Wednesday 28th January 2015

Home » Featured Today » Currently Reading:

Christmas 1944: Victory Denied

December 17, 2013 Featured Today No Comments

By MICHAEL D. HULL

Allied hopes for a victory over Nazi Germany by the end of 1944 were dashed by the failure of Operation Market-Garden, the massive airborne invasion of Holland, that September.
But the enemy forces in Western Europe, while fighting stubbornly, were nevertheless on the retreat as the British, U.S., and Canadian armies pushed doggedly eastward. A sense of euphoria persisted in the Allied headquarters, and many soldiers — generals, field marshals, and men on the front lines — still clung to the hope that the European war might be over by Christmas.
Such optimism then vanished abruptly early on the morning of Saturday, December 16, 1944, when 25 German armored and infantry divisions rolled through thinly held American lines in the snow-clad, foggy Ardennes Forest, punching a 50-mile bulge in a bid to split the U.S. and British Armies and seize the strategic port of Antwerp. Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler’s last major offensive threw the Allied command into disarray for several critical hours and ensured that a yuletide victory had been nothing more than a pipe dream. GIs’ plans for well-earned furloughs in Paris were shattered.
After the initial panic and confusion in Belgium and Luxembourg when many American troops fled, abandoning their positions and weapons, the Allied forces regrouped and fought back. Elements of Lt. Gen. George S. Patton Jr.’s Third Army wheeled in to stiffen the units in the Bulge, Gen. Sir Brian Horrocks’ British 30th Corps defended the strategic River Meuse, and the German thrust was eventually blocked.
In the Bulge, American soldiers now fought valiantly while enduring miserable weather and deprived of air support and vital supplies. Thoughts of any respite and cheer during the coming festive season had been rudely interrupted, but the GIs nevertheless set up makeshift Christmas trees in command posts and foxholes, sang carols, prayed with visiting chaplains, and shared the contents of their packages from home with local children.
A bleak yuletide faced the residents and American defenders of Bastogne, a small town in southeastern Belgium that was the junction of seven highways and lay on the center line of the German advance. It became a vital objective for both sides. Men of the 101st Airborne (Screaming Eagle) Division stood firm there for six days as three German panzer and grenadier divisions surrounded them. The defenders were outnumbered four to one as Bastogne was hammered by artillery, mortars, and bombs.
After famously saying “Nuts!” to a German surrender demand on December 22, Brig. Gen. Anthony C. “Old Crock” McAuliffe, the scrappy little deputy commander of the 101st Airborne Division, declared, “We are giving our country and our loved ones at home a worthy Christmas present, and, being privileged to take part in this gallant feat of arms, are truly making for ourselves a merry Christmas.”
As Christmas 1944 approached, Allied forces were battling forward on all fronts.
The Canadian First Army cleared the Scheldt Estuary; Patton’s Third Army crossed the Saar and Moselle Rivers; Royal Air Force Lancaster heavy bombers sank the German battleship Tirpitz in a Norwegian fjord; U.S. B-29 Superfortress bombers began bombing Tokyo; the British Second Army reduced the German pocket west of the River Maas; Gen. Sir William Slim’s “Forgotten” British Fourteenth Army overwhelmed fanatical Japanese forces at Arakan, Kohima, and Imphal in Burma. And U.S. Navy ships started softening up Iwo Jima for an invasion; British troops vanquished Communist insurgents in Greece; the British Eighth Army opened a three-corps offensive in Italy, and the long-awaited liberation of the Philippine Islands by Gen. Douglas A. MacArthur’s U.S. armies was underway.
Meanwhile, powerful RAF Bomber Command and U.S. Army Air Forces formations intensified their pounding of Nazi targets in Europe, and the Red Army advanced into Hungary and Czechoslovakia while relentlessly pushing the frayed Wehrmacht back toward its homeland.
In the United States, families chafed at the rationing of sugar, meat, coffee, gasoline, and rubber, but cheerfully prepared for Christmas and prayed for peace. They hung holly wreaths on front doors and blue-and-gold-star banners in windows denoting that fathers, sons, and brothers were in uniform and far from home. They sat around living-room radios and listened to Ozzie and Harriet Nelson debuting on CBS and Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers on the Mutual Broadcasting System.
In cinemas that festive season, Americans found escape from their cares by watching Frank Capra’s whimsical Arsenic and Old Lace, starring Cary Grant, Raymond Massey, and Peter Lorre; Double Indemnity, with Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck; Gary Cooper and Teresa Wright in the comedy, Casanova Brown; John Cromwell’s Since You Went Away, the sensitive story of a family at war, starring Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotten, and Monty Woolley, and Vincente Minnelli’s captivating period musical, Meet Me in St. Louis, with Judy Garland, Margaret O’Brien, Tom Drake, and Mary Astor.
On Broadway, theatergoers saw the opening of On the Town, a musical about sailors on leave in New York, later to become a vibrant MGM film starring Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, and Vera-Ellen.
In his fourth wartime Christmas Eve address, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said he found it “not easy to say ‘Merry Christmas’ to you, my fellow Americans, in this time of destructive war.” Surrounded by relatives and friends at his Hyde Park, N.Y., estate, he sat before a radio microphone and declared, “Here, at home, we will celebrate this Christmas Day in our traditional American way — because of its deep spiritual meaning to us, because the teachings of Christ are fundamental in our lives, and because we want our youngest generation to grow up knowing the significance of this tradition and the story of the coming of the immortal Prince of Peace and goodwill.”
Across the Atlantic, where December 1944 brought hoarfrost, fog, and low temperatures to Britain, the archbishop of York was hopeful in his yuletide message. “This is the sixth Christmas of the war,” he noted. “But it will be happier for most of us than the preceding five. The danger of invasion has passed, and the worst of the air raids are over. With quiet confidence we see the end in sight.”
But British families, exhausted and dispirited from more than five years of bombings, military setbacks, severe rationing, and the loss of many loved ones, faced a frugal and joyless yuletide. The Ministry of Food eased restrictions slightly on sugar, margarine, meat, and candy for the Christmas period, but shortages remained acute and corned beef had to substitute for turkey on many dinner tables.
W.J. Wheatley recalled later, “Nineteen forty-four was a strange Christmas. After the success of the [Normandy] invasion and the advance through France, you would have thought the mood would have been cock-a-hoop, but it was not. . . . Many had thought the war would be over by this Christmas, but it still dragged on.”
The Germans dropped less than 2,000 tons of bombs on Britain in 1944, but they resumed their assault that June with V-weapons — deadly V-1 and V-2 rocket bombs that fell without warning and caused widespread devastation. At least 100 V-2s landed on Britain in December, and almost 8,500 civilians had been killed by Christmas.

Courage And Faith In God

The 1944 birthday of Jesus Christ was clouded by two tragedies that would stun millions in the Allied family of nations.
While approaching the port of Cherbourg on Christmas Eve, the troopship Leopoldville, carrying 2,000 American reinforcements to the Battle of the Bulge, was torpedoed by a German U-boat. Crippled in heavy, icy seas, the ship sank in two and a half hours. Almost 800 GIs perished.
Just after 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve, the BBC interrupted a broadcast to announce that Major Glenn Miller, famed leader of the Army Air Forces Band, was missing over the English Channel. Miller, whose music did much to lift Allied morale, had left foggy England on December 13 for a Christmas concert in Paris.
Despite their many tribulations, stoic Britons “carried on” as they had for five years. They cheered themselves with seasonal pantomimes, parties, soccer and rugby matches, and BBC variety shows and comedy. In the cinemas, they watched Lancashire comedian George Formby in He Snoops to Conquer; Abbott and Costello in In Society; Christmas Holiday, starring Deanna Durbin and Gene Kelly; Laurence Olivier and Robert Newton in the epic Henry V, and Western Approaches, a classic documentary about the Merchant Navy.
Inland churches were allowed to light up their stained-glass windows for the first time since the outbreak of war, and King George VI sought to hearten the people with his traditional Christmas afternoon message.
“The defeat of Germany and Japan is only the first half of our task,” he said. “The second is to create a world of free men untouched by tyranny. I wish you, from my heart, a happy Christmas, and, for the coming year, a full measure of that courage and faith in God which alone enables us to bear old sorrows and face new trials, until the day when the Christmas message — peace on earth and goodwill towards men — finally comes true.”

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

Notre Dame theologian known for books, liberal stands, dies

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — The Rev. Richard McBrien, a University of Notre Dame theologian known for his unabashed liberal stands on various church teachings and his popular books on Catholicism, died Sunday in his native Connecticut, according to the…Continue Reading

Bankruptcy case brings financial fears for Catholic schools

As president of an inner-city Catholic grade school that depends critically on donations, Helen Dahlman admits to an unconventional fundraising strategy. “We believe in miracles, so we pray a lot,” said Dahlman, who leads Risen Christ School in south Minneapolis,…Continue Reading

Cardinal: No pro-life victory without reaching the marginalized

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2015 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- For the pro-life movement to truly succeed, it must fight not only abortion, but also the broader “throwaway culture” wherever life is being discarded, said Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston…Continue Reading

70 Churches Destroyed in ‘Anti-Charlie Hebdo’ Protests

The Christian community in Niger says it is in shock in the wake of weekend violence that has claimed the lives of 10 people and led to the destruction of dozens of places of worship and Christian homes. The protest,…Continue Reading

ITALY: Muslims smash, urinate on statue of Mary

A man was kneeling in prayer before the statue of the revered Madonna, with the photograph of a loved one in hand, in the small chapel of St. Barnabas in Perugia (Italy), when he was attacked by five “immigrants.” The…Continue Reading

At new in-flight press conference Francis says good Catholics are not required ‘to be like rabbits’

Catholics fail to practise “responsible parenthood” when they have too many children, Pope Francis has said during an in-flight press conference on the way home from Manila. He also denounced the teaching of “gender theory” in schools, likening it to…Continue Reading

CRUX’s “spirituality columnist” is “devastated” the Pope upholds Catholic teaching

Margery Eagan appears to be angling for a job as editor of National “Catholic” Reporter. Or perhaps spokesman for the LCWR: The news that Pope Francis has strongly defended the Church’s ban on artificial birth control left me, in a word, devastated. Goodness. Even…Continue Reading

St. Paul-Mpls. archdiocese declares bankruptcy in response to abuse lawsuits

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Friday, saying it cannot meet its financial obligations from an unprecedented wave of clergy sex abuse lawsuits. The move freezes lawsuits against the church, protecting the archdiocese…Continue Reading

Pope Francis strongly defends church teaching against contraception

Pope Francis issued his strongest defense yet of church teaching opposing artificial contraception on Friday, using a rally in Asia’s largest Catholic nation to urge families to be “sanctuaries of respect for life.” Francis also denounced the corruption that has plagued…Continue Reading

Bella Dodd, who rejected Communism in favour of faith, is a lesson for young jihadis

Her story shows how easily the best human impulses can be twisted to evil Having blogged last week about John Beaumont’s book, The Mississippi Flows Into The Tiber, with all the extraordinary, uplifting and grace-filled stories of conversion that it…Continue Reading

Fox News’ Bret Baier, actor Gary Sinise cancel on Catholic group after gay gripes

FOX News Channel’s chief political anchor, Bret Baier, has shown himself to have a thinner skin than might be guessed from his on-air persona.  Baier has caved in to pressure from the homosexual activist group ‘Good as You’ to back…Continue Reading

Federal judge strikes down South Dakota’s gay marriage ban

SIOUX FALLS – A federal judge has declared South Dakota’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, but has stayed the decision pending appeal. U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier on Monday issued a summary judgment in favor of the six couples who filed…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to subscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.

 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading

Today . . .

Pope’s Morning Homily: Obeying God’s Will is the Path to Holiness

Rome, January 27, 2015 (Zenit.org) Junno Arocho Esteves Obedience to the will of God is the path of holiness. This was the main theme of Pope Francis’ homily during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta. Today’s first reading from the Letter to the Hebrews explained that the sacrifices of old were not enough “for it is impossible that…Continue Reading

Pope Francis: Women First And Foremost In Transmitting Faith

pope714

(Vatican Radio) The primary and indispensable role of women in transmitting the faith to new generations: this was the focus of Pope Francis’ remarks to the faithful following the readings of the day at Mass on Monday morning in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence in the Vatican. On the day when the Church celebrates the memory of Saints…Continue Reading

Pope Angelus: Jesus Wanted United Christians

(Vatican Radio) On Sunday and before the Angelus, the Pope recalled the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and its theme, “Give me a drink”, the sentence uttered by Jesus to the Samaritan woman. He told the faithful gathered that the “desire for unity” of the disciples of Jesus is part of our “thirst not only material for water, but…Continue Reading

Pope Francis: Religious who pray for Christian unity an “invisible monastery”

(Vatican Radio) The vital role that men and women religious of different Christian Churches play in the ecumenical journey was at the heart of Pope Francis’s meeting on Saturday with participants in a conference on consecrated life and the search for Christian Unity. The three day meeting, which concludes on Sunday, comes in the context of both this Week of…Continue Reading

Obama’s Tax On Stay-At-Home Moms

By TERENCE P. JEFFREY President Obama’s disrespect for motherhood has manifested itself in policies ranging from support for same-sex marriage to defense of a form of abortion that involves forcing a baby into a drug-induced premature delivery and then leaving that little one to die. When it comes to the most vulnerable and innocent human…Continue Reading

A Book Review… Dietrich Von Hildebrand’s Heroic Witness In Perilous Times

By STEPHANIE BLOCK My Battle Against Hitler: Faith, Truth, and Defiance in the Shadow of the Third Reich by Dietrich von Hildebrand. Translated and edited by John Henry Crosby with John F. Crosby, Image Books (2014); $28.00; 335 pages. My Battle Against Hitler, a posthumously published memoir and collection of essays by “20th century Doctor…Continue Reading

“I Can’t Breathe”… The Plight Of The Preborn

By REY FLORES (Editor’s Note: This article is reprinted from www.all.org, the website of American Life League. All rights reserved.) + + + This past year has seen race relations decline as a result of a well-orchestrated attempt by a corrupt government that wants to divide us at all costs. And the propaganda peddlers known…Continue Reading

“Flee Immorality,” Church Unity, & Right To Life March

By JOHN F. KIPPLEY (Editor’s Note: John F. Kippley is the author of Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality and other books and articles. With his wife Sheila, he is a coauthor of Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach and cofounder of NFP International. This commentary appeared on his January 18 blog…Continue Reading

A Book Review . . . Christianity’s Gift To The World

By JUDE DOUGHERTY Siedentop, Larry. Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2014. Pp. viii + 434. Does it still make sense to still talk about the West in what some call a “post-Christian world”? Larry Siedentop, emeritus fellow of Keble College, Oxford, asks, “Can the West still be…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

A Leaven In The World.. Papal Bloopers And Catholic Teaching

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK Pope Francis continues to grab headlines, not only by setting a new record for drawing the largest crowd in history, but also by his question and answer sessions on the planes to and from his pastoral visits. On the plane to the Philippines, the Pope responded to questions about free speech and violent responses to…Continue Reading

Mary’s Perpetual Virginity . . . The Faith Of The Early Christians

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 6 What did the Early Christians believe about the Catholic doctrine on the perpetual virginity of the Mother of Jesus? Those men, women, and children who sacrificed everything for the true faith — even their very own lives? They were imprisoned, tortured, murdered. Some were burned alive, racked, beheaded. Others were crucified, flayed alive,…Continue Reading

I Believe — We Believe

By DON FIER Over the past three weeks of this series on the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), we have been reflectively examining the characteristics of the indescribably wonderful gift of faith that Almighty God has so generously availed mankind. As so adeptly summarized in the Compendium of the CCC, we know that faith is “the supernatural virtue which…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. I remember a nun telling us back in Catholic school that after God ejected Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, He promised that He would eventually send them a Messiah. Where is that in the Bible? — M.R., Indiana. A. In chapter 3 of the Book of Genesis. Actually, the promise was made before God expelled our…Continue Reading

Joy And Fulfillment

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Fourth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR B) Readings: Deut. 18:15-20 1 Cor. 7:32-35 Mark 1:21-28 In the first reading today God makes a promise and a command. He promises that He will raise up for the people a Prophet like Moses. At the same time, He requires that the people will listen to that Prophet because…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Mutien Marie Wiaux

By CAROLE BRESLIN A few decades ago, when Catholic schools taught religion from the Baltimore Catechism, one of the first questions children learned was, “Why did God make you?” The answer was, “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.” The Catechism…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Anthony Of Egypt, Abbot

By CAROLE BRESLIN While we can understand that God is infinite, it is difficult to comprehend the stretch of such infinity. Certainly our finite minds cannot begin to comprehend it. Hence, since our minds our finite, the more we have cluttering our minds with worldly affairs such as possessions, relationships, and activities, the less time and room we have in…Continue Reading