Martin C. Evans

Christmas, 1944

In Uncategorized on December 23, 2009 at 12:24 am

Christmas, 1944 was a hard season that brought success for GIs in WWII. Here, troops with the 101st Airborne Division march through Bastogne.

Ex-GIs who are now in their 80s and 90s sure have things to be thankful for this Christmas season. For one, they are pretty thankful that it is not 65 years ago.

They spent Christmas 1944 fighting awful battles, like The Bulge, in Belgium, or just encamped in rotten places like along the border with Germany.

“What’s Merry about all this, you ask?” General Anthony McAuliffe, commander of the 101st Airborne Division that year, wrote in his Christmas message to his troops. “We’re fighting – it’s cold – we aren’t home.”

Jack Del Monte, of Oceanside NY, was a 23-year-old corporal with the 191st Tank Battalion that Christmas. Temperatures in the Rhine River valley where his unit found itself then were so low that icicles would hang from the ceiling of his tank near where he slept inside.

Members of his unit were always looking for places where they could get in from the cold and the flying lead.

“We spent that Christmas Day in the cellar of a farmhouse,” said Del Monte, 88. “We found beer and wine in the cellar, so we had something to drink. But as Christmases go, I wouldn’t recommend it.”

But Christmas brought quite a gift to U.S. troops that year.

The U.S. 4th Armored Division broke through German lines that Dec. 26, rescuing U.S. troops who were surrounded but still holding the critical French town of Bastogne. It was a key element to victory at the Battle of the Bulge.

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