On Christmas Eve, the
holiest of nights for the many Christian peoples of Europe, Adolf Hitler was
unleashing the full fury of his remaining Luftwaffe bomber force on Bastogne.
was the holdout city, center of Allied resistance to Hitler’s Wacht am Rhein
(Watch on the Rhein) offensive—the German surprise attack in the west that
would become known among the Allies as the Battle of the Bulge. The battle that
would result from Hitler’s orders would become the climactic event of the
Bastogne saga: a rapid-fire, desperate assault by overwhelming German armored
might, defended in bloody struggles by the ragged and weapons-strapped GIs
trapped in Bastogne. It would be either the last stand of the American
defenders or the culmination of the German drive to capture the vital
crossroads. Either way pointed to a climactic showdown—a desperate bloodbath in
the snowy fields of Bastogne.
For hundreds of German and American soldiers
facing off in the siege, the events of Christmas 1944 would destroy any sense
of holiness and peace on earth. For the soldiers on both sides, and for the
brave people of Bastogne, this would be no silent night.
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