Tag Archives: battle of bulge

From the Midwest to Malmedy

Just three Midwestern guys smoking and joking while backpacking through Europe, 76 years ago today.

Official caption: En route to front lines, beyond Malmedy, Belgium, American Infantrymen pause to rest. Left to right, Sgt. Lyle Greene, Rochester Minnesota, S/Sgt. Joseph DeMott, Greenwood, Ind., and Pfc. Fred Mozzoni, Chicago, Illinois. 29 December 1944.

Note the extra bandoliers and enthusiasm for grenades. Signal Corps Photo 111-SC-198409 via National Archives

Due to the geographical makeup of the above group, I would wager they are dismounts from the 106th Cavalry Regiment, an Illinois Army National Guard whose armory was in the Windy City, which would explain the tanker boots on DeMott and Mozzoni.

The 106th, formerly the 1st Illinois Volunteer Cav back when they rode horses, was federalized 25 November 1940 and spent most of the war in Texas and Lousiana. Landing in Normandy in late June 1944, they pushed from Northern France, through the Ardennes-Alsace, into the Rhineland, and finished WWII in Austria, being the first unit American troops to enter Salzburg before going on to free King Leopold of Belgium who had been a German prisoner for five years.

They fought dismounted at the Battle of the Bulge, which is when the above image hails from, and patrolled north of Sarrebourg to scout for German forces.

Suffering 700 casualties in their 10-month trek across Europe from the coast of France to the Alps, they returned to the States in October 1945 and today make up part of the 33rd Brigade Combat Team of the Illinois Army National Guard.

Bazooka Boy Scout

In this 1960s Army recruiting poster, we see PFC Vernon K. Haught, of the 82nd ABN Divison’s 325th Glider Rgt, around the final act of the Battle of the Bulge in January 1945, as he strolls in the snow-covered countryside near Ordimont, Belgium.

While the M1 2.36-inch Bazooka on his shoulder is likely his go-to should an errant Panzer poke its nose out of the woods, the thin-handled knife on the German army belt around his waist probably got a lot more daily use. The blade seems to be a Norwegian-style speiderkniv, or scout knife, of the kind commonly used by boy scouts in Western Europe at the time, differing from the beefier U.S.-style PAL or Western Cutlery-made fixed blade Boy Scout knives sold back home in the 1940s.

Also, note the M1 bayonet strapped to his leg.

After all, “Be Prepared.”

All Quiet in the Ardennes

American engineers emerge from the woods and move out of defensive positions after fighting in the vicinity of Bastogne, Belgium, in December 1944. Note the M1 Garand, M1 Carbine and M9 Bazookas, along with a liberal sprinkling of grenades and spare ammo. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Today is the 75th Anniversary of the last great German offensive of WWII. Launched through the densely forested Ardennes region near the intersection of the eastern borders of Belgium, France, and Luxembourg, some 200,000 Germans fell on less than 80,000 unsuspecting American troops, many of which were recovering from the summer and Fall push through France and the Lowlands.

While the German offensive gained ground at first, eventually reinforcements– including Lt. Gen. George S. Patton Jr.’s Third Army–were rushed to the scene and counterattacked.

However, for the men trapped inside the 75-mile “bulged” salient from St. Vith to the week-long Siege of Bastogne, it was a white hell of exploding trees and an onslaught from 1,000 German panzers that those who survived never forgot.

The U.S. Army suffered over 89,000 casualties in the six-week-long Battle of the Bulge, making it one of the largest and bloodiest battles fought by the nation’s servicemen.

U.S. Army infantrymen of the 290th Regiment, 75th Infantry Division, fight in fresh snowfall near Amonines, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge, Jan. 4, 1945. Note the M3 Grease Gun to the right and M1 Carbine to the left. (Photo: U.S. Army)

For a more detailed look at the men, firepower, and background of the battle, check out the (free) 685-page U.S. Army Center of Military History reference, “The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge” by Hugh M. Cole, as well as the vast records available through the National Archives. For more information about commemorating the battle Bastogne and other events, visit Bastogne 75 and Belgium Remembers 44-45.

Nuts! 74 years ago today

An M1 bazooka team from the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in position Dec. 22, 1944, outside of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge:

Via 82nd ABN museum

It was also on this day that General Anthony Clement McAuliffe of the 101st gave his famous reply to the German offer to surrender.

The reply was typed up, centered on a full sheet of paper. It read:

“December 22, 1944

To the German Commander,

N U T S!

The American Commander”

And the crowd went wild!

 

That will get your attention

A relatively quiet day during the Battle of the Bulge: Posed U.S. Army Signal Corps photo of an 82nd Airborne Div machine gun nest “somewhere in the Ardennes.”

Note the big M2 .50-caliber Browning heavy machine gun in a ground defense role with a spare barrel literally chilling out to the left. “Ma Deuce” still fills this same role today, and will likely for generations to come. Turns out you just can’t beat 100~ rounds of 671-grain APIT headed out per minute as long as the ammo holds up.

Also, note the M1919 .30-06 light Browning to the right for close-in work. Together with the above set-up, this one post can own that field out to 2,000m against advancing infantry– until the StuGs and panzers show up anyway, at which point it becomes time to rapidly displace to the rear.