December 16th, 2009 | 5:52 pm
December 16 marks the anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge – the largest and most deadly battle U.S. Forces were engaged in during World War II. The Ardennes Offensive, as it is formally called, was the last major German offensive launched during the war along the western front. The fighting centered around the Ardennes Mountains in Belgium, France and Luxembourg in brutally cold weather. American casualties were over 80,000.
The letters and journals of the Monuments Men reveal a marked change of pace during the Battle of the Bulge. On December 16, Robert Posey received his Christmas package from his wife Alice and his son, Woogie. As he wrote to thank them for the phonograph Christmas greeting, he had no idea that days later he would be called up from duty as a Monuments Man and ordered to the front lines to “keep firing until you can’t fire anymore” at the approaching Germans.
Walker Hancock first found out about the Bulge as he drove to Waimes, Belgium to make a monuments inspection – he was stopped by an advanced unit and told the village was back under German control. He spent Christmas Even in a cellar in Liège, Belgium. Christmas Mass the next morning was interrupted by German bombs.
Like all the Allied heroes of World War II, the Monuments Men risked their lives to protect freedom and save the world from Nazi terror. For this, we are eternally grateful.
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December 4th, 2009 | 11:18 am
One of the Monuments Men we admire most is Walker Hancock. Walker married his wife, Saima, on December 4, 1943 in a chapel at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. He was shipped out to Europe just three weeks later. He wrote her a very touching letter for their first anniversary, which is shown below. This letter, and many others like it, are included in The Monuments Men.
Letter from Walker Hancock
To his new wife, Saima
December 4, 1944
This is the great day of our lives—the anniversary of the happiest one in mine. And if I loved you a year ago today, I do so many times more this fourth of December. For even though we have spent such a small part of this year together, we have been together the whole time in the best sense, and you have helped me and nourished me through these interesting but trying months in a way that you would hardly have had the opportunity to do in a happy normal life at home. That will come, and our joys will be boundless, but what you have been to me during these months of separation is something that I never could have imagined without the experience. Your letters have been my mainstay. Just the simple account of what you do and think—and between letters I think about you.
Today has been rather a grind—and one of those days when one seems to have just missed accomplishing something all along the line. But I hope I’ll be able to make up for it during the week. One just has to learn that things have to be done a little bit at a time in the army—and it doesn’t pay to bite off more than can be chewed. The howling mob that moved in on us while we were in Luxuembourg have now left – and we have a few “casuals” that drift in and out. It’s much better, but I still want those ear plugs. Tonight I’m trying sleeping in a bed with a mattress! What good news about Teddy! I’m so glad he has his wings and i’m proud, though I didn’t doubt for a minute that he would win them.
There’s a Polish soldier sitting on the bunk beside me, saying that this will be his sixth Christmas in the army and away from his people. He’s pretty discouraged—but we are guaranteeing him this will be the last away from home.
Tomorrow or the next day I expect to see George Stout. I wonder if he will be coming back to the First Army. I hope so, for there is more work than I can keep up with at present. Worlds of love to you—you sweet creature—I love you—
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