Martin C. Evans

Posts Tagged ‘Battle of the Bulge’

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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LI Vet helped halt Nazi advance at Bulge

In Uncategorized on December 14, 2009 at 4:26 pm

A German tank crew, captured during Germany's attempted advance through Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge.

Joseph R. DeCola, 85, of Lake Grove, was with an anti-aircraft unit in World War II that may have helped turn the Battle of the Bulge.

After he read my article in Sunday’s Newsday marking the 65th anniversary of that pivotal battle, DeCola wrote to say he was a sergeant with the 555th Signal Aircraft Warning Battalion when the battle began on December 16, 1944.

The unit had only recently begun making use of a newfound ability to use pairs of mobile radar stations to plot the position of flying aircraft on a map of the ground below them.

That skill produced a tactical advantage when extreme fog prevented American planes from spotting German formations rumbling west toward the Allied line in Belgium.

DeCola’s battalion realized it could steer American pilots to roads being used by advancing German troops and tanks.

“A pilot, from the Bronx, volunteered to fly providing we would control him. We brought him down over the main road in the middle of the Bulge and he reported over eight miles of German Tanks and vehicles,” wrote DeCola, who moved to Huntington after the war, and started an electrical contracting business in Farmingdale.

“We brought in Squadrons of planes and bombed the front and back of the convoy so they were locked in.

“We bombed them all day long. This broke the back of the Bulge and the war was soon over.”