70 years on, Christmas during the Battle of the Bulge is remembered

The Battle of the Bulge began in the middle of December 1944. Allied troops were holding the vital town of Bastogne in the south of Belgium when they were surrounded by Hitler’s final attempt to gain ground in World War II.

The Nazis gathered three separate army groups to conduct the surprise attack to break through the Allied lines and take the allied port of. Bastogne was of great strategic importance since it was the crossroads for eight of Belgium’s main highways that run through the Ardennes.

At the time, the German commander sent a note to General McAuliffe, commanding the 101st Airborne there, stating that the Americans were surrounded, and they should surrender. Famously, General McAuliffe replied with the simple word: “Nuts!”.

With that response, the German army sent its six German tank divisions and around 50,000 troops to attack Bastogne, while 15,000 American troops were defending the town.

The American troops defended the town for eight days under heavy attack while General Patton was trying to maneuver his additional troops up to Bastogne. They had been delayed due to bad weather that caused a lack of support from the air force.

A Christmas greeting card and prayer for the weather to clear was distributed to all 250,000 of General Patton’s troops. The weather did finally clear, and the troops marched on to rescue the others holding Bastogne. They broke through Nazi lines and stopped their advance.

The battle ended a month later in mid-January 1945. On April 30th, only a few months later, Hitler committed suicide, and the Nazis surrendered.

The Battle of the Bulge was the bloodiest battle for the American forces with around 81,000 casualties and around 100,000 casualties for the Germans, the Western Journalism reports.

Songwriter Irving Berlin wrote the classic Christmas song, ‘I’m dreaming of a white Christmas’ in 1942. He served in World War I.

On that Christmas Eve in 1944, President Roosevelt acknowledged the fact that it would not be a festive Christmas with so many American troops in the battle. He asked the American people to continue to celebrate Christmas in the traditional American way.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE