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Monday, December 31, 2012

Amanuensis Monday - Back From Bastogne

The Battle of the Bulge

Towards the end of World War II (although, when this battle happened, no one knew the war would soon be over), Germany decided to try to break through the Allied line in a major offensive launched through the densely forested Ardennes mountain region of Wallonia in Belgium, and France and Luxembourg. The French call this the Battle of Ardennes. The Germans called it Operation Watch on the Rhine. Americans tended to call it the Battle of the Bulge because of the way the Allied front bulged on the maps. The Germans punched through the Allied lines creating that bulge. Germany's goal for these operations was to split the British and American Allied line in half, capturing Antwerp and then proceed to encircle and destroy four Allied armies, forcing the Western Allies to negotiate a peace treaty in the Axis Powers' favour. Near-complete surprise against a weakly defended section of the Allied line was achieved during heavy overcast weather, which grounded the Allies' overwhelmingly superior air forces. Fierce resistance, particularly around the key town of Bastogne, and terrain favouring the defenders threw the German timetable behind schedule. Allied reinforcements, including General George S. Patton's Third Army, and improving weather conditions, which permitted air attacks on German forces and supply lines, sealed the failure of the offensive. (Thank you, Wikipedia)

My good friend, Mary Elizabeth "Beth" Ford Gaffney, gave me this copy of a booklet about 6 survivors of the Battle of Bastogne. One was her father, Sgt. Edward E. Ford (aka Buck Ford). It was so interesting that I had to post it. I have added some photos that pertain to the content. These photos were NOT in the original. I have scanned the originals and you will find them at the bottom of this post.

First is a letter from the Governor of NC in 1945:

State of North Carolina
Governor's Office

R. Gregg Cherry

March 26, 1945

My Fellow North Carolinians:

We have with us for a brief visit in the state six heroes of the present war. They have come to North Carolina from their 101st Airborne Division to visit in manufacturing plants that are making vital war products and to tell the men and women who run these plants what production here at home means up there at the front where men fight and died - in order that these plants, like other American institutions, can continue to operate long after peace has been declared.

These men, survivors of the fury of the battle of Bastogne, are an inspiration to us all, Seeing them and hearing their story should fire us everyone to new productive efforts and a new vim and vigor to do the home front job for our men and women in service. These heroes know what it is like to be up there fighting without adequate supplies. They defended Bastogne, strategically important to our armed forces, days after supplies had been cut off. It took courage and spirit and sweat and determination and a lot of other things to hold Bastogne. But hold it they did! It takes some of these same qualities to give all and then some on the home front. These men did they job at Bastogne! Here in North Carolina, North Carolinians must also do their job!

R. Gregg Cherry
Governor of North Carolina

Now the booklet:

Title Page
Back - From Bastogne!

In April, 1945, six survivors of the BATTLE OF BASTOGNE visited selected plants in North Carolina which are producing essential war materials. This little booklet is dedicated to those six men and their comrades, many of whom died in defense of the little Belgian town which was held with indomitable courage in the face of overwhelming odds. It is presented to you as an essential war worker, producing goods needed by American fighting men all over the world.

Page 7 (I don't have Pages 1-6)


There are stories of battles written in the blood and courage of American fighting men that will live in the hearts of all Americans for all time. The list of these battles has grown long in World War II and, high on the list, stands Bastogne.

It is traditionally American to love the under-dog, the little fellow who fights against odds. There is no more glorious accounts of the under-dog winning his fight than the Battle of Bastogne.

Von Rundstedt, Field Marshall in command of German armies in Western Europe, had thrown his armies back against the Allied Offensive. He started back through the Rhine valley with good cover of bad weather that assured little action from the superior Allied Air Force. His Panzer units struck against U.S. armies that were deployed for offensive action, that were off balance from a long offensive across France.

The German counter-offensive grew and spread, and there seemed non way to stop it as it swept into Belgium. The little Belgian town of Bastogne, juncture of great railroads and highways, suddenly became important. To stop the onrush of the Germans, Bastogne would have to be held. Parts of the 9th and 10th armored division were rushed up. The 101st Airborne Division, the famous "Screaming Eagles", were alerted from behind-line rest stations where they were licking their wounds from weeks of hard and continuous fighting. They were herded into cattle trucks and send speeding into Bastogne.

Remnants of U.S. outfits that had been chewed up by the German drive fell back on the town, and the Americans 0 about 10,000 in all 0 set up hurried defenses. A perimeter, just outside Bastogne, was set up and manned by the 101st paratroopers. Behind them were the tanks and tank destroyers. The inner defense circle was held by the remnants. Brigadier General Anthony C. McAuliffe, acting commander of the 101st, had been ordered to "hold Bastogne at all costs."

Brigadier General Anthony C. McAuliffe

On December 19 the battle was joined when American tanks were sent out to meet the Germans coming in from the east. The Germans were stopped there and, as German and American tanks burned thought the night, the enemy rolled around the town. By the next day Bastogne was surrounded on all sides, cut off from reinforcement in men or supplies. The surgical unit

Pg 8
had been captured and only first-aid kits in the hands of Medical Corpsmen remained to care for the wounded.

For the next two days the town was hammered mercilessly by the Nazis. Infantry, tanks and artillery gave the besieged garrison no rest. But everywhere Germans attacked, they were beaten off. And although American casualties were high, the Germans were paying dearly for every try and failure to capture the town. Americans died, as men in battle must, but the enemy paid for each American death with four of his own.

On December 22 the Germans sent in their ultimatum: "Surrender of be annihilated." General McAuliffe had had his orders to hold at all costs; he had heard his wounded, eased only by a little morphine and three ounces of cognac daily, plead with him: "Don't give up on account of us, General." He sent back one word to the German commander - "NUTS." His reply was passed around to his troops together with a message that told them that the Allied armies were counter-attacking.

On the 24th a weather break permitted C-47 transports to drop supplies, and a surgeon was brought in by plane. On Christmas day the Germans celebrated by stepping up their artillery fire and bombings, and by sending in heavy attacks. The Americans Christmas present to the Germans was to knock out 32 tanks and beat off the attacks. The shells and bombs they accepted until the day could come for vengeance. they never doubted that the day would come.

Battered, low on food and ammunition, exhausted with a weariness that crept into their very bones, the Americans fought on against the best the Germans could bring against them. Five German Division surrounding the town attacked time after time, but the waves of assault broke and washed back when they crashed against the unyielding rock-defense of Bastogne.

On the 25th the 4th armored division broke through the Germans to cut a narrow path into Bastogne. With them came the 101st regular commander, Major General M.D Taylor. He had been at home in Washington on furlough when he had learned of the plight of his troops, and had flown back to be with them.

Major General Maxwell D. Taylor

The Germans cut the rescue path that night, but the 4th broke through again next day and the Germans had lost their last chance to win the Battle of Bastogne. Because they failed

Page 9
to take it, the back of the German counter-offensive was broken; and a retreat was Von Rundstedt's only certainty.

Every man who took part in the Battle of Bastogne is a hero; every member of the 101st Airborne wears the Presidential Unit Citation for the gallantry in action. Many wear the Purple Heart, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, and the ribbons of all the campaigns in which the Screaming Eagles have taken part. Many did not return from Bastogne, but those who did carry deep in their hearts the honorable pride of this knowledge: the wouldn't quit.

American will forever remember with pride and gratitude the Battle of Bastogne and the men who won it the American way - against overwhelming and terrible odds.

Pg 10
Robert H. Lemonn, wiry, intense, 30-year-old Captain from Whitmire, South Carolina, rode with his men in cattle trucks north to Bastogne. After 72 days of vicious fighting in Holland, Captain Lemonn and his men had been resting up and re-equipping when the 101st Airborne Division was ordered into Bastogne and told to "hold it all costs."

"As our trucks sped north," says Captain Lemonn, "it looked as though all the rest of the world was headed south. On the other side of the road, fleeing from the Germans, was a choked, sluggish stream of humanity - American soldiers ordered to retreat, civilian carrying, pushing, pulling what possession they could save in carts, wagons, baby buggies - anything that could roll. When we reached Bastogne, it was deserted except for a few who could not, or would not, leave."

Bastogne when they arrived

Captain Lemonn wears the Silver Star for "gallantry in action" and the Presidential Unit Citation for "outstanding performance in action" at Bastogne. He was in the invasion on D-day, and fought through Holland and Belgium.

The son of Mr. and Mrs. R.H. Lemonn of Whitmire, South Carolina, Captain Lemonn was a Dairy Specialist for the Clemson A&M College, of which he is a graduate, before he joined the Army. He is married and has a 3-year-old daughter.

"On Christmas day the Krauts shelled us with what appeared to be duds. They tunred out to be shells stuffed with pictures showing American girl in the armsCof men marked 4-F. That may be smart propagand, but it missed fire. It just  made us madder with the Jerries."

Pg 10
Staff Sergeant Jackson B. Vail of Cumberland Ceneter, Maine, went with the 4th Armored Division to the rescue of the besieged 101st at Bastogne. From December 20th to 26th, the 4th armored and infantry fought through the German bulge - through snow, across rivers and into the hilly country around Bastogne - past abandoned and captured American equipment that had been lost in the German Drive.

"Every hill the tanks would go over," said Vail, "would bring them into line with fire from well-placed enemy anti-tank guns. The tanks would wait then while the infantry went in to take the guns. It was tough going and it was slow, and sometimes we were driven back temporarily.

"Christmas day we were close enough to see American planes - C-47 carriers - come in low over Bastogne to drop supplies. We saw several shot down. We knew then that at least the surrounded troops were getting some supplies.."

A plane forced down after attempting to drop supplies in Bastogne.

Sgt. Vail, who was wounded by a sniper's bullet near Nancy in September 1944, joined the Army in June 1941, went to the United Kingdom in December 1943 and landed on the invasion coast of Normandy on D-day plus 9. He saw action in Normandy and northern France and wears the Silver Star and Purple Heart.

The son of Mr. and Mrs. H.J. Vail of Cumberland Center, Maine, Sergeant Vail attended high school in Falouth, Maine, and the Portland Junior College. He was a salesman for the American Can Company.

Pg 12
SERGEANT EDWARD E. FORD (the father of my friend, Mary Elizabeth "Beth" Ford Gaffney)
A lanky, grinning, six-foot-three mountaineer from Columbus, North Carolina, Sgt. Edward E. Ford was dug in on a hillside when he saw 19 German tanks come rolling down the valley. Sgt. Ford held the fire of his 57mm. anti-tank gun until the tanks broke formation and deployed to take the hill positions of the Americans.

A 5 mm anti tank gun

"I'd been lying in that hole for a lot of days waiting for a chance like that," said Sgt. Ford, "and when five of them turned off to the left and headed for the other hill, the waiting was over. They made swell targets broadside like that."

He got the five, and then was knocked out himself by enemy fire. When he came to, he took over a bazooka and knocked out two more tanks, one of which exploded and burst into flames. "Probably got their ammo.," he said, "I was aiming between the tracks."

A bazooka usually had a 2 man crew.

Sgt. Ford fought on in the snow until he received his second wound, a piece of shrapnel in the left arm, and was sent back for treatment.

Ford joined the Army in March, 1942 and was in on the invasion of Normandy on D-day. He saw action in France, Holland, and Belgium. He wears the Distinguished Service Cross for "extraordinary heroism," the Silver Star for "gallantry in action," the Purple Heart and the Presidential Unit Citation for action at Bastogne.

the son of Mrs. Estell Wilkinson of Columbus, North Carolina, Sgt. Ford attended school at Columbus and worked at the Frick Sawmill in Mill Springs, North Carolina, before he joined the Army. He is 25 years old.

Pg 13
Ralph L. Cox, 30-year-old Corporal from Raeford, North Carolina, moved on foot up the valley with his platoon. They'd been told to take the high ground and stop the firing from the German emplacements there. In the face of intermittent harassing fire, they moved up. As they spread out and headed for the hills on either side of the valley, the Germans started firing "Screaming Minnies" at them. "Screaming Minnies" is a graphic, slang description of German rocket shells, fired in groups of nine.

"We were caught like flies on a wall," says Cpl. Cox. "There weren't any holes to get in - just flat ground everywhere, with no cover of any kind. We fell and hugged dirt. Two barrages came in. Afterwards I crawled up to see why the platoon ahead hadn't started moving again. The platoon leader and everybody up there had been killed - twenty of them wiped out in less than 6 seconds."

Cpl. Cox and the others who were left moved on up through the "Screaming Minnies" and "took the high ground."

Cox joined t he Army in August 1942 and landed in Normandy 8 hours before H-hour on D0day. He saw action in France, Holland, and Belgium and wears the Silver Star for "gallantry in action" and the Presidential Unit Citation.

The son of Mr. and Mrs. G.W. Cox of Raeford, North Carolina, he is married and has three daughters, ages 3, 5, and 7. He worked for the North Carolina State highway Commission before joining the Army.

Pg 14
James L. Ball, 28-year-old Private First Class from Greenwood, Mississippi, speaks with the soft, slow drawl of the deep South and seems easy-going. But he wears a "Screaming Eagle" - the shoulder patch of the 101st Airborne Division - the symbol of the men who contempt of danger has become legendary.

Pfc. Ball is a member of the 502nd Parachute Infantry, one of the first of its kind to be formed in this country, and a part of the 101st Airborne. He has been with the 101st on every mission until, while he was in North Carolina visiting war plants to help urge more production of necessary materials, he learned that the 101st had jumped in the battle in the Ruhr.

Ball said that Bastogne was the toughest fighting he had seen. one gathers, however, that his main worry during the siege of Bastogne, was his inability to keep warm. "It was right at Christmas," he said, "and cold. A head of a lot colder than it ever gets in Greenwood."

Pfc. Ball joined the Army in October 1941, went to the United Kingdom in September 1943 and landed on the invasion coast of (illegible) on D-day plus two. He saw action in France, Holland and Belgium and wears the Presidential Unit Citation for "outstanding performance while in action" at Bastogne.

The son of Mrs. James Young of Shelby, Mississippi. Pfc. Ball attended high school in Greenwool, Mississippi, and worked in a service station in the same town before he joined the Army.

Pg 15
George M. Long, 23-year-old Private First Class from Jeffersonville, Ohio, is a tall, husky soldier who made glider fabrics in Columbus, Ohio, before he joined the Army to become a gliderman. He has been with the 101st Airborne on its every mission.

"We went into Bastogne in trucks," he said. "It's the first time we ever were used as land troops. When we got there, the town had been evacuated. There was still merchandise in the store windows, but the stores and the houses were deserted. There was no damage anywhere - just a lot of quiet brick buildings. We were surrounded there for 7 days. At the end of that time the town was nothing but rubbish. There was a building left untouched."

"We heard that help was on the way and that helped a lot, but all of us knew anyway that we'd keep on fighting as long as we had anything to fight with."

Pfs. Long joined the Army in December, 1942 and was in the invasion of Normandy on D-day. He saw action in Normandy, Holland, and along the German border and wears the Presidential Unit Citation for "his outstanding performance in action" at Bastogne.

The son of Mr. and Mrs. George F. Long of Jeffersonville, Ohio, he attended high school in Bloomingdale, Ohio, and worked at the Columbus Coated Fabric Company, Columbus, Ohio, before he joined the Army. He is a member of bot the A.F. of L. and the C.I.O.

Here are the originals.

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