Saturday, December 16, 2006

Silent Night, 1944

I found an interesting story about Christmas during World War II for one soldier that I thought my readers might enjoy. Following is the story in the soldier's own words:

On 24 December 1944 I was spending my Christmas at a little place called Bastogne, Belgium, with the 101st Airborne Division. As many of you already know the story about the Battle of the Bulge, I won't go into all the details about how we were surrounded and outnumbered by the German Army. It was a cold, bitter, dark night and around about midnight surprisingly quiet.

All of a sudden, from the German position, we heard a single voice singing "Silent Night," in German. Soon more voices were added from the Germans. Suddenly, some American Soldier picked it up and before long most of us were singing along with the Germans. This went on for about 5 or 10 minutes and then stopped. A few minutes later we were back at each other, with guns blazing.

This incident has stayed in my memory all these years and when I hear Silent Night I remember. Later I talked to American, British and French Soldiers about it and some of them had experienced the same thing on whatever front they had been fighting on, (Italy, France, Holland). I have talked to Veterans of WWI and they tell similar stories.

In the middle of the worst battle of WWII there was Peace on Earth for a few minutes.

I can't imagine anything like that happening today, which is a pity.

For those not familiar with the history of World War II, the Battle of the Bulge, and the Battle of Bastogne in particular, the siege of Bastogne was lifted the day after Christmas, when a unit from Patton's Third Army broke through the German line and liberated the soldiers from the 101st Airborne holed up in the Belgian town. Before this happened, however, the Germans had sent a messenger to the commander of the Americans, General Anthony McAuliffe, urging him to surrender. McAuliffe's reply? One word -- "Nuts!"

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