Getting Something off my Chest
For all you current and former Puking Buzzards, don't take me too seriously here. It's just a little professional rivalry and mocking. But I've been thinking of this for awhile, and I just have to rant a bit here.
I realize that the whole Bastogne thing is very courageous and inspiring and all. You know, surrounded and cut off, standing up to the odds, "Nuts" and all that. But in reality, how much did the stand at Bastogne really affect the overall outcome of the Battle of the Bulge? Here's an excerpt from an article on the Bulge by Wesley Johnston over at the Dad's War website. You can find the same info in a number of books on the subject.
....Even when the 7th Armored Division had reached St. Vith, it was the troops on the northern shoulder and the newly arrived 82nd Airborne Division that kept a very narrow escape route open for the virtually surrounded defenders of St. Vith. But once the defense of St. Vith was set up, that defense also bolstered the defense of the northern shoulder, as both defenses forced the German columns off of their planned routes and led to considerable congestion as the Gemran columns were then funneled in between the northern shoulder and the St. Vith salient.
But what about Bastogne? In popular thinking, the Battle of the Bulge is synonymous with the Battle of Bastogne. This is very unfortunate, since it ignores the real military keys (holding the northern shoulder and holding St. Vith) to the defeat of the Germans. Journalists hungry for some sign of American success at stopping the German onslaught played up the defense of Bastogne, where Gen. Anthony McAuliffe (101st Airborne Division) said "Nuts" to a German surrender demand...... This was truly heroic stuff. But from a military strategy point of view, while Bastogne was a strategically important major road junction for sustaining the attack, it was on the periphery of the attack and well behind the initial front lines. The German plan was to have the panzers bypass Bastogne...... And the panzers did succeed in bypassing Bastogne, so that their plan in that sector was on schedule..... from a strategic perspective, the German fate had already been sealed at St. Vith, when they could not take that critical supply center on Day 2 - nor on Days 3, 4, 5, and most of 6. Bastogne did not become surrounded by forces intent on taking it until the night of December 21, Day 6 of the Battle of the Bulge. And the famous "Nuts" did not come until December 22, Day 7. Heroic as the deeds of the defenders of Bastogne were, the defense of Bastogne is a very important secondary element but not one of the true strategic keys to the German failure.
A little long I know. But the point is, even though the defense of Bastogne is thought of as the main part of the Battle of the Bulge, it was really a secondary element. In fact, the Germans succeeded in taking their initial objective in that area. With as much press as the Screaming Chickens get for Bastogne, you'd think they won the whole battle themselves. Clearly, this is a somewhat mistaken viewpoint.
But I can't lie. When I was going through OSUT and Airborne, I wanted to be in the 101st. Of course, at that point I didn't realize that they didn't really jump anymore. So once I found that out, it was much to my relief when I was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. I suppose I could say more on the issue, but most of it would just end up as a rambling rant(not that this wasn't). But I'll leave all you air assault troopers with this little cadence "Stand up, hook up, slide down the rope, air assault troopers ain't nothin' but a joke!"