Seal of the National WWII Glider Pilots Association

Courtesy of R. Bruce Overman/ NWWIIGPA Collection

MARDASSON MEMORIAL BASTOGNE: Every U.S. Army Division and U.S. Army Air Forces Wing that participated in the Battle of the Bulge is engraved on this towering monument.

“In the wake of the German offensive in the Ardennes in December, air supply came back into its own as Troop Carrier dropped 850 tons of critical material by parachute and glider to the 101st Airborne division and enabled this outfit to turn back the Nazi bid in time to thwart the enemy from reaching the Meuse.

“The bundles [and gliders] delivered to the 101st in this crisis included almost everything a fighting machine needs to keep going against odds — gasoline, rations, blood plasma, other medical supplies and ammunition.”

[23-24 Dec. Bundles From The Sky]  [26-27 Dec. Gliders]   [27 Dec. The Final Drop]

THE ARDENNES OFFENSIVE → Bastogne: Situation

On Saturday 16 December 1944, the German army launched a massive counter attack against Allied Forces in the area of eastern Belgium. The German offensive, named Herbstnebel (Autumn Fog), under the command of General Gerd von Rundstedt, was initiated in the early morning hours when the 5th and 6th Panzer armies began the assault through the Ardennes Forrest. The objective of the offensive was the capture of Antwerp to prevent the Allies from using the port for resupply and to divide the American and British forces.

Hitler’s Impressions of the American Stand at Bastogne
Transcript from Hitler's Staff Meeting Documents 9 June 1945

In the course of the Ardennes Winter Offensive begun 16 December 1944, the 7th Army pushed forward past the northern rim of Luxembourg into Belgium beyond St.Hubert. At the same time the forward elements of the 6th Armored Army, namely, the SS Leibstandarte lead by Standartenfuherer Peiper penetrated to Stavelot.

By this movement the “road octopus” Bastogne, centrally located between the two attacking columns was left occupied by the enemy. The Fuhrer, on several successive days pointed out the extreme importance of establishing contact between the two unites. First of all to cut off in this manner the enemy forces remaining in the area of Bastogne, and secondly, to safeguard the route of supplies and reinforcements for the continuation of the offensive, particularly as the best supply routes lead thru Bastogne.

17 December 1944

On Sunday 17 December at 1051 hours the first air resupply was requested by the 423rd Infantry at Buchet, Belgium to the 106th Division headquarters at St. Vith, Belgium.

From 423 Inf: 2d BN 423 Inf joined with. Contact 422 Inf. Will hold perimeter. Drop amo, food and med supplies until route open. We have no arty.

At 2030, that same day, a phone call from Chief of Staff, XVIII Corps (Airborne) was placed to Brigadier General Anthony C. McAuliffe, Acting Commander of the 101st Airborne Division, for their immediate deployment to Bastogne. Both the 82nd Airborne Division and 101st A/B were rushed to the Ardennes. The 82nd took point, bypassing Bastogne, and the 101st was to hold Bastogne. This action and the ensuing events would become known as the Battle of the Bulge.

Between 17 December and 22 December the weather kept the aircraft from completing any resupply missions to Belgium. The 82nd A/B at St. Vith; Task Force Hogan 3rd Armored Division at Marcouray and the 101st A/B at Bastogne, were all in need of supplies and medical aid.

19 December

Headquarters 101st Airborne Division Narrative - December 1944

At 2200 on the 19th, an enemy attack cut off the Division service area at which time the majority of the 326th Airborne Medical Company was captured. The 801st Ordnance Company and the 426th Quartermaster Company escaped capture with only slight losses. At this time the supply situation was indefinite and inadequate, and in an attempt to secure supplies for the Division, organic 2 1/4 ton trucks had been dispatched to the Division rear base and rear army installations to pick up ammunition. When the enemy succeeded in encircling BASTOGNE there were approximately 100 of the Division's trucks in rear areas. Only a few of those which had been sent back for supplies succeeded in returning to the BASTOGNE area prior to the encirclement.

20 December

On the 3rd or 4th day of the attack (about 20 December 1944) the capture of Bastogne actually did seem imminent. At an evening Military Situation Conference, SS Gruppenfuhrer Fegelein said to the Fuhrer, ‘ We shall take Bastogne tonight.’ Then it came as a great surprise when intelligence reported that 101st Airborne Division was in line at Bastogne. With this news it became clear to all participants of the Conference that the Allies had recognized the importance of Bastogne for the continuation of the German Winter offensive in the Ardennes and were resolved to hold the city at all costs.

The 101st requested re-supply by air.

The apparent difficulty of securing supplies through ground channels prompted the first air resupply request [by the 101st] on 20 December.

22 December

Pathfinders, lead by Colonel Joel Crouch, were dropped near Bastogne to set up finding aids for the air resupply.

The weather did not allow a window of opportunity for the Troop Carrier Groups, whose planes had been loaded on fields in England, waiting, until 23rd December.



[23-24 Dec. Bundles From The Sky]  [26-27 Dec. Gliders]   [27 Dec. The Final Drop]

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