Jerome Corsi’s newest opus, No Greater Valor, examines the Siege of Bastogne—one of the most heroic victories of WWII—with a focus on the surprising faith of the Americans who fought there.
In December of 1944, an outmanned, outgunned, and surrounded US force fought Hitler’s overwhelming Panzer divisions to a miraculous standstill at Bastogne. The underdogs had saved the war for the Allies. It was nothing short of miraculous.
Corsi’s analysis is based on a record of oral histories along with original field maps used by field commanders, battle orders, and other documentation made at the time of the military command. With a perspective gleaned from newspapers, periodicals, and newsreels of the day, Corsi paints a riveting portrait of one of the most important battles in world history.
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About the Author
Jerome R. Corsi, Ph.D., is coauthor of Unfit for Command and author of The Obama Nation, both #1 New York Times bestsellers. Since 2004, Dr. Corsi has written six New York Times bestsellers on subjects including presidential politics, the economy, and Iran. He has appeared on Fox News, Fox Business, and MSNBC, as well as in hundreds of radio interviews. Dr. Corsi, who received his Ph.D. from the Department of Government at Harvard University in 1972, is a senior staff reporter with WND.com.
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No Greater Valor
The Siege of Bastogne and the Miracle That Sealed Allied Victory
By Jerome R. Corsi
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2014 Jerome R. Corsi
All rights reserved.
THE 101ST AIRBORNE CALLED FORWARD
Less than thirty-six hours after the start of the German counteroffensive, General Hodges, seeing the VIII Corps center give way under massive blows and having thrown his own First Army reserves into the fray plus whatever Simpson's Ninth could spare, turned to Bradley with a request for the SHAEF Reserve. Eisenhower listened to Bradley and acceded, albeit reluctantly; the two airborne divisions would be sent immediately to VIII Corps area. Orders for the move reached the chief of staff of the VIII Airborne Corps during the early evening of 17 December and the latter promptly relayed the alert to the 82nd and the 101st. —Hugh M. Cole, US Military Historian, The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge, 1988
Gen. Omar N. Bradley, as Eisenhower's second-in-command and the operational commander of all Allied forces in the European theater, was responsible for translating Eisenhower's strategic command decisions into operational orders given to various Allied units in the field during the Battle of the Bulge. As he evolved a battle plan for countering Hitler in the Ardennes, Bradley reached a decision that holding Bastogne was strategically important. "My decision to hold Bastogne, at all costs, had been anticipated by Middleton even as his front was crumbling to pieces," Bradley noted. "When I called Troy to give him the order to hold that crucial road junction, he replied that he had already instructed his troops there to dig in and hold."
Still, Bradley had in mind that Middleton's holding action at Bastogne was only temporary. Discussing his plans to defend should the Germans counterattack in the Ardennes, Bradley wrote: "If the Germans hit his sector, Middleton was to make a fighting withdrawal—all the way back to the Meuse River if necessary. We chose specific defensive positions he would hold. Since there were only a few roads through the area, we thought our tactical air forces could interdict them with relative ease, further delaying the Germans. Middleton was to locate no gasoline or food dumps, or anything else of value to the enemy, within that line of withdrawal." Bradley's plan was that Middleton should withdraw as slowly as possible, giving Bradley time to bring up reserve units to join the battle.
The news from the front was not good on the morning of December 17 as members of the SHAEF general staff gathered around a map. The Nazis were pressing Middleton's VIII Corps defense so hard that the units assigned there were beginning to fall back in confusion. The major reserves available were the 82nd Airborne and the 101st Airborne then in bivouac in France. "I think we should put them there," said Maj. Gen. J. F. M. Whiteley, the SHAEF assistant chief of staff, and "G-3," the officer in charge of SHAEF operations and combat deployment, pointing to Bastogne. "The place has the best road net in the area." Eisenhower and Bradley conferred by telephone, joined by Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, generally known as "Beetle" Smith, Eisenhower's chief of staff at SHAEF. "It appeared then that the enemy objective was no less than Liège and the Meuse River," Bradley recalled. "We three—and the staff present—agreed that our immediate defensive strategy would be first to hold the north and south 'shoulders' of the penetration, second to block the westward rush by holding the road hubs of St. Vith and Bastogne, and third to prepare strong defenses behind the Meuse River. Von Rundstedt might reach the Meuse, but he would go no farther. Ike gave orders for his reserve 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions to race to the Bastogne–St. Vith areas to reinforce units of the 7th, 9th, and 10th Armored Divisions. In addition, he ordered that the 11th Armored and the 17th Airborne Divisions be rushed from England to replace SHAEF reserve and help defend the Meuse River line."
Bradley knew that von Rundstedt might be able to reach the Meuse River, but he was determined he would let him go no farther. Holding crossroad towns like St. Vith and Bastogne would delay Rundstedt's advance. With Hitler's tanks edging toward them in the difficult winter terrain, capturing these two crossroad towns quickly was vital to the Germans' success. Bradley's first goal was to prevent the Wacht am Rhein offensive from adhering to the tight schedule both Hitler and the Allied command knew was critical. In launching the Ardennes counteroffensive, the Germans had the advantage of surprise. But once the counteroffensive had been launched, time worked to the German's disadvantage. The units available to Rundstedt were the last Hitler had and reinforcements were virtually non-existent, while all the Americans needed was time to deploy whatever forces were immediately available to delay the Germans so reserves could be fully engaged. In the final analysis, the 82nd and the 101st Airborne Divisions were important, but expendable. From the moment Hitler's Wacht am Rhein offensive began, how the generals on both sides played for time was the critical element that would ultimately determine the outcome of the battle.
The Fifth Panzer Army under General Hasso von Manteuffel brought four divisions against the Bastogne sector of Middleton's VIII Corps defenses. Manteuffel, like Rundstedt, was the son of a distinguished Prussian military family. In 1916, while fighting for the German infantry on the Western Front during World War I, Manteuffel had been wounded in battle. In Hitler's offensive against Stalin, Manteuffel commanded the 7th Panzer Division in Russia, and in 1944 was given command of the Gross Deutschland Panzer Division. He was one of the most decorated officers in the German army, holding the Iron Cross of the Knights Degree with Swords and Diamonds. With his extensive experience in battle, Manteuffel had joined Rundstedt in objecting to Hitler's plan for launching a counteroffensive in the Ardennes. Like Rundstedt, Manteuffel appreciated the difficulty of bringing large forces through the Ardennes in winter, since the tanks would have to travel on the limited network of roads available. Like Rundstedt, Manteuffel ultimately accepted his command in the Wacht am Rhein offensive, finally conceding it was futile to oppose Hitler in this last-ditch effort to stave off defeat.
As the battle began, Manteuffel knew that if he did not reach the Meuse River quickly, the Americans would have time to bring up sufficient defenses to deny him the crossing, causing the Wacht am Rhein offensive to stall. In their 2012 book, No Silent Night: The Christmas Battle for Bastogne, military historians Leo Barron and Don Cygan discussed a Wehrmacht planning meeting of senior officers before the winter counteroffensive was launched. "With such limited routes of travel toward the Meuse, road hubs like the Belgian towns of Bastogne and St. Vith became decisive terrain," Col. Heinz Kokott, commander of the 26th Volksgrenadier observed. "He [Kokott] realized what many of the other officers in the room must be thinking, but were afraid to yet voice: if the Wehrmacht failed to seize those two towns early on, it would be almost impossible to reach the Meuse River in four days."
At the start of the battle, General Baron Heinrich Freiherr von Lüttwitz, the commander of the 47th Panzer Corps was having trouble advancing against the dogged defense of the 28th Infantry Division to the east of Bastogne. Gen. Fritz Bayerlein, the commander of the distinguished Panzer Lehr Division, who came to prominence as Field Marshal Erwin Rommel's chief of staff during the North African campaign, was not able to dislodge the 28th in their defense of Hosingen and Holzhtum on the road to Bastogne. Bayerlein estimated the Americans had delayed his Panzer Lehr Division a crucial thirty-six hours. With this news, Manteuffel realized his precious timetable was coming apart, in the first hours of the battle, with the prospect developing that Bastogne would not fall to a quick strike, but could develop into a prolonged defense and a troublesome siege. Still, the left flank of the 28th Infantry was forced to withdraw to the west bank of the Our River and the right flank was pushed even further. But it was in the center of the 28th that the Germans made their greatest penetration, with one enemy salient thrusting through some eight miles and another some six miles. In the first day of battle on December 16, the Germans had advanced to within eleven miles of Bastogne.
"The woods are full of Jerries! The woods are full of Jerries!" The shouts went up as K Company, 112th Infantry Regiment of the 28th Infantry Division, was attacked outside Bastogne in the early morning hours of December 16, 1944. Lt. Ralph Larson, the platoon leader, knew the panicked, almost hopeless warnings from the forward guards meant trouble. "It was a cry I shall never forget," Larson recalled after the war. Larson ordered his men to leave their bunkers and occupy the forward ring of foxholes and slit trenches the unit had dug when they occupied this forward position. Larson knew they needed to defend themselves from any Germans that might emerge attacking from the woods. "There was no time for reflection," Larson said. "Instinctively I grabbed my helmet and carbine, as did the other two platoon members who had been sleeping in that particular dugout." Suddenly, a flare shot up and illuminated the area long enough for the Americans to see the distinct shapes of German soldiers a couple of hundred yards away in the woods, moving toward them.
Up and down the line, Larson remembered, the Yanks opened fire with M1 Garands and Browning Automatic Rifles, commonly known simply as BARs. Suddenly, Larson heard the Bunsen-burner-like sound of a flamethrower. "A German flamethrower went into action, barely missing our positions," he explained. "Rifle shots blared back and forth from both sides." The flamethrower found a victim somewhere in the distance, and the unfortunate GI burned like a torch for a few minutes before he collapsed in a charred heap. Twenty minutes later, when the firefight was over, Larson surveyed the damage, realizing he had lost his two forward sentries, and his temporary platoon sergeant was missing. He was told the man who was scorched to death was from the 3rd Battalion, but Larson did not know his name. There were four dead in the woods. Several others were wounded. Larson and the other Americans could hear the wounded Germans moaning somewhere in the darkness. Larson felt he had defended his position against a German patrol, but he had no idea he had just encountered the leading forces of the 560th Volksgrenadiers Division. All night long, thousands of them had worked their way through the no-man's-land and the wooded forests that honeycombed the area, wrote Professor John C. McManus in his 2007 book Alamo in the Ardennes.
By 1600 on December 16, German engineers attacking Bastogne had finished constructing armor-capable bridges at Gemund across the Our River and were moving Mark IV and Mark V Panzer tanks from the 2nd Panzer Division and Panzer Lehr into the battle; Manteuffel hoped his forces would have been across the Our River that morning, so they could dart into Bastogne while the American defenders were still in shock. But that had not happened. To Manteuffel's surprise, the disoriented infantrymen of the 28th reorganized quickly and fought back.
At Lutzkampen, another small Belgian town outside Bastogne, the Germans still had not crossed the Our even as the sun was setting. There the infantrymen of the 28th held off the Germans all day as the German tanks accompanied by hundreds of infantry soldiers attacked the southern end of the town. From a foxhole, Private Alexander Hadden of Company B, 112th Infantry of the 28th watched the advance of "the huge, black, obscene shapes" of a column of seven advancing German tanks. "They approached up the road from the middle of Lutzkampen toward one of the farmhouses used by the company," Hadden recalled. "All of a sudden there was a horrendous detonation from the cannon of the lead tank and the house collapsed and fell inward on itself in a shower of sparks." Small-arms fire erupted, tracers whizzed back and forth, and the Americans were mowing down columns of German infantry. But the tanks kept coming. One of them was a flamethrower. Private First Class Charles Huag of Company B heard screams. "We witnessed the most horrible thing any GI dreams of," he said. A flamethrower tank had stopped some fifty feet from an occupied foxhole. "As the two kids sat there helplessly, a gigantic stream of roaring fire shot in on them," Huag remembered, thinking it was hard to imagine a more horrible death. "They had been burned to a crisp."
By evening, the German tanks turned around and headed back into Lutzkampen. A lieutenant from Company B jumped from his foxhole, obviously high on adrenaline, and shouted, "We licked'em!" In their fury at being stopped, the Germans unleashed a massive artillery barrage battering Company B, Professor McManus noted. While damaged physically and psychologically, the infantry of the 28th Division still held the bridges crossing the Our at Lutzkampen. Doggedly, the 28th threw Manteuffel's timetable into disarray on this, the first day of the Battle of the Bulge.
CONFUSION AT CAMP MOURMELON
On December 16, as the Wacht am Rhein offensive began, the headquarters of the 101st Airborne Division was at "Camp Mourmelon" in Mourmelon-le-Grand in France. This was the Champagne country near Reims, about 150 kilometers (93 miles) northeast of Paris, a drive of some two hours by automobile, where the 101st was enjoying a much-deserved rest. But in the next few hours, their command assignment was going to change. The 101st Airborne consisted of three parachute infantry regiments, each with approximately 130 officers and 2,200 enlisted men: the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, or PIR; the 502nd PIR; and the 506th PIR. The 327th Glider Infantry Regiment rounded out the 101st Airborne's fighting power. Combined with various additional units including artillery and engineering, the 101st Airborne leaving Camp Mourmelon to head to Belgium was estimated at 805 officers and 11,035 men. The 82nd, also in bivouac in France, and the 101st were the best combat-tested reserve divisions available to SHAEF for immediate deployment to reinforce the Ardennes front. At that time, both divisions were under the command of Gen. Matthew Ridgway, commanding officer of the XVIII Airborne Corps.
At 0800 hours on the morning of December 17, Brig. Gen. Anthony "Tony" McAuliffe received a phone call from of the staff of the XVIII Airborne Corps ordering him to prepare for an immediate departure to join Middleton's VIII Corps in the Ardennes. General Ridgway at that time was preparing to leave XVIII Airborne Corps rear headquarters in Wiltshire, England, to rush to France. This order was reaffirmed when at 2030 hours Lt. Col. Ned D. Moore, chief of staff of the 101st and the officer McAuliffe had assigned to organize the pullout from Mourmelon, received a call from Col. Ralph D. Eaton, chief of staff of the XVIII Airborne Corps, confirming General Ridgway's directive. Eaton told Moore the destination of the 101st was to be Werbomont, a small Belgian town to the northwest of Bastogne. At 2100 McAuliffe assembled the division staff and explained, "All I know is that there has been a breakthrough and we have got to get up there." He directed the division staff to prepare the various units of the 101st to move out of Camp Mourmelon immediately, without waiting for the men on pass in Paris or elsewhere to get back to camp.
Combat journalist MacKenzie accurately stated that McAuliffe, when he assembled division staff that evening, was operating on the very sketchy information then available to the 101st's G-2 intelligence officer, Lt. Col. Paul A. Danahy. "What exactly was the situation at the front? The information that Danahy had furnished General McAuliffe was passed on to the group. What exactly were they supposed to do?" The problem was that nobody seemed to know for sure. MacKenzie observed that a circle had been drawn with black crayon around the speck on the map labeled "Werbomont" in eastern Belgium. Lt. Col. Julian J. Ewell, the commander of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, noticed that across the area at the German border "ARDENNES" was printed in type larger than that designating the populated areas. "That," Ewell proclaimed, pointing, "is where the Germans always come out of Germany looking for trouble."
Ewell did not mention that he had visited Bastogne in recent weeks, eager after the intense combat in Holland to take "a busman's holiday." Anxious to satisfy his curiosity about the ancient battlefield, Ewell had taken a personal tour of Bastogne and the vicinity. As a result, Ewell had the unique advantage among all the officers of the 101st that he had personally walked in recent weeks every square inch of the Bastogne battlefield, providing him with information and insight that was to prove invaluable in the days ahead.
Excerpted from No Greater Valor by Jerome R. Corsi. Copyright © 2014 Jerome R. Corsi. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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Table of Contents
Section I: "Hold Bastogne!", 1,
1. The 101st Airborne Called Forward, 7,
2. The Scramble to Reach Bastogne, 23,
3. A Massive Intelligence Failure, 55,
Section II: The Defense of Bastogne Takes Shape, 73,
4. The Germans Sense a Quick Victory, 75,
5. Bastogne Buys Time, 89,
6. The "Hole in the Doughnut" Develops, 103,
Section III: Patton Heads North, 133,
7. A Daring Plan, 137,
8. A Prayer for Victory, 157,
9. McAuliffe Digs In, 169,
Section IV: "Nuts!", 193,
10. An Offer to Surrender, 197,
11. The Bad Weather Breaks, 213,
12. The German Attack Resumes, 229,
Section V: Bastogne Holds: A Christmas Day Miracle, 247,
13. The Christmas Eve Bombing, 251,
14. The Christmas Day Attack, 271,
Conclusion: No Greater Valor, 291,
About the Author, 357,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Previous review thats says this is conservative screed, must be by some angry liberal disappointed by Obama's failure. The book was good.
Read the review by Alvin C Wilson on Amazon.