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Christmas During the Battle of the Bulge

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On December 16, 1944, German forces surprised American soldiers in the densely forested Ardennes region of Belgium, Luxembourg, and France, with a massive offensive also known as the Battle of the Bulge, or the Ardennes Counteroffensive. Germany pushed through an Allied line, creating a bulge in the Allied defensive lines. The deadly battle, which lasted until January 25, 1945, was the largest on the European western front during WWII and resulted in an estimated 1 in 10 American combat casualties during the entire war. It also meant that thousands of soldiers spent Christmas 1944 in temperatures that hovered around zero, in knee-deep snow, and with limited rations for Christmas dinner. On the home front, their families spent a nervous holiday season, waiting for word of their loved ones.

Cpl. Frank D. Vari spent Christmas Eve huddled in a foxhole as shells exploded around him all night long. “We could hear their guns going off and the shells landing at the same time. They were close. They almost surrounded the whole place. I remember Christmas Day. I got up, and we had a real bad night, with artillery and everything. The first thing I saw was the steeple of a church down in the valley. It was a beautiful day, the sun was just coming up over a little village at the bottom.” The clear skies allowed US planes to reinforce soldiers along the front. The break in the weather saved Vari’s unit.

Sgt. Metro Sikorsky woke up Christmas Day 1944 in a bombed-out building. He was 25-years-old and serving in Company B, 17th Tank Battalion of the 7th Armored Division. It was his first time away from home in Pennsylvania. All around were the bodies of the frozen and his job included picking up the dead. He said it was so cold that when a soldier died, in a short time the body froze where it lay. There were no presents and no Christmas dinner, but Sikorsky felt lucky to be alive. It was so cold that soldiers cut blankets into strips and wound them around their frozen feet.

Tech Sgt. Maurice Glenn Hughs remembered the terrible winter conditions during the battle. “Hundreds of people lost their feet because they were frozen,” he said. Hughs was hospitalized after the battle and doctors in Paris told him that his feet would need to be amputated. “My legs were painted up to my knees to be amputated. And then the doctors checked and said they wouldn’t have to be,” said Hughs.

Mattie Dickenson of Georgetown, Louisiana, remembered Christmas 1944 as a difficult one. She anxiously waited for news from her husband Benjamin F. Dickenson. Benjamin was drafted when he was 38-years-old and found himself fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. “I do remember that was the saddest Christmas I ever spent. For 21 days I didn’t know if he was dead or alive,” said Mattie. Though Benjamin was wounded, he made it home alive. Mattie kept a piece of the parachute that dropped supplies to her husband at Bastogne.

Soldiers from the Third United States Army carried a printed copy of Gen. George Patton’s Christmas Prayer of 1944. Patton had a copy distributed to each soldier before the battle. It petitioned the heavens for good weather and concluded with a Christmas greeting from the General. It read, “To each officer and soldier in the Third United States Army, I wish a Merry Christmas. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We march in our might to complete the victory. May God’s blessings rest upon each of you on this Christmas Day.”  

The Battle of the Bulge was Hitler’s last major offensive along the Western Front. Within a month Allied forces pushed the Germans back and closed the bulge. The battle was called “the greatest American battle of the war” by Winston Churchill and it crushed Germany’s hopes for ultimate success in the war. To learn more about the Battle of the Bulge and soldiers who fought in it, search Fold3 today!

46 Comments

  1. My Uncle, James Frantz Schuirmann was killed Feb. 8, 1945 during the Battle of The Bulge. Part of our family came to the US in the 1880’s from Luxembourg.
    Such a young kid. Every time I hear about the conditions he went through, I just want to cry.

  2. GOD bless us all. American soldier’s are one of a kind! Merry Christmas 2019! ONELOVE for all the soldier’s that passed away! Peace be still! United we stand, together we fall!

  3. While stationed at Baumholder, Germany, 1/1954 till 1/1956, I visited this site with a fellow GI, Jim Perry, from Florida. We were amazed at how the Belgian people honored our troops. This site was immaculate. Every GI that had lost their lives are forever engraved on a massive star, with every 48 states included. We also visited other memorials to a fallen. Our European allies keep great care for our lost men. I thank those that still care.

  4. I understand that my father, Clarence Woodford Holman, was a paratrooper machine-gunner and entered the war in the European theater about the time of the Battle of the Bulge. He said he fought there. He would have been about 24 years old at the time. He died 58 years later at age 81. He never wanted to talk much about it. He lost his assistant machine gunner there. He hated cold weather the rest of his life. That experience created in him some invisible wounds that would torment him all of his life. He said that he was no hero, that all the heroes never made it back, that he did what he had to, to get back home to my mother and us children.

  5. Is there any way to access information on U.S. military activity in Austria from 1942-1945? My father, Charles Donald Wilson, PFC was stationed there with the 16thn artillery regiment.

    • Do you know what division he was with during WW II? If so, query 16th Artillery Regiment and the division during WW II and you should find information. My dad was in Austria with the 11th Armored Division. He was a doctor and helped liberate Mauthausan Concentration Camp in Austria at the end of WW II.

  6. I lost my uncle, Charles Henry Kiefer, a paratrooper who was killed 20 January 1945 at the Battle of the Bulge. I still have the last letter he wrote home to my mother, less than a month before he was killed. He is buried in Luxembourg cemetery,

  7. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for keeping our history alive! I saw the big book “The War,” and was moved as I looked at the men that signed up and fought in World War 2. Doubt, with the way things are going in our Country these days that enough people would sign up to fight Evil.:

    • How many would step up today should the need arise? I am not sure that many of our young citizen will volunteer. I would do it again, but I am sure I won’t be accepted because of my age. I fear for my country. God bless America.

    • Without doubt private bonespurs would have turned tail and ran, IT IS A SHAME WE DO NOT HAVE THE COURAGEOUS MEN AND WOMEN TODAY THAT WE HAD BACK THEN, MY UTMOST RESPECT AND PRAYERS FOR THEM AND THEIR FAMILIES

    • This is a reply to Pete,Martin and Dennis (below). Do not ever doubt the current American soldiers and their resolve and abilities. They are the best trained forces on the planet and young people have always stepped up when needed. They are fighting the same type of war that Vietnam was, only different place, different people. Never ending but they are dedicated. I am proud of them and was proud to serve during Vietnam. At least today’s troops get respect and love from America.

  8. My uncle Clell was there also. He said he layed in a ditch with dead bodies on top of him but still the enemies came along and shot into the ditch. He did make it home.

  9. Thank you for this remembrance. My Mother’s brother was in the Ardennes campaign, but he rarely talked about his WWII experiences. My Mother told me the family knew her brother was somewhere in that area of Europe and for several weeks she hid the newspapers from her Father who had a heart condition, for fear that bad news from the front would upset him. Only a few months before, the family had gotten word that their other son had been killed in the first wave on Omaha Beach with Co. A, 116th Regiment, 29th Division and the thought of losing their remaining son was too much to bear. Here’s to you, my Uncles George and John.

  10. Each veteran of the Battle of the Bulge that I spoke with all said the same thing, “It was so damn cold.” I met one warrior who had served in both in the Bulge and in Korea. When I asked him which was colder, he simply shook his head, and did not answer.

  11. My father fought in the Battle of the Bulge, but like so many who fought in WW II, he never talked about it. Thankfully, he came home. He passed away 19 years ago, but I am reminded of the great sacrifice he and others gave when I look at the shadow box on my piano with the American Flag presented to my mother on his passing, The inscription on the label is his name, and “Battle of the Bulge Patton’s Third Army, World War II.

  12. My father, Ralph Walker, fought in the Battle of the Bulge and earned his Purple Heart for injuries sustained there. God bless our military personnel stationed all over the world, fighting for the freedom that we often take for granted.

  13. My father, William (Bill) J. Cavanaugh, was with a unit that was surrounded by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge. On Christmas they were forced to abandon their equipment, black their faces and hike in the frozen dark through enemy lines. My father never spoke of it to his children, so I know this from what my mother told me after he was gone. He never missed a Midnight Mass, and we knew this was a vow he’d made because of something that had happened to him on Christmas during the war.

    He was with the 83rd Armored Recon Bttn, Company ‘A’. If someone knows about this unit’s history during the Battle of the Bulge, I would dearly love to know.

  14. My father, Fred George Veinfurt, was in the Battle of the Bulge I believe under Timmerman, possibly as a forward observer for artillery. He never spoke of it either, but never missed a war movie. He maintained he was in the first jeep to cross the Rhine river. His war records were destroyed in a fire at the Archives in St Louis, MO. He passed away in 1977, age 53.

  15. My dad, Donald A Reaume, was wounded at the “Bulge” on December 29, 1944, he always said he was in the hospital in England for days before he got warm. He also said he had been in the hospital for days unconscious and when he opened his eyes in that white room with an English nurse holding his hand, he thought he was dead and in heaven. Thankful for our.British friends who opened their hearts and homes to the “Yanks”

  16. what about the leopoldville disaster Christmas eve?

  17. My father TSgt Carroll Dean Stephenson, was a medic at the Battle of the Bulge. He was with the 30th Infantry, Old Hickory. Like so many others he didn’t talk about it much. He landed second wave at Normandy and went all the way through Europe until 1945 earning 5 Bronze Stars. He would mention things like how cold he was. He had some effects on his toes and he carried a shrapnel scar on his shin. When I see the documentaries it is just so hard to imagine what those soldiers endured.

    • My dad never spoke about the war, either. He got frostbitten feet during the Battle of the Bulge. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for all of those young men being in that situation on Christmas so far away from home. God bless them all.

  18. This day was my first Christmas in this Earth. I thank and salute all the brave soldiers who sacrificed so much to keep the America I love so much free! Too many today don’t know anything about what these men endured for us!

  19. My great-uncle, TSgt. Howard Deadman (known in the family as “Bill”), was in the 30th. He was killed Christmas Day. The family was never the same again. He received two Silver Stars for heroism during his service.

  20. My Father, William Robert Driver, was the corporal leading a platoon of far advanced reconnaissance soldiers. This platoon crossed behind enemy lines to observe what the Germans were doing and then come back across the lines to radio headquarters about what they observed. They observed the German forces dragging equipment to the front lines manually and with horses. His platoon radioed the coordinates of the equipment, but headquarters was short on bombs and other targets took priority. The lack of armaments is not mentioned very often but because there were not enough weapons to fully meet the demands of the war targets were missed. The consequence was the Battle of the Bulge, in which my father was wounded and one of his platoon killed.

    When we moved my father out of his home we discovered a letter he wrote to the son of the soldier who was killed telling him what his father was like because the boy never met his father. That precipitated the only conversation my brother and I ever had with Dad about the war. His memories were so vivid and so disturbing that he refused to let the terror of warfare effect his daily life. He loved his platoon mates and stayed in touch with them for the rest of his life.
    May our troops be well armed, well fed and honored and respected.

  21. My father, Major Stephen M. Gillespie was in the battle with 394th medical detachment to the 394th regiment of the 99th Infantry Division. My Dad never really talked about the battle, but he was wounded by a bullet next to his spine which, because of the location of the bullet, was never removed. He was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his action, and was mentioned in the book “The Longest Winter”.

  22. Reading this story and all of the comments brings tears to my eyes. I feel so sad that they suffered so much, but I am intensely grateful. Our country will need such patriots again. I am a woman, 66 years old, and I pray that I will be strong enough and healthy enough to serve in whatever capacity I am able. I have no faith in our youth (including my 37 year old son) because they have not had to work hard or do without. They don’t know a thing about our country, our constitution, and what it means to be American. They have an entitled attitude and it angers me. I know that there are exceptions, but this is what I see for the most part. God Bless America!

  23. My late father John W. Chapski was in the Battle of the Buldge. He drove an ammunition truck to the front line. He only talked about it in his 90’s. He said it was the coldest he had ever been! He told my sister how he had to take his turn going into the woods and picking up the dead. Imagine soldiers your own age, young men with their entire life ahead of them!! He, like many of them, never considered himself I hero, I did! My mom said he told her, the trucks were staggered, and he saw one blow up right in front of him!! He told me, “I told myself, I will never be taken prisioner!”

  24. My father, TSgt Joseph Hovanec, an optics technician, was in the 135th Ordnance Maintenance Battalion and was in the Battle of the Bulge. He only spoke of the cold and his feet were never warm again. He always had cold feet. His team maintained gun sights and other equipment.

  25. My Dad, James Travis Tolbert, was in the Signal Corps attached to Patton’s Third Army. He doesn’t remember quite where he was during the Battle of the Bulge. He will never forget how cold he was. He did take out a tank. They were in foxholes about two football fields away from the Germans. A tank was coming to his lines. He was the only one among the men who remembered how to take out a tank. He put a grenade down the top and two to blow the tracks off of its tracks.

    Additionally, he was the person who sent Eisenhower the telegram that the Germans had finally surrendered.

    • My father, Paul Richford Gilchrist, was attached to Eisenhower, and was the soldier that received that transmission and brought it to Eisenhower. They were kept under orders to not disclose this information for two days,(I believe it was. It has been years since I heard this story). What he did do, was apply for discharge, and was the first to do so, which ,the men in that office. suspecting that he knew something they did not, also signed up. But no one ever broke orders and told of the delay. I do have copies of that telegram, marked,” TOP SECRET”.

  26. Thank you for keeping this history alive. My uncle was killed on Christmas Day 1944 by a German sniper while on patrol near Echternach, Luxembourg. He was 25 years old. He’s buried in Luxembourg American Cemetery. His letters home are so poignant knowing his fate. I also can’t help crying when I think of what his last days were like during the Battle of the Bulge.

  27. My father-in-law, Arthur Seibert (RIP), was captured by the Germans towards the end of this battle and spent most of the rest of the war as a wounded prisoner in a POW hospital in Heppenheim, Germany He was shot in the leg during the battle, played dead in the snow, and was taken prisoner by German rear echelon troops before the their front line began retreat, His daughter and 2 grandchildren visited Germany this past spring and were able to walk the roads he walked as his division moved forward to support the American troops already fighting.

  28. B-17th Tank Battalion of the 7th Armored Division
    Should be Company B, 17th Tank Battalion of the 7th Armored Division. In today’s phontetic alphabet it would informally be known as Bravo Company, but then it was probably Baker Company.

    A member of our church when I was younger was named Harry Hoffman. He had been in the 28th Infantry Division, mostly the PA National Guard. Harry was captured and spent Christmas Eve in a German box car on a siding en route to the POW Camp. Harry spoke some Pennsylvania Dutch and could understand the Germans, but they could not understand him.

  29. My father was there, too. He never talked about it, and I was an adult before knowing the story.

  30. My uncle, Allan Bastian , was there with the 101st. He survived the war, and is still alive today. He’s 96 years old and remembers and now talks about his memories.

  31. After enlisting in October 1940 and nearly 3 years in Alaska, my Dad, PFC – T/5 Robert G. Willmott, joined the 101st Airborne Division Service Co 502nd Prcht Inf in September 1944 at their camp in France. Next up was the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne followed by crossing the Rhine and finishing up chasing German SS Officers through the Alps. He returned to the USA in June 1945 and was Honorably Discharged 1 July 1945. He retired as a Chief from the USN Reserve. He and I had a few very short conversations about his time in WWII. He died in June 2001 and is buried at Riverside National Cemetery in his home state of California.

  32. J.C. York from Atoka, Co. Oklahoma, made the long trip morth, and woke up to the sound of battle at the “BULGE” H lived to tell this story during a brake where I worked with him.

  33. About a survivor ….. I am a retired doctor. During the 1970s a patient of mine was Walter Replinsky. He told of being captured during the Battle of the Bulge.
    He said the Germans kept him and his unit in uniform and marched them thorugh Germans towns. The idea was to fool the local Germans that the Nazis wer actually winning. ! Walter survived, and died of natural causes during the 1980s
    God Bless him and all his brave buddies.

  34. To everyone:
    The U.S. still have the bravest fighters in the world.
    Look at past wars and the present ones that have
    been going on for decades.
    Thank you for your service American veterans and
    other allies.
    My father was with the 101st Abn. and was captured
    on 5 Jan 1945 at Bastogne and survived.

  35. There have always been brave and selfless men and women in wartime. There are a few who will not make the sacrifice for many reasons. I love to watch the HBO series called “Band of Brothers” partly for its depiction of the horrors of war especially during the battle of the bulge. I am sure it doesn’t do it justice, but I think it gives viewers a small idea of the sacrifice made by the soldiers who fought and suffered there.

  36. My Father-in-law believes his father was a participant in the Battle of the Bulge. Unfortianatly, the personnel office in St Lewis says his records were lost in the fire of 1973. I would love to find a record of his service in this battle. Does anyone have any ideas of other record sets I can use to prove this service?

  37. My Dad too spoke very little of his wartime years. And did so, only when faced with other life issues, and in very short statements that encourage total acceptance, but no further conversation. Dad was part of Company B, 413th Infantry Regiment, 104th Infantry Division. Campaigns; Northern France/Netherlands – 1944, Rhineland (Battle of the Bulge)1944-1945, Central Europe 1945.
    Recently I found a record of his (re) baptism by the Chaplain of his Regiment, on December 8, 1944. Given the efforts of his unit before and after that date, it is heartrending to think through a fraction of things he must have been thinking about and through at the time. It is my hope, that it gave him some grounding for the very difficult times he and his cohort went through. I am grateful to that chaplain, Rev Major Milton Berg for being there, and helping.

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