American service members have often spent their holidays away from loved ones — and in harm’s way — and the men who found themselves in the besieged Belgian city of Bastogne just before Christmas of 1944 were no exception.
Bastogne, which sits just a few miles from the border of Luxembourg, had been under German control since May of 1940 and had only been liberated by Allied troops a few months earlier in September — and much of the 101st Airborne Division remained in and around the city.
Other divisions were scattered throughout the surrounding area, many composed of replacement troops who had only recently arrived in Europe: among them were elements of the 106th Infantry “The Golden Lions,” the 9th Armored “Phantom” Division, and the 28th Infantry “The Bloody Bucket.” Some were still waiting for supply drops, ammunition, and even winter uniforms.
The surprise attack began on December 16th when German Panzer divisions pushed back towards Bastogne, catching the mostly-green American troops in the frozen Ardennes Forest off guard and breaking through roadblock after roadblock. Some put up a good fight, but many were driven back into Bastogne and forced to regroup.
On December 17th, just outside of a nearby town…