It’s the 21st and supposedly the shortest day in the year, which suits me fine. It’s as dark, dismal and gloomy a day as we’ve had in a long time – several factors helping to make it so, darling.
I might as well tell you now, dear, that I’ll probably have to write V-mail letters for the next several days – although I may be wrong, of course. At any rate – I’ll keep something coming to you every day.
All else is O.K. Got another package yesterday – this time from Johnny Johnson who used to be adjutant of this outfit. He’s stationed in Atlantic City now – the lucky devil.
Nothing more I can write at the moment Sweetheart except to tell you I love you dearly and miss you terribly. My love to the folks.
On 21 December, the American soldiers in Bastogne were outnumbered and lacking in cold-weather gear, ammunition, food, medical supplies, and leadership (as many officers, including the 101st's commander—Major General Maxwell Taylor—were elsewhere). Due to some of the worst winter weather in years, the surrounded U.S. forces could not be resupplied by air nor was tactical air support available. Visibility was often measured in yards.
The German Fifth Panzer Army and XLVII Corps had decided that the Panzer Lehr Division should take Bastogne on the 20th while the other forces continued their westward advance. It was believed that, with advances continuing north and south of the town, Bastogne would soon be encircled and that the 26th Volksgrenadier Division following the Panzer divisions could capture it. Indeed, the town was surrounded on the twenty-first, but the 26th Volksgrenadier Division was not strong enough to take it. Though surrounded, the 101st was not cut off. The division still maintained communication with VIII Corps and knew an American relief column was pushing toward them as German advances along the entire Western Front were diminishing. The Fifth Panzer Army refused to authorize sufficient additional forces to take Bastogne and to keep the faltering offensive alive. But the 26th Volksgrenadier Division still had the mission, with some help from the Panzer Lehr Division. On the evening of 21 December, the commanders composed this now famous surrender note to be delivered the next morning:
To the U.S.A. Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne.
The fortune of war is changing. This time the U.S.A. forces in and near Bastogne have been encircled by strong German armored units. More German armored units have crossed the river Our near Ortheuville, have taken Marche and reached St. Hubert by passing through Hompre-Sibret-Tillet. Libramont is in German hands.
There is only one possibility to save the encircled U.S.A. troops from total annihilation: that is the honorable surrender of the encircled town. In order to think it over a term of two hours will be granted beginning with the presentation of this note.
If this proposal should be rejected one German Artillery Corps and six heavy A. A. Battalions are ready to annihilate the U.S.A. troops in and near Bastogne. The order for firing will be given immediately after this two hours' term.
All the serious civilian losses caused by this artillery fire would not correspond with the well known American humanity.
The German Commander.