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Deep in the Snow…Job


[Huge thank you to Steve Gilliard for sending this guest post.  Nothing like a little history, and a doofy WH press secretary, for a good laugh, I always say.  (Oh, wait, I’m not laughing…) — CHS] 

Tony Snow is the reason I’m building a collection of Osprey history books. They’re 64 page illustrated books used by modelers and wargamers as quick reference on relative topics, like the British Commandos, the Spanish Civil War and Samurai.

A couple of weeks ago, I bought their history of the Bulge, Ardennes, 1944.

Borders tend to have a good collection of these monographs, as does Amazon. I point this out because it seems Snow slept through history class in college.

Scott McClellan must be laughing his ass off.

For those unfamiliar with Snow’s latest idiocy:

From CNN on Sunday:

BLITZER: "Let’s talk a little bit about troop withdrawal potentials for the U.S. military, about 130,000 U.S. forces in Iraq right now.

In our most recent CNN poll that came out this week, should the U.S. set a timetable to eventually withdraw troops from Iraq, 53 percent said yes; 41 percent said no.

Senator Dianne Feinstein wrote a piece in the San Francisco Chronicle today. She’s going to be on this show, coming up.

She wrote this: "We have now been in Iraq for more than three years. And we believe that the time has come for that phased redeployment to begin. It is also time for the Bush administration to provide a schedule and timetable for the structured downsizing and redeployment of U.S. forces in Iraq."

"Does that make sense?"

SNOW: "The president understands people’s impatience — not impatience but how a war can wear on a nation. He understands that. If somebody had taken a poll in the Battle of the Bulge, I dare say people would have said, wow, my goodness, what are we doing here?

But you cannot conduct a war based on polls. And you can’t conduct this kind of activity. What you have to do — and the president’s been clear about this — is take a look at the conditions on the ground. Let’s think for a moment of the alternative.

If the United States pulls out — and what’s been interesting is that most people realize that simply pulling out would be an absolute, unmitigated disaster, not merely for the people of Iraq but the larger war on terror."

Snow couldn’t be more wrong.

At the time of the Bulge, Americans clearly expected the war to be over. They were not questioning the war or the attack. Even Eisenhower wasn’t questioned in public.

As for the soldiers, they responded incredibly well.

From the Army history of the Battle of the Bulge:

When the fog lifted about 0830, three German tanks rolled right along the foxhole line firing their machine guns while the German infantry rushed forward. Lt. Stephen P. Truppner of Company A radioed that his company had been overrun and asked for artillery to fire on his own position. For thirty minutes an American battalion shelled this area. Only twelve men escaped. Company K, which had been attached to the battalion the day before, likewise was engulfed. Capt. Jack J. Garvey, sending a last message from the cellar of the house which was his command post, refused to leave because he could not get his company out. Ten men and one officer escaped. On the left Companies B and C were able to hold their ground; a few from Company B broke and ran but were sent back by the battalion commander.

The German wave carried tanks and infantry inside Rocherath, the fight eddying from house to house, wall to wall, along streets and down narrow alleys. Tanks fought tanks; men were captured, then captured again. Meanwhile, Colonel Boos did what he could to form some defense behind what was left of the 1st Battalion of the 9th.5 He radioed Colonel McKinley that as soon as the 2d Battalion of the 38th could swing into position, a matter of an hour or more, the 1st Battalion should withdraw. With his remaining two companies transfixed by direct tank fire and surrounded by German infantry, McKinley replied that no withdrawal was possible unless friendly tanks or tank destroyers arrived. "Miraculously, " as the 1st Battalion later reported, a platoon of Sherman tanks came into view. This was a part of A company, 741st Tank Battalion, which had been patrolling the Wahlerscheid road. When the platoon commander was asked if he wanted to do some fighting the reply was profanely affirmative. First the tanks joined the infantry in a counterattack to reach the positions which had been held by Companies A and K. Two of the three German tanks which had been harassing the battalion were destroyed by the Shermans, but no contact was made with the lost companies. A second counterattack by the tank platoon covered the 1st Battalion withdrawal, but the last riflemen out had the Germans yelling at their heels.

The shattered battalion withdrew through the 2d Battalion of the 38th, fell back to Rocherath, and then marched to Krinkelt, where it billeted in a deserted hotel. Approximately 240 officers and men were left of the original battalion and its attached units. In addition to the nearly total loss of Companies A and K, all of the Company M machine gunners attached to the 1st Battalion were missing in action. Of the group that had been rushed in the previous evening from Headquarters Company, 3d Battalion, only thirteen were left. It seems probable that the entire 989th Regiment had been employed in wresting the road to Rocherath from the stubborn 1st Battalion; the fight had gone on for nearly six hours and had given the 38th Infantry time to regroup to meet the enemy drive. Colonel Boos gratefully acknowledged that this gallant stand had saved his regiment.

This happened time and time again. Ad Hoc groups of American soldiers, clerks, bakers, engineers delayed and then stopped the Germans in awful winter conditions, the coldest on the continent in 40 years. The men of the 741st were among the first people on Omaha Beach, where many of their special tanks sunk in the English Channel.

Men fought, died and were captured to stop the advancing Germans.

Snow implies that people suffered a failure of nerve during the Bulge, nothing could be further from the truth. The Malmedy massacre on December 17th, when SS troops under Joachim Peiper murdered American soldiers, stiffened resolve. Far from shrinking away, American troops turned this into a fight to the death.

The speed with which the news of the Malmédy massacre reached the American front-line troops is amazing but, in the perfervid emotional climate of 17 December, quite understandable. The first survivors of the massacre were picked up by a patrol from the 291st Engineer Combat Battalion about 1430 on that date. The inspector general of the First Army learned of the shootings three or four hours later. Yet by the late evening of the 17th the rumor that the enemy was killing prisoners had reached as far as the forward American divisions. There were American commanders who orally expressed the opinion that all SS troops should be killed on sight and there is some indication that in isolated cases express orders for this were given.5 It is probable that Germans who attempted to surrender in the days immediately after the 17th ran a greater risk than would have been the case during the autumn campaign. There is no evidence, however, that American troops took advantage of orders, implicit or explicit, to kill their SS prisoners.

So, instead of Americans wondering about the cost of the Bulge, they fought with added incentive because their brothers had been shot in cold blood.

Of course, they need to drag out WWII to explain the debacle of Iraq. But in this case, Snow shows he’s too lazy to use the Internet, much less buy a book.

The point of abusing history is that they need to justify their actions. First Bill O’Reilly slandered the 82nd Airborne, by implying they killed Germans at Malmedy, then Snow implies they lost heart. Why do they attack the US Army at it’s finest moment, because that’s what the Bulge was.

They keep talking about WWII and they seem to understand nothing of the national sacrifice required.

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Steve Gilliard

Steve Gilliard