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Garand Tribute -- Christmas at Bastone

1785 Views 6 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  M1GarandFan
Borrowed this from another site --

Though the Battle of the Bulge raged on for over a month (17 Dec. '44 - 19 Jan. '45), the siege of Bastogne lasted 8 days (20 Dec. '44-27 Dec. '44), the same number of rounds held in the M1s the paratroopers from the 101st Airborne used to crush the German offensive.

At sunset today, about 4:40 pm South Jersey time, Christmas Eve, I made my way through the snow covered woods at my rifle club, the solitary shooter on the range, to fire an eight round tribute to the paratroopers who "held out" and stood between the free world and German victory 66 years ago.

I fired one round for each day of the siege:

20 Dec. Germans advance through neighboring towns and villages...slowed and halted by U.S. paratroopers, Bastogne begins to be surrounded. "Crack", round 1 fired...

21 Dec Americans attack and destroy German advance guard, recon teams clash w/ superior forces, roads cut, a temporary U.S. hold of a road block at Salle delays Germans there for 2 days. It snows. "Crack", round 2...

22 Dec Germans take more towns, cut more roads...11:30 am Remoifosse requests surrender, response from McAuliffe, "Nuts". In the night...first bombardment on Bastogne by German aviation, ammo begins to run short. "Crack", round 3

23 Dec Clear blue sky, 241 planes parachute 1,446 bundles. House to house fighting at nearby Marve, U.S. paratroopers stop enemy progress, but by 9:45 pm Bastogne is surrounded. "Crack" 4...

24 Dec Christmas Eve, 65 years ago, 3 German bombardments on Bastogne, Germans enter southern part of Marvie, but are repelled...6:00 pm perimeter around Bastogne is reduced to 25 KM...10:00 pm Patton sends a message "Christmas present is on it's way. Hold Out!!". "Crack" 5...

25 Dec Christmas 2:45 am German begin artillery barrage, German planes bombard American lines...3:00 am Germans walking of approach...7:00 am German attack with infantry and armor, but American paratroopers crush the attack by 9:00 am, U.S. lines are restored! column of camouflaged tanks annihilated by U.S. aviation. Patton is 9k from Bastogne! "Crack" 6...

26 Dec Morning, Germans attack north of Bastogne, U.S. artillery destroys entire enemy force! 3:00 pm Patton is 5K from Bastogne. 3:20 paratroopers attack Germans toward Assenoise: 2,340 shells fired, paratroopers over-run German position 4:50 pm encirclement of Bastogne is broken! Junction occurs between 37th Tank Bn and 326th Combat Engineers of the 101st Airborne, Patton's Christmas present!... 8:00 pm Assenoise is cleared out. "Crack" 7...

27 Dec Two night bombardments of Bastogne begins... but by 1:00 am American reinforcements flock to the city! ... 4:00 pm General Taylor returns... 5:00 pm two German attacks are blocked... Remoifosse is retaken by Americans. Bastogne has been "held"! "Crack, Ping!!", 8 rounds fired...

Eight rounds for eight days. I bowed my head and said a prayer for the men who "Held out" those "8" days, 66 years ago. Though my brass disappeared into the snow, the enbloc took an unusually short arc and landed in the crook of my shooting arm. I pocket it, reached into the cold snow and retrieved one brass case. I cradled my M1, warming the hand I used to find the case along the warm barrel and made my way back to my car.

Though fighting would intensify and continue along the the 80 mile "Bulge" on through 19 Jan. '45, Hitler's demand to "...take Bastogne at all costs" would not be answered.

On the way back to the front gate I heard what appeared to be the report of another .30 caliber rifle. It seemed I had not been alone on the range after all. I stopped and listened. Through the lengthening shadows of the forest I heard what appeared to be 7 more shots.

Night was falling as I waved my card across the transponder and the gate rattled open. A solitary figure appeared from the forest, his uniform torn and tattered. His boots covered with mud and wrapped in rags. The shamrock on his helmet faded and dented. He held an M1 close to his chest.

"Hey, Mac, any smokes?", he challenged.

I tossed him a pack that miraculously appeared in my jacket pocket. I don't smoke.

He smiled as he pulled one from the pack, smelled it and then placed it between his lips. I lit it for him. He drew deeply on it as the tip burned a deep orange, and then exhaled.

"Where you from, back in the world?", he drawled.

"Jersey", I offered, "Ocean City."

"Jersey", he said approvingly, a twinkle in his eyes, "I been to Jersey".

What about you, I asked. Where are you from.

The twinkle faded as he looked off into the night sky. "Brother", he said, "thats a long story and you better be getting down the road, it's Christmas Eve, you must have family waiting."

I reached through the window to shake his hand as he peeled off his mitten. His hand was blistered, calloused, rough to the touch, yet warm and strong. Thanks he said.

"But when do you get to go home?" I asked.

He seemed to study the glow of his cigarette as he spoke, "Kid, I'm afraid I am home, now you better go".

I nodded and passed through the gate. My headlights swung out on to the road as he faded into the deep cold winter night.

"All the way Kid, Merry Christmas and I'll see you next year", he called out.

"All the way and then some, Airborne", I shouted back "Merry Christmas to you too. But he was gone.

I thought to myself as I accelerated on to the highway, yes, I'll be here next year. I'll be here every year, like you were there for me... 66 years ago."

Think I will go to the range today and pay my tribute to these brave men!! 8 rounds from the Garand!!
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Well, I went out to the range this afternoon and fired the Garand tribute!! 8 rounds!! Actually a good feeling thinking I was doing something to honor those brave souls.

Next year, I am going to do it again -- would like for some of you to join me .... I got the garands and I got the ammo!!
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