Many of us are thinking our about our valiant soldiers in harm’s way this Christmas. How we hope they will all be safe! It is not, of course, the first time we’ve had soldiers putting their lives on the line at Christmas. Indeed, you might say that this is the way it all started (not that that makes it easier on families).
The Other Charlotte and I both hit upon a witty and moving piece by Byron York, who recalls another time U.S. soldiers were called upon to fight at Christmas, as the way to think of Christmas 2006 (I’m afraid we used some of the same quotes, but this is a piece that bears quoting again):
“‘Sir, this is Patton talking … You have just got to make up Your mind whose side You’re on. You must come to my assistance, so that I may dispatch the entire German Army as a birthday present to your Prince of Peace …? — Prayer of Gen. George S. Patton, Dec. 23, 1944
“It is with Patton’s plea to the Ultimate Commanding General that Stanley Weintraub opens his new book, “11 Days in December: Christmas at the Bulge, 1944.” The tale of the worst Christmas for American soldiers since Valley Forge, as Weintraub puts it, is especially resonant with American troops again in harm’s way on Christmas, this time in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they call on the same resources of bravery and perseverance as their forebears.”
U.S. soldiers rose to the occasion (as they are doing now):
“Soldiers who were lucky created makeshift Christmas trees by hanging grenades on pine trees. But GIs who were captured by the Germans were packed into boxcars in unsanitary conditions and got almost nothing to eat. ‘They filled the time wanly singing carols,’ Weintraub writes. ‘The Germans complained that it kept them awake and threatened to shoot if the songs didn’t cease.’
“At the front, German loudspeakers broadcast across the lines, ‘How would you like to die for Christmas?’ Americans didn?t intimidate so easily. One American soldier in the encircled city of Bastogne commented to another, ‘They?ve got us surrounded — the poor bastards.’ When a German commander demanded the surrender of the Americans at Bastogne, Gen. Anthony McAuliffe famously responded in a note, ‘To the German Commander: “Nuts!”
“It became clear that the Germans weren’t going to achieve a quick breakout. ‘Even broken American divisions,’ Weintraub writes, ‘evidencing courage and resourcefulness, had slowed, if not blunted, the German offensive beyond expectations on both sides. The Bulge was producing little strategic benefit.'”
We won that time, and it made the world a better place:
“One schoolmaster returning to his blasted classroom after the battle found a message scrawled on the blackboard from a distraught German officer: ‘From the ruins, out of blood and death shall come forth a brotherly world.’ Unlikely as it seemed at the time, he was right. The Allied victory created the predicate for a free Europe at peace. One prays that the Christmastime exertions by today’s American troops eventually create equally beneficent results.”
We will not be blogging (barring dramatic developments) until after the holidays. Inkwell wishes you all a happy and safe holiday season!