Christmas Memories - 1944 --- The Battle of The Bulge
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(Jul 13, 2006)
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Winston Churchill called it "The Greatest Battle of World War II" and he was probably right. Now it is 60 years past and few of the "Veterans of The Battle of The Bulge" remain to tell the story. Some cannot tell the story because the pain is too great. Others manage the pain, urging themselves to tell this heroic story for posterity. It was the last great effort by Hitler's war machine to stop the Allied advance into the Fatherland and push them back to the sea. Just a few days before Christmas, 1944, in the American Sector of the Ardennes Forest, the Nazi Army launched its attack. It was one of the coldest winters on record. Snow was two feet deep with drifts five feet deep. The ensuing weeks were among the deadliest of the entire war for both sides. Over a million soldiers were engaged on both sides. Six hundred thousand were Americans and 55,000 British. The German Army fielded 500,000 troops. The Allies and the Germans each suffered about 81,000 casualties. Raymond S. Buch, a veteran of the battle, and a sergeant with the Army Engineers of the 11th Armored Division, recalls the concern. If the Germans broke through their lines, the Allies would be pushed back to the sea. "Not until December 30 did we start to push them back, and to celebrate New Years Eve, American Forces fired all the artillery pieces at once. The combined muzzle flashes reflecting off the sky made the snowscape as bright as day".
The National Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge organized in 1981 and now has more than 50 chapters in the United States and Europe. Mr. Buch, a former president of the Picatinny Chapter in New Jersey, encouraged fellow veterans to sit for interviews of their most vivid memories of Christmas, that year. The resulting one-hour video is now available on DVD. Bonus footage of 'home movie' reels shot mostly by Mr. Buch in training and at war in Europe is included on the DVD. One reel depicts a newly libertated concentration camp. There is a stark contrast between the old veterans telling their memories and the young soldiers captured on film in the 1940's. This is an informative and educational film experience.
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