Tag Archives: battle of the bulge

Bastogne Beer Run

World War II Veteran Vincent J. Speranza, spent 144 days in combat with Company H, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, and, at 95, is one of the estimated 600 or so remaining vets who served at the Battle of the Bulge. A few months ago, he jumped with the Black Knights.

However, in the Bastogne area today, he is far better remembered for a beer run than for his staunchly-defended machine gun nest.

Check out the detailed backstory behind that, below.

A break between Fallschirmjägers and destiny

TEC5 Thomas “Red” O’Brien, C Company, 101st Infantry Regiment, 26th (Yankee) Division, getting a quick meal in while parked on a snowbank near Mecher, Luxembourg, 75 years ago yesterday.

Photo by TEC5 Arthur Hertz, 166th Signal Photo Company, for Stars and Stripes. Via LOC

O’Brien’s unit had been engaged with elements of the tough German 5. Fallschirmjäger-Division, fighting small unit actions in the snow for the past several days prior to this image being shot. Veterans of the 101st would refer to the Battle of the Bulge as “Our Valley Forge.”

Sadly, CPL. O’Brien was killed less than two weeks after this image was captured, on 25 January, by German sniper fire at a crossroad outside Clervaux, Luxembourg, aged 23. He was a native of Rhode Island but a Massachusetts resident when he volunteered in 1942 and is interred at the American Military Cemetery, Henri-Chapelle, Belgium.

The 101st, as was most of the 26th ID, hailed from New England, where they had previously served as a Massachusetts National Guard and state militia outfit dating back to the Civil War. While the regiment cased their colors in 1993, the 26th is still around as the 26th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade in the MARNG, headquartered at Natick.

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.

Didn’t shoot it all? Bury it!

One common thing that happens all the time in the military is being issued too much ammo, such as on a live fire exercise, and intead of returning it which is a whole pain in the ass, it gets disposed of via E-tool.

Well apparently in 1945 when a B-24 unit was leaving England to return home, they left a few belts of .50 cal behind in the dirt of their borrowed RAF airstrip. Fast forward 70~ years and some aviation buffs dug up about 1,500 rounds of still very live tracer and ball ammo just three feet below the surface.

Heck, I am surprised they didn’t find a whole B-24!

More in my column at Guns.com.

Of men and steel

1911 battle of bulge

“Today I held hell in my hands,” said a firearms buff who came across a battered 1911, pockmarked from its wartime service before it was recovered from a World War II battlefield.

Some 71 years ago this week, Hitler launched the last great German offensive through the densely forested Ardennes region near the intersection of the eastern borders of  Belgium, France, and Luxembourg.

Codenamed “Operation Watch on the Rhine” over 200,000 Germans, including some of the most crack units remaining in the Army at the time, fell upon just 80,000 American troops, including many units such as the 101st Airborne, who were under strength following heavy losses and looking forward to some time in a “quiet area” to regroup.

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 “bulged” salient from St. Vith to the week-long Siege of Bastogne, it was a white hell of exploding trees and German panzers that those who survived never forgot.

The pistol examined by Daniel ED MacMurray IV, marked with a yellowed tag that reads, “Colt pistol picked up after battle at Bastonge Dec. 1944,” is battered with shrapnel wounds across the top of the slide, muzzle and grip including several that penetrated deep into the steel.

More images and the rest of the story as Mr. Harvey said, in my column at Guns.com