Arlington, Virginia. (January 25, 2024): Seventy-nine years ago, American troops were fighting for their lives in a winter hellscape called Bastogne in one of the bloodiest struggles in World War II, the Battle of the Bulge. In this photo by Elizabeth Fraser, Darrell Bush, 99, a former U.S. Army Staff Sergeant and a WWII veteran of the Battle of the Bulge, attends a ceremony commemorating the anniversary at Arlington National Cemetery.
The Battle of the Bulge, also known as the Ardennes Offensive, was a surprise winter German attack through the dense forests between Belgium and Luxembourg in December 1944. It was Hitler’s final desperate attempt to split the allies and capture the Belgian port of Antwerp. If successful, the Germans would be able to encircle and destroy the Allied armies. The Fuhrer hoped a victory would force the western Allies to negotiate a peace treaty in the Axis powers' favor.
What Hitler did not count on was the Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne Infantry Division.
Surrounded by five German armored divisions at the tiny Belgian town of Bastogne, the 101st valiantly held off countless attacks long enough to blunt the German invasion. The troops suffered through unimaginably harsh, wintry conditions in sub-zero temperatures and under relentless artillery fire.
The battle ended the day after Christmas when the lead element of Patton's U.S. Third Army reached Bastogne. The 101st Airborne Division's casualties were 341 killed, 1,691 wounded, and 516 missing. Several regiments within the 101st were nicknamed "The Battered Bastards of Bastogne", due to their part in holding the important crossroads town during the battle. Allied forces suffered more than 83,000 casualties, including at least 8,600 killed. The "Bulge" was the largest and bloodiest single battle fought by the United States in World War II.
A grateful nation is honored to celebrate the extraordinary courage and dedication of men like Staff Sergeant Bush.
(P.S. No member of the 101st Airborne has ever felt they needed “rescue” by General Patton.)