On this day, 68 years ago, the German Army launched a major winter offensive against US troops along the Franco-German border, in an area of the Ardennes forrest. This battle, while known in textbooks as the Ardennes Offensive and to the Germans as The Von Rundstedt Offensive or, in code, Operation “Wacht Am Rhein” – Watch On The Rhine – would go on to be commonly reffered to as “The Battle Of The Bulge” The Battle Of the Bulge”, after the bulge into the Allied lines that the German forces created.
Okay, I hear most of you yawning. Hang with me here, just for a second.
The reason I bring up this battle, is what it meant in terms of our military. It was 6 months
after the Normandy invasion, when we thought we had the German army on the run. Just before the attack, Allied generals were predicting the war to be over by Christmas 1944, or early 1945 at the latest. Along hundreds of miles of front lines, soldiers prepared to celebrate Christmas, to read letters from home, to have a feast – be it turkey, C-rations, or Spam.
Then, on the morning of December 16, 1944, the German Army struck.
This battle saw the US fighting man at his absolute best. Lightly armed paratroops held off German armour and elite Waffen-SS divisions for weeks, not days as the Germans thought. An entire Army Group pulled out of a battle, executed a 90 degree turn, and marched down snow and ice-covered roads all through Christmas Eve and Day to relieve surrounded, exhausted troops. Engineers, armed with nothing but pistols and some plastic explosives, blew up bridges, sometimes with German tanks on or at them, trying to delay the Panzers’ onslaught. And all along the line, regardless of unit or experience or training, our fighting men fought and died, starved and froze, for people they didn’t know. For strangers. For us.
They still do today.
A certain Lt. Colonel some of us know and love is breathing sand and .. well .. crap, training
up Afghans to secure their own country. Other fighting men and women are stationed around the world, are on ships and submarines all over – and under – the Earth’s oceans, and are flying or ready to take off at a moment’s notice. They are dozens, hundreds, even thousands of miles away from home, away from family, away from friends, away from everything they hold dear. For strangers. For us.
So in this week leading into Christmas, take a moment. When you’re stressed out in checkout lines, when traffic is driving you nuts (or vice versa, Tori!), when the kids and the family and the whole holiday psycho-fest is about to make you scream, take a moment. And think about someone, who doesn’t have the chance to be caught up in traffic or lines or shopping, who will spend the day with a rifle in hand, or manning a catapult on a carrier, or watching a radar screen while they wish they could be in the middle of that madhouse you’re condemning to the farthest reaches of Hades.
And remember – they are out there, for YOU. That is their present, to all of us.
Coming up – How The Spirit of Christmas Can Interrupt a War.