It has been warm in the northeast this December, but this commentary isn't about the continuing debate on global warming and why George Bush supposedly has caused every calamity that has hit mankind in the past twenty years.
I am thinking about the weather because I recently was asked a question about the infamous World War II Battle of the Bulge that was raging in December 1944 in Europe between the Americans and British against German forces. It was bitter cold then, and snowing day after day, which worked in the favor of the Germans and against the Allies because they couldn't use their air power.
The battle started on Dec. 16 when the Germans launched a surprise counterattack against the Allies. German armored divisions backed by massed artillery and tens of thousands of infantry knocked the Allied forces back all along the line of attack. American and British casualties were in the thousands. Tens of thousands of American troops were taken prisoner.
The Allies were caught unawares for a number of reasons. First, their intelligence was lousy. They had virtually no idea that German troops and armor were massing in preparation for an attack.
Also, the Allied commanders had become complacent since D-Day. They had been pushing the Germans back mile by mile, day by day since June 6 and saw no reason to expect anything other than a continuation of that progress.
Many of the upper echelon commanders were thinking of the approaching Christmas holidays and taking leave in Paris or other major population centers. Then reality hit with the force of incoming artillery.
For the next thirty days the Allies were faced first with stopping the retreat of their forces, then consolidating their air, artillery, armor and infantry divisions. They had to deal with the loss of entire units and incredible confusion caused by German troops who had infiltrated the allied lines wearing American uniforms, speaking fluent English and creating havoc through various forms of sabotage.
But ultimately the tide turned. The Germans ran out of gas, American Gen. George Patton turned into the attack and fought German armor with his armor, the 101st Airborne Division put up a much better and more successful fight than the Germans had anticipated, and slowly but surely their attack was halted, then reversed.
The last day of fighting in that battle was Jan. 15, 1945, thirty days after it started. In that time the Germans lost 80,000 troops captured, and 20,000 killed or wounded.
American losses were horrendous. Our forces lost 19,000 killed, 23,554 captured and 38,000 wounded. There were also 1,400 British casualties of which 200 were killed.
But for the purposes of understanding American sacrifices and losses in past conflicts, the Battle of the Bulge, so named for the huge bulge that German troops caused in the Allied lines, stands right up there with places like Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Antietam.
Another reason I was thinking of this was that I heard someone from the US Congress, I think it was Ted Kennedy, but it could have been John Murtha or John Kerry, talking about the war in Iraq the other day. They were going on about how American troops couldn't win because after fighting there for nearly four years we have lost nearly 3,000 troops.
Beating Saddam Hussein's army apparently doesn't count. Helping create a democratically elected government doesn't count. Luring thousands of terrorists to Iraq where they are being killed every day, terrorists who otherwise would be carrying out attacks in the American homeland, doesn't count. At least it doesn't count to those in the US Congress and their supporters who would have us believe America is worn out, broken, and incapable of victory.
America is not worn out, it is not broken, our military is not stretched too thin and we most certainly can win. It has become fashionable in elitist circles recently to compare the War on Terror to World War II and Vietnam.
Both comparisons are false. There is no comparison. Unless, as they did in Vietnam, Congressmen like Kennedy and Murtha, abetted by the likes of John Kerry, once again desert an ally, hand victory to our defeated foes, set the stage for the murder of thousands if not millions of innocents, and drive America closer than ever to true defeat and irrelevance.
The Battle of the Bulge. Total American losses one more time for effect:
81,000 American casualties, including 23,554 captured, 19,000 killed and 38,000 wounded. All in 30 days. And we came back to win. Sobering view of reality isn't it?
Tuesday, December 19, 2006