The weather turned clearer but colder on Christmas Day, finally allowing the Allied fighter bombers to enter the battle. The Germans remained frustrated, not having made the progress they had sought, in several places they sought to make a final push, sensing that the Allied response was now gathering pace.
For tens of thousands of men the day was spent in a slit trench on the Belgium- German border
December 25, and a Merry Christmas to you.
Last night after chow we relieved a squad that had been on line for several days. So I spent Christmas Eve and will spend Christmas Day in a dugout facing the German lines. Ah there, Adolf! Frohliche Weinachten!
It was a beautiful and grim Christmas Eve. Shorty and I spelled each other on guard throughout the bitter cold night.
The cold I could endure, but an additional misery landed on me in the middle of the night. I got the GIs! That’s always a tragedy, of course — although in nonnal life, with the luxury of a civilized bathroom at hand, it would seem only an embarrassing annoyance – but this time the tragedy was of major proportions.
You see, our dugout is on the crest of a hill, smack in the middle of an open ﬁeld and with never a bush or tree to provide cover. It’s not modesty that bothers us, you understand: it’s snipers.
We peer anxiously in the direction of the German lines, unbutton our pants in the dugout, hold them up with one hand while we clamber out, and get the business over in a hurry. We wipe on the run — our naked and chilled buttocks quivering in anticipation of a bullet — and button up again when we’re once more safe in the dugout.
A half-naked man crouching on a hilltop is a defenseless creature, unnerved by the constant sense of his nakedness framed in the sights of an enemy riﬂe. I winced and shook each time I dropped my pants, expecting every moment to be caponized by a German sniper who combined marksmanship with a macabre sense of humor.
The artillery ﬁre was heavy until midnight. Then it died away, became sporadic. (Because it was Christmas Eve? I wonder.) In the strange silence, the war seemed remote, and I was several thousand miles from Belgium for a few moments.
We got no breakfast this morning, Christmas morning. Our squad leader forgot to send a messenger to tell us to come to chow. We waited and hoped and peered anxiously for sight of the runner until there was no longer any point in hoping. Except that it was Christmas morning, I didn’t mind the missed meal: my interior was worn out from my late tussle with the Gls.
Later in the morning I opened a can of C rations, made a little coffee, and ate two dog biscuits. Shorty opened a can of hash and ate it cold. Christmas breakfast! We munched in unhappy silence, and I brooded over the memory of our customary Christmas stollen (how ironically German!), so richly stuffed with raisins and nuts and citron.
Not very far away Russel Albrecht was having an even worse time of it:
Then the next day was Christmas Day, and that was the day I crawled into Malmedy. I had called on the phone and asked there was any way to get some aspirin for the pain in my chest – I couldn’t stand even a teaspoon in my pocket, it felt like it was too heavy against my chest. They called back and said, “You have permission but you don’t have to do it. If you want to get on your hands and knees and crawl into Malmedy” – which was probably a quarter or a half mile, a pretty good distance. “You have our permission because there are some doctors there. You can get something from them.”
Well, then about noon on Christmas Day, that’s when I decided to go into town. I just kind of lay ﬂat in the snow and sneaked along staying behind whatever I could. I got in there and saw some smoke coming out of a house, and I went over there. Some tankers and TDs had plugged up the windows, and they had a stove going in there. I got some hot water and made a cup of coffee, some powdered stuff, I wrote a note to Lorraine and the girls and told them to mail it.
They told me that down about three or four houses some doctors had moved in. I went down there, went in, and the doc came out of the dining room. He had a turkey leg in his hand he was chewin’ on. That’s as far as the Christmas dinners got. He stuck a thermometer in my mouth and so forth.
I sat there and he went back in to chew down some more turkey, and then he came back in and looked and kind of frowned — he got some more equipment, started testing and pretty soon he told the guys, “You get a stretcher for this guy.” They got one and I had to lay on there and they pinned a tag on my jacket: “Bronchitis, Pleurisy, and Pneumonia.”
They wouldn’t let me even get up from the stretcher, let alone go back to the hole like I was going to.
I later learned when I asked some of our fellows about my buddy in the hole that the next day he got a direct hit and was killed.
In besieged Bastogne the 101st Airborne were to come under the last but most desperate attempt by the Germans to break through the perimeter. Schuyler Jackson was in the Champs area:
They hadn’t come at our area during the first days there. The temperature, though, was around zero. There were a couple of replacements who actually froze to death while on duty. I would always have two guys go out there to keep the men awake and prevent them from freezing.
When one of our planes was shot down, I took a fleece-lined jacket from the body of one of the crew. It sounds terrible but he had no more use for it.
There was a bridge in front of us. We had planted explosives but the detonatorfroze when they hit us on Christmas Day. Their infantry rode on the tanks and we were picking them off. I got mgself a bazooka and hit one in the motor. The crew came out fighting. They did not surrender. We had to shoot them.
We had originally put mines in the road but, because we expected the relief column, we pulled them off to the side of the road. When the German tanks came, some of the commanders must have thought the roads mined. They drove off on the side and exploded our mines.
We had enough ammoat our spot and stopped them cold. The last tank was turning back, and going up a rise. I fired the bazooka – and it was a one-in-a-million shot – dropped right down the turret. Except it didn’t explode. The loader had forgotten to pull the pin on the rocket. He got some fancy cussing from me. But the tank didn’t get away. Somebody else destroyed it.
This account is one of many to be found in Gerald Astor (Ed) A Blood-Dimmed Tide: The Battle of the Bulge by the Men Who Fought It
The British 9th Royal Tank Regiment were awoken at 6.30 am on Christmas Day and half an hour later departed for Liege in France to strengthen the Allied lines. Sergeant Trevor Greenwood had the benefit of of lodgings in one of the surviving civilian houses – but it was neither comfortable nor safe:
Weather bitterly cold with heavy frost all day, but good visibility and dry. Plenty of our aircraft overhead.
Flying bombs too frequent for my liking — they seem to arrive every half hour. Usually preceded by ‘siren’ giving a few seconds warning. As soon as bomb motor becomes audible, the family in this house stand by the cellar door ready to dive down below, in case the thing heads for this locality. A beastly business, terrifying for everyone.
Slept up in bedroom, but spent a few uneasy hours listening for the ominous roar, and then waiting the crash as the engine cuts out…
While 9 RTR was in reserve 3rd Royal Tank Regiment were fully engaged:
…the Black Bull tankies now had two medium gunner regiments on call and on Christmas Day went on the offensive. The Germans were running short of petrol and the objectives were the recapture of Sorrines, Foy-Notre-Dame and Boisselles. Sorrines was easy but the bag in Boisselles was substantial.
Then a squadron of US Lightning ﬁghter-bombers ground strafed 3 RTR and again an hour later. Foy-Notre-Dame was ablaze and together with the US 2nd Armoured Recce Squadron, an allied combined operation, many Germans, vehicles and halftracks were captured.
In all the three villages at the ‘end of play’, an immediate search was made for wines and spirits. The Chateau cellar at Boisselle was productive and at 0130 the Americans were terriﬁc, they produced wine, K rations and stories equally quickly.
An American Captain carried round gin, brandy and rum. It had been one of the most exciting Christmas Days of one’s life. The next two days saw devastating attacks by RAF Typhoons as the German Panzers withdrew, leaving scores of petrol-less tanks and AFVs behind them.
This account appears in Patrick Delaforce (Ed): Marching to the Sound of Gunfire: North-West Europe 1944 – 1945