“Men more frequently require to be reminded than informed.”
This time of year usually catches all of us living life in a whirlwind of extra busyness.
Throw into the regular regime of work, school, and fickle weather added by the demands
of a heavy dose of shopping, cooking, running all over town, traveling, wrapping, packing,
shipping yada, yada, yada…and we can very quickly forget what all of this is really about.
Or on the flip side, we could be watching those around us busy and merry while
our small world is quiet and lonely.
An extra blanket of suffocating heaviness has just covered an already aching heart.
Either way, this time of year can be extra taxing on us all.
We get so caught up in our own little holiday worlds while at the same time
we are currently living with a madness playing out before our eyes in our own government.
We find ourselves with a mixed sense of wonder, frustration, sorrow, joy, and confusion.
We want to be happy…but.
We want to be mad…but.
We want things to be right…but.
We want to be jolly and bright…but
So when I received my periodic email from Fold3, which is an arm of Ancestry.com
which is the military record archives that Ancestry pulls from,
I was reminded of another Christmas that was also a duality of both joy and anguish.
And here’s the thing…
If it was not for the duality of emotions during that Christmas time in 1944,
then you and I may not even find ourselves living out our own Christmas today in 2019.
We owe the people of that winter of 1944 more than we can ever repay.
For you see the infamous Battle of the Ardennes, better known as the Battle of the Bulge,
was a turning point for the allies during WWII.
Yet it came at a tremendous cost and sacrifice on both sides of the proverbial pond.
Soldiers doing their duty as families were home doing theirs.
Waiting, hoping, praying.
Yet sadly we have an entire swath of this nation that has never heard of such a battle
and frankly does not care.
All because that was then and this is now.
‘And so what does then have to do with now’ they smugly ask.
Everything my friend, absolutely everything.
And so this afternoon as I sat in a doctor’s waiting room reading this article on my phone,
a man was also sitting in the waiting room, began listening to Silent Night playing softly
over his phone.
I wasn’t upset that this man had allowed a song to play out in this small
quiet space as I found the song a very appropriate song for this particular story…
Here is one story from that Christmas of 1944:
Christmas During the Battle of the Bulge
December 1, 2019 by Jenny Ashcraft
On December 16, 1944, German forces surprised American soldiers in the densely forested
Ardennes region of Belgium, Luxembourg, and France, with a massive offensive also known
as the Battle of the Bulge, or the Ardennes Counteroffensive.
Germany pushed through an Allied line, creating a bulge in the Allied defensive lines.
The deadly battle, which lasted until January 25, 1945, was the largest on the European
western front during WWII and resulted in an estimated 1 in 10 American combat casualties
during the entire war. It also meant that thousands of soldiers spent Christmas 1944
in temperatures that hovered around zero, in knee-deep snow, and with limited rations
for Christmas dinner.
On the home front, their families spent a nervous holiday season,
waiting for word of their loved ones.
Cpl. Frank D. Vari spent Christmas Eve huddled in a foxhole as shells exploded
around him all night long.
“We could hear their guns going off and the shells landing at the same time.
They were close.
They almost surrounded the whole place.
I remember Christmas Day.
I got up, and we had a real bad night, with artillery and everything.
The first thing I saw was the steeple of a church down in the valley.
It was a beautiful day, the sun was just coming up over a little village at the bottom.”
The clear skies allowed US planes to reinforce soldiers along the front.
The break in the weather saved Vari’s unit.
Sgt. Metro Sikorsky woke up Christmas Day 1944 in a bombed-out building.
He was 25-years-old and serving in Company B, 17th Tank Battalion of the
7th Armored Division.
It was his first time away from home in Pennsylvania.
All around were the bodies of the frozen and his job included picking up the dead.
He said it was so cold that when a soldier died, in a short time the body
froze where it lay.
There were no presents and no Christmas dinner, but Sikorsky felt lucky to be alive.
It was so cold that soldiers cut blankets into strips and wound
them around their frozen feet.
Tech Sgt. Maurice Glenn Hughs remembered the terrible winter conditions during the battle.
“Hundreds of people lost their feet because they were frozen,” he said.
Hughs was hospitalized after the battle and doctors in Paris told him that his feet
would need to be amputated.
“My legs were painted up to my knees to be amputated.
And then the doctors checked and said they wouldn’t have to be,” said Hughs.
Mattie Dickenson of Georgetown, Louisiana, remembered Christmas 1944 as a difficult one.
She anxiously waited for news from her husband Benjamin F. Dickenson.
Benjamin was drafted when he was 38-years-old and found himself fighting in the Battle of the Bulge.
“I do remember that was the saddest Christmas I ever spent.
For 21 days I didn’t know if he was dead or alive,” said Mattie.
Though Benjamin was wounded, he made it home alive.
Mattie kept a piece of the parachute that dropped supplies to her husband
Soldiers from the Third United States Army carried a printed copy of
Gen. George Patton’s Christmas Prayer of 1944.
Patton had a copy distributed to each soldier before the battle.
It petitioned the heavens for good weather and concluded with a Christmas greeting
from the General.
“To each officer and soldier in the Third United States Army, I wish a Merry Christmas.
I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle.
We march in our might to complete the victory.
May God’s blessings rest upon each of you on this Christmas Day.”
The Battle of the Bulge was Hitler’s last major offensive along the Western Front.
Within a month Allied forces pushed the Germans back and closed the bulge.
The battle was called “the greatest American battle of the war” by Winston Churchill
and it crushed Germany’s hopes for ultimate success in the war.
To learn more about the Battle of the Bulge and soldiers who fought in it,
search Fold3 today!
(***Off to see the Mayor and Sheriff this weekend so posts may wait until Monday)