Memorial Day held a special significance for me this year. My maternal grandfather recently passed. He was 97 years old and an Army vet who fought in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. He and my grandmother had two daughters — my mom and my aunt. My grandfather was of a generation that didn’t talk much about the war.
As a curious kid I peppered him with questions to extract war stories. He loved baseball. He was a Braves fan. We would watch baseball together and in those times he would talk about the war. I learned a lot about World War II, and so my take-away has always been, we all think to some degree that we’ve had tough times, but we haven’t seen anything compared to those who have gone to war in support of our country.
The Battle of the Bulge (1944–1945) was the largest and bloodiest land battle of that war, fought along an 80-mile front. After D-Day, Hitler’s plan was to mount an all-out eleventh-hour campaign to split the Allied armies that were advancing on Germany.
With 20 infantry and panzer divisions, nearly 1,500 tanks and 2,000 guns, in December of 1944, the German army attacked and pressed some 50 miles into the Allies line in the Ardennes forest of southern Belgium and Luxembourg.
Lacking air coverage, initially out-manned, in record-breaking freezing winter and knee deep snow, Americans land forces pushed the Germans back. By the time the battle ended in January 1945, more than a million men — 500,000 Americans, 600,000 Germans and 50,000 British had fought on that frozen ground. More than 75,000 Americans were killed, wounded, or captured. There were an estimated 1,500 British and 100,000 German casualties
Winston Churchill said of the battle, “This is undoubtedly the greatest American battle of the war, and will be regarded as an ever-famous American victory.”
As a nation and as individuals, we owe a lot to the men and women who, like my grandfather, fought and are still fighting our wars. This is good week for us all to remember that.