artillery
Mission: locate and destroy enemy artillery

Brecourt Manor

I want to link to this article from Investors Business Daily about Lt. Winters action at Brecourt Manor.

Here’s the summary of what Dick Winters did on the morning of June 6th, 1944:

First Lt. Dick Winters leapt into leadership on D-Day, June 6, 1944. His commander’s aircraft was shot down as the men parachuted at 600 feet. When Winters headed to earth, he was in charge of a small platoon.

When he landed, he had to command Company E with 148 men, because his commander had been lost along with the plane.

Yet in the chaos, Winters could locate only a dozen other soldiers for their first task: take out a 50-man German artillery battery.

“Winters ordered his assault force to strip down to only essential weapons — guns and grenades — to use against the well-prepared defenses, then deployed his machine guns to cover his advances,” Keith Huxen, senior director of research at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, told IBD. “Waiting for the proper moment, he led a charge across an open field, gaining the first gun placement, and then they moved down the trenches, systematically destroying each gun.

“In the process, Winters discovered a map detailing all German gun positions to kill American soldiers coming up from Utah Beach, which saved many lives.”

Joined by five reinforcements during the fight, Winters lost four dead and six wounded. The Yanks managed to kill 15 Nazis, capture 11 and wound many others.

Winters’ maneuvers are still studied at West Point as a case of successfully attacking a fixed position, despite being outnumbered.

Winters (1918-2011) was born in Ephrata, Pa., and the family moved to Lancaster when he was 8.

He later attributed his character and desire to go to church regularly to his mother.

Winters attended local Franklin & Marshall College and earned an economics degree with top honors in 1941. He enlisted in the Army in August to shorten his service time, rather than wait to be drafted if America was to join the war.

The diagram below shows where everything was positioned. The Rangers attacked through the trenches containing the four guns, while being raked with fire from multiple MG42 heavy machine guns across the open field.

Assaulting the guns at Brecourt Manor
Assaulting the guns at Brecourt Manor

The operation was one of the most famous actions in the Normandy invasion, and you may have seen it portrayed in the Band of Brothers DVD series.  But the article notes that when Dick Winters read the script for that series, “he asked that the profanity be cut from the dialogue of his character, since he never swore”. When the producers told him it was too late to change it, he wrote them a letter of resignation from the production, because “I don’t want these boys and girls thinking it is acceptable using profanity”. In the end, the movie makers removed the swearing by the actor portraying Winters.

If you are looking for a reason to buck the culture and stop swearing, there’s a good reason for you right there – Dick Winters never used profanity.

You can watch the scene from Band of Brothers in low resolution here:

If you play Combat Mission, like I do, you can watch a 28 minute AAR from the simulation of the battle.

Operation Market Garden

More from the article I linked above, this time from Operation Market Garden:

Near Nijmegen on Oct. 5, Winters’ platoon was a position where any movement carried risks. Rather than retreat when fired on by a larger force behind a dike, he led a charge to the top and on the other side discovered a company of 150 Nazi SS troops. Despite having only 40 men, the Americans opened up with everything they had, then shot up a company of enemy reinforcements.

The fray ended with 50 Germans dead, 11 POWs and countless wounded, with few casualties among the Americans.

“This was Easy Company’s crowning achievement of the war and my apogee as a company commander,” Winters told Kingseed. “This demonstrated its overall superiority, of every soldier, of every phase of infantry tactics: patrol, defense, attack using a base of fire, withdrawal and, above all, superior marksmanship with rifles, machine guns and mortar fire.”

Dick Winters is a brave man, someone I admire him very much. And I am grateful for men like him.

I blogged about another hero of the 101st Airborne Division, Ronald Speirs, in a previous post.

Remembering Lt. Richard Winters on D-Day: The Battle of Brecourt Manor

Richard D. Winters Monument
Richard D. Winters Monument

The caption says, “Wars do not make men great, but they do bring out the greatness in good men.” Now let’s see what Dick Winters did during World War II.

MIssion: locate and destroy artillery
Mission: locate and destroy enemy artillery

Brecourt Manor

I want to link to this article from Investors Business Daily about Lt. Winters action at Brecourt Manor.

Here’s the summary of what Dick Winters did on the morning of June 6th, 1944:

First Lt. Dick Winters leapt into leadership on D-Day, June 6, 1944. His commander’s aircraft was shot down as the men parachuted at 600 feet. When Winters headed to earth, he was in charge of a small platoon.

When he landed, he had to command Company E with 148 men, because his commander had been lost along with the plane.

Yet in the chaos, Winters could locate only a dozen other soldiers for their first task: take out a 50-man German artillery battery.

“Winters ordered his assault force to strip down to only essential weapons — guns and grenades — to use against the well-prepared defenses, then deployed his machine guns to cover his advances,” Keith Huxen, senior director of research at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, told IBD. “Waiting for the proper moment, he led a charge across an open field, gaining the first gun placement, and then they moved down the trenches, systematically destroying each gun.

“In the process, Winters discovered a map detailing all German gun positions to kill American soldiers coming up from Utah Beach, which saved many lives.”

Joined by five reinforcements during the fight, Winters lost four dead and six wounded. The Yanks managed to kill 15 Nazis, capture 11 and wound many others.

Winters’ maneuvers are still studied at West Point as a case of successfully attacking a fixed position, despite being outnumbered.

Winters (1918-2011) was born in Ephrata, Pa., and the family moved to Lancaster when he was 8.

He later attributed his character and desire to go to church regularly to his mother.

Winters attended local Franklin & Marshall College and earned an economics degree with top honors in 1941. He enlisted in the Army in August to shorten his service time, rather than wait to be drafted if America was to join the war.

The diagram below shows where everything was positioned. The Rangers attacked through the trenches containing the four guns, while being raked with fire from multiple MG42 heavy machine guns across the open field.

Assaulting the guns at Brecourt Manor
Assaulting the guns at Brecourt Manor

The operation was one of the most famous actions in the Normandy invasion, and you may have seen it portrayed in the Band of Brothers DVD series.  But the article notes that when Dick Winters read the script for that series, “he asked that the profanity be cut from the dialogue of his character, since he never swore”. When the producers told him it was too late to change it, he wrote them a letter of resignation from the production, because “I don’t want these boys and girls thinking it is acceptable using profanity”. In the end, the movie makers removed the swearing by the actor portraying Winters.

If you are looking for a reason to buck the culture and stop swearing, there’s a good reason for you right there – Dick Winters never used profanity.

You can watch the scene from Band of Brothers in low resolution here:

If you play Combat Mission, like I do, you can watch a 28 minute AAR from the simulation of the battle.

Operation Market Garden

More from the article I linked above, this time from Operation Market Garden:

Near Nijmegen on Oct. 5, Winters’ platoon was a position where any movement carried risks. Rather than retreat when fired on by a larger force behind a dike, he led a charge to the top and on the other side discovered a company of 150 Nazi SS troops. Despite having only 40 men, the Americans opened up with everything they had, then shot up a company of enemy reinforcements.

The fray ended with 50 Germans dead, 11 POWs and countless wounded, with few casualties among the Americans.

“This was Easy Company’s crowning achievement of the war and my apogee as a company commander,” Winters told Kingseed. “This demonstrated its overall superiority, of every soldier, of every phase of infantry tactics: patrol, defense, attack using a base of fire, withdrawal and, above all, superior marksmanship with rifles, machine guns and mortar fire.”

Dick Winters is a brave man, someone I admire him very much. And I am grateful for men like him.

I blogged about another hero of the 101st Airborne Division, Ronald Speirs, in a previous post.

Battle of the Bulge: The Christmas Day offensive that stopped Hitler in the Ardennes

December 1944: The Battle of the Bulge
The Battle of the Bulge, situation on December 24th, 1944  (click for larger image)

Well, it’s Christmas Day, and my boring family is just discussing popular shows on Netflix, iTunes and other nonsense which no one cares about. What is much more interesting to me is military history. I have been reading several books on the Korean War in the winter of 1950 and the Battle of the Bulge in the winter of 1944, during World War 2. Since I wrote a post about the Korean War last time, I have a post for you about the story of an American general I really admired, which I found in John Toland’s “Battle: The Story of the Bulge“.

Since I can’t quote that book, I found another book with the story on the U.S. Army web site by Hugh M. Cole entitled “The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge“. The Day is December 24th, 1944. Following a surprise Axis attack in the Ardennes, British General Montgomery has ordered Allied forces north of Bastogne to retreat and form “proper” defensive lines. Major General J. Lawton Collins, located just north of the tip of the German force’s furthest advance west, sees an opportunity to attack the 2nd SS Armored Division, because their superior Panther and Tiger tanks have outrun their supply lines and are out of gas. Will he get permission to attack? If not, will he disobey orders and attack anyway?

Here’s the story:

Although the VII Corps had become involved in a defensive battle, General Collins still expected to launch the corps counterattack which would signal the beginning of aggressive operations against the north flank of the Bulge. In midafternoon on 24 December General Harmon telephoned the VII Corps command post and asked permission to throw another combat command of his 2d Armored Division against elements of the 2d Panzer which had been identified in the neighborhood of Ciney and Celles. (See Map VIII.) The corps commander was away from the command post visiting his divisions; so the call was taken by the corps artillery commander, Brig. Gen. Williston B. Palmer. Palmer knew that the First Army had attached strings to any wholesale commitment of Harmon’s division and that Hodges’ consent and probably Montgomery’s would be needed before more of the 2d Armored was unleashed. He therefore told Harmon to wait-it was too late in the day to launch an attack in any case-until the corps commander reached the 2d Armored command post. Harmon was persistent and called again asking for “immediate authority.” Palmer, sorely tempted to give Harmon the permission he needed, reluctantly steeled himself and told Harmon to await Collins’ appearance at the 2d Armored command post.

A few minutes later Palmer had a call from the First Army chief of staff, General Kean, who said that Collins was authorized to use all his corps and could change his defensive line. In guarded words Kean asked Palmer if he saw “a town A and a town H” on the map and then mentioned a “pivoting move.” Palmer, imbued with Collins’ attack philosophy and eager to give the green light to the 2d Armored, looked hastily at the map spread before him, picked out two villages southwest of Ciney and forward of the 2d Armored positions: Achêne and (Le) Houisse. This looked like the go signal for the VII Corps and an attack to advance its western wing. Because the wire line to the 2d Armored command post had gone out, Palmer sent his aide with a message for Collins giving his own optimistic interpretation of the conversation with Kean.

The aide had just departed when Kean called again. On further reflection, he said (perhaps Kean had caught a tone of exultation in Palmer’s voice), he doubted whether Palmer had understood him correctly. Then came the cold water douche: “Now get this. I’m only going to say it once. Roll with the punch.” Palmer’s glance flicked over the map, this time to the north; there, thirty miles to the rear of the villages he had selected earlier were the towns of Andenne and Huy. Palmer remembers that this was the only moment in the war when he was “ill with disapproval.”

Out went a second messenger with an explanation of Palmer’s mistake and an urgent request for Collins to come home. Collins, who had received the first message at Harmon’s command post, was just giving the finishing touches to an attack plan for the entire 2d Armored when the second messenger appeared. Telling Harmon to “hold everything” but making clear that the 2d Armored was to go ahead with plans for the attack on Christmas morning, Collins hurried back to his own headquarters. He arrived there about 1830 but nothing more could be done until a liaison officer, promised by Kean, came in from the First Army.

Two hours later the First Army staff officer (Col. R. F. Akers) appeared and confirmed the bad news. Montgomery and Hodges had agreed to shorten the First Army line in order to halt the German advance. The VII corps, therefore, was to go on the defensive and its commander was “authorized” on his own judgment to drop back to the line Andenne-Hotton-Manhay. In any case the VII Corps was to retain a firm contact with the XVIII Airborne Corps, which that evening was withdrawing to the Manhay position.

Collins was stuck – no permission to attack from higher up. If you check the map above, you can see that the withdrawal to the Andenne-Huy line would give up a lot of ground. More importantly, it would give the Germans time to refuel. But Collins was still seeing German tanks out of gas in front of him right now – what a perfect opportunity to attack! What should he do? What would you do in his place?

Major General Collins' plan to attack the 2nd SS Division near Celles
Collins’ plan to cut off the 2nd SS Division east of Celles

Here’s what Collins did:

Although General Collins courteously asked the senior members of his corps staff to give their opinions on the action now to be taken by the corps, neither he nor any of his officers considered giving over the attack planned for the 2d Armored. During the day Harmon’s tanks had inflicted very severe damage on the German columns; the 84th Division had experienced some reverses but seemed to be holding its own. On balance the picture as seen from the VII Corps’ point of view was far less gloomy than that apparently prevailing in higher headquarters. Collins recognized that a retrograde move would strengthen the defenses of Huy and Liège. He also knew that such a move would expose Namur and the major Meuse crossings south of that city, for example, those at Dinant. The final decision, made by the corps commander himself, probably could have been predicted: on 25 December the 2d Armored Division would advance as planned; the corps then would continue with limited objective attacks to break up any dangerous concentration of enemy forces on its front.7

So, what was the outcome of Collins’ decision to disobey Montgomery and the other higher ups?

The attack mapped out by Collins and Harmon late the previous afternoon was launched by CCB at 0800 on Christmas Day, the idea a double-pronged sweep to capture Celles and annihilate the German armor believed to be thereabouts.9 For this maneuver General White divided his command into two task forces. Task Force A (Lt. Col. Harry Hillyard) had its line of departure on the Achêne road and orders to take the Bois de Geauvelant, a large wood some thousand meters across, which lay midway between Achêne and Celles. It was to assemble for the final assault on high ground northwest of Celles. Task Force B (Maj. Clifton B. Batchelder), starting its move near Leignon, was to make the main envelopment and cut off Celles on the southeast. The 82d Armored Reconnaissance Battalion went in on the open right flank of the attack to screen toward the west and as far forward as the Lesse River, south of Celles. CCB would be supported by artillery emplaced west of Ciney and by both American and British fighter-bombers.

Task Force A, medium tanks to the front, went through the Bois de Geauvelant with almost no opposition. As it debouched it came under fire from a little farm near Foy-Notre Dame and lost three half-tracks. The 370th Fighter Group of the IX Tactical Air Command, flying in support of CCB, then flushed out four Panther tanks and put them out of action, at least temporarily. The column again drew fire near Boisselles, but two platoons of the 67th Armored Regiment moved in and destroyed three Panthers doing the shooting. By the middle of the afternoon Task Force A reached the high ground overlooking Celles, blocking the roads to the west and southwest. Task Force B had a brief battle at Conjoux, then rushed on-knocking out isolated tanks and guns- until it arrived on the ridge 1,300 yards southeast of Celles.

The British 29th Armoured Brigade was conducting its own private battle west of Foy-Notre Dame while pushing reconnaissance toward the Lesse River. The British knocked out three Panthers and some infantry near Sorinne, then shot up more German vehicles and took prisoners around Foy-Notre Dame. In the skirmish near Boisselles a few tanks of the British 3d Royal Tank Regiment and some British gunners gave a hand to Task Force A.10

Meanwhile the 82d Reconnaissance Battalion had run into the remnants of the 2d Panzer reconnaissance battalion at Foy-Notre Dame (part of this group had escaped eastward to rejoin the main force huddled in the woods northeast of Celles). These Germans intended to make a fight of it, though at first sight Foy-Notre Dame seemed a peaceful farming village-nothing more. When a platoon from the 82d moved in, the enemy began a fusillade of antitank and machine gun fire from hidden positions. Worse, four Panthers on high ground just south of the village took a hand. The American cavalry suffered some casualties, but Sergeant Rogers used his assault gun to charge a German antitank gun in the middle of the village and the mop-up began. The four Panthers were brought under fire by British gunners, then finally destroyed by air attack. (Probably these were the tanks which had struck Task Force A near the Bois de Geauvelant.) This skirmish marked the end of the German reconnaissance battalion: the commander and 147 others were captured, and much of its remaining equipment was taken.

When General White’s two task forces finally sent tanks into Celles they met little resistance. At first it seemed empty except for the townspeople who had gathered in the church; later some 200 dispirited prisoners were rounded up in and near the town. With the capture of Celles the string was drawn on the bag in the forest between that town and Conjoux. Harmon ordered CCB to turn back the next morning and give the coup de grâce to the trapped enemy.

Although Christmas Day had brought much sporadic action and occasional flare-ups like the fight at Foy-Notre Dame the main German pocket simply had been bypassed. It is known that Cochenhausen’s tanks had very little gasoline, probably not enough to permit any appreciable skirmishing or tactical movement, but the German sluggishness in the pocket may be credited to the gunners supporting CCB, the army pilots in their flying OP’s,” and the close coordination between the artillery and the fighter-bombers of the 370th Fighter Group and Royal Air Force 83 Group. At noon, for example, a spotter plane picked up a column of seven enemy tanks north of Celles-all were destroyed by artillery fire. Twelve P38’s and an unknown number of British Typhoons, taking time out only to replenish fuel tanks and ammunition racks, worked over the woods where lay Cochenhausen’s command and strafed roads and trails whenever vehicles showed signs of making a break for it.

What of the German efforts to reach Cochenhausen’s force? Two small forays were attempted during the day by the Panzer Lehr, whose commander had dispatched tanks along the Custinne road toward Celles, but these efforts were foiled by the ubiquitous Allied planes. That night the kampfgruppe with which the 2d Panzer had been blocking in the Hargimont sector was relieved by the 9th Panzer, and Lauchert finally was free to attempt Cochenhausen’s relief. The force which he led from the Rochefort road through the Bois de Famenne and Ciergnon was not likely to give much confidence of success: a company or two of tanks, a battalion of armored infantry, a light artillery battalion, two companies of engineers, and part of a flak battalion.

The Germans had neared the twin villages of Petite and Grande Trisogne, little more than a mile from Celles, when they saw the ridge ahead “crawling with tanks.” (These may have been British tanks because the 29th Armoured Brigade was blocking behind the CCB lines.) 11 The 2d Panzer never got to launch an attack, for the American guns opened “a hellish fire” (their targets spotted-as Lauchert later recalled-by five artillery planes). Then to top this came the P-38’s and Typhoons. On nearby roads more Allied tanks hove in sight but made no concerted attack. Lauchert’s group was saved by an order radioed from the XLVII Panzer Corps: he was to return to Rochefort at once; the troops in the pocket would have to destroy their vehicles, leave their wounded, and get out on foot. A Panzer Lehr attempt to reach the pocket via Custinne on 26 December was equally futile, and for the same reasons. Bayerlein’s kampfgruppe-at no time in the battles on the Marche front did the Panzer Lehr commander have his entire division in hand-also was ordered back to Rochefort during the night of 26 December.

The story of the 2d Panzer pocket is quickly told. CCB spent two days clearing the thick woods and dense under- brush between Celles and Conjoux. The procedure was simple and effective: first, heavy shelling on a given area, then a slow, methodical advance by the infantry line backed with the tanks. In an extension of the Bois de Geauvelant, where tanks could operate with some freedom, an armored sweep was made which killed about 150 of the enemy. In the main forest near Celles a final squeeze produced 200 prisoners, 12 guns, and 80 vehicles of various types to add to the larger bag. Nonetheless many of the German troops did succeed in escaping on foot. Major von Cochenhausen and nearly 600 of his men ultimately reached Rochefort, but all the equipment of the reconnaissance battalion, the 304th Panzer Grenadier Regiment, the 2d Battalion of the 3d Panzer Regiment, three artillery battalions, and two-thirds of the division flak battalion had to be left behind.12

And that was the turning point of the Battle of the Bulge. It was the end of Hitler’s powerful last major attack against the Allies. That happened on Christmas Day 1944, and since today is Christmas Day, may their “names. Familiar… as household words … be in [your] flowing cups freshly remember’d.” This story shall the good man teach his son.