I didn’t write you yesterday. I couldn’t – and the day before yesterday seems like ages ago. By pure coincidence, darling, I’m writing this now in the same house and at the same table as I did exactly one month ago. But the general condition of things is so much different, fortunately. Our job of the last several weeks has been accomplished and we’re having a sort of relaxation period at the moment. This is the spot where the people were so nice to us around the Holiday time; there are several intact houses in town, we have electricity too. All we lack is running water, and Hell – that’s no inconvenience these days.
There’s no getting away from it, sweetheart, the last month was a tough one, and the more you soldier the more you learn that you can take it. I hope we’ve had the worst. I don’t know how my letters sounded, dear, but honestly I had to write under the most trying conditions – so excuse them.
On top of everything else – I don’t think there’s anyone of us here who received more than eight or ten letters in the past 3-4 weeks and that didn’t help one bit. Packages continued to come through. I got two from Lawrence last week – a couple of days apart, and one from Eleanor last night. I don’t remember whether I told you or not – but the contents of one of your boxes came in handy a week or so ago. Rations had slipped a bit and one noon I had toasted bread with anchovies – and it was delicious; another day – the sardines became the pièce de resistance. I had held onto them for just such an occasion.
Today, of course, we’re getting organized. This p.m. I’m going to a medium sized city near here – about ten miles away – to look for a place to have my films developed. I have a few more rolls and I’m willing to take another chance.
Every day now we read in the Stars and Stripes about furloughs, leaves, rotation etc. The passes to Paris are still very limited but we occasionally get a very small quota. We’ve had about 4 officers go already and they are now allowed 72 hours, exclusive of traveling time. In addition they are soon going to issue 7 day leaves or furloughs to the Riviera – near Cannes and Nice or if a fellow prefers – he can take his 7 days in the U.K. – England or Scotland i.e. 7 days – plus traveling time. Personally – the only thing I’m interested in is a 30 day trip to the States – but at present that’s a very remote thing, darling. If I ever got the chance – I’d want to get married. How do you feel about it? Incidentally, one of our officers, Stan Sargent – our S2 – just got himself engaged by mail, so we’re not the only ones. And his fiancée comes from New Haven – and he from Portsmouth, N.H. His big problem, by the way, is letting a couple of other girls know about it – a couple with whom he’s been corresponding very regularly.
With all the talk of rotation etc – I’ve been dreaming of it about every other night – and last night, darling, was the prize. I actually was home and what is more wonderful – I saw you, just as vividly and life-like as ever. It’s the first time in a very long while that you so appeared to me – and it was a rare treat. And best of all, dear, we loved each other; you were not a stranger to me, nor I to you. It was everything I’ve wanted it to be when I get back, and since I’m somewhat a believer in omens and the supernatural – I’m all hepped up – sweetheart.
It’s 1145 now, dear, and I’ve got to get ready for chow. I’m kind of hungry because we didn’t get much to eat yesterday – so I’ll take off now. I do hope mail starts coming in because I haven’t heard from you in the longest while.
So long for now, dear, love for now – and
The break was hard earned. On 25 January 1945, Hitler ordered all Ardennes Offensive fighting units to cease combat operations and fall back behind the now shortened Siegfried Line towards Berlin. The Allies had been busy and successful in their counter attacks. The Battle of the Bulge was officially over. The German lines had been pushed back to their initial jumping off point. Hitler's last gamble in the West had ended in failure. The Third Reich was now in its death throes, and it was only a matter of months before it totally collapsed from the Allied onslaught.
The battle had begun on 16 December 1944, one of the coldest, snowiest days “in memory” in the Ardennes Forest, which encompassed about 80 miles of the German/Belgian border. Casualties from exposure to extreme cold were to grow as large as the losses from fighting.
The final tally came to 89,500 American casualties: 19,000 killed in action, 47,500 wounded and 23,000 missing in action or prisoners of war. The Americans lost 600 tanks and between 400 and 600 aircraft. There were 1,408 British casualties: 208 killed in action, and 1200 wounded, missing in action prisoners of war.
For the Nazis, the numbers were staggering. Somewhere between 60 and 100 thousand killed in action. Nobody is quite sure of the wounded numbers and about another 70,000 were taken prisoner. They lost 600 of their 1,800 irreplaceable tanks and 950 of 1,900 equally irreplaceable artillery guns. The Luftwaffe was destroyed with 1,000 aircraft gone. Although the Allies’ own offensive timetable was set back by months, many experienced German units were left severely depleted of men and equipment, as German survivors retreated to the defenses of the Siegfried Line.
Most of the American casualties occurred within the first three days of battle, when two of the 106th division’s three regiments were forced to surrender. In its entirety, the “Battle of the Bulge” was the most bloody battle American Forces experienced in WWII, the 19,000 American dead unsurpassed by any other engagement. For the U.S. Army, the Battle of the Ardennes was a battle incorporating more American troops and engaging more enemy troops than any American conflict prior to WWII.
By the end of the battle the forces had included over a million men: about 560,000 Germans, 640,000 Americans (more than fought at Gettysburg) and 55,800 British as well as soldiers from countries with smaller contingents such as Belgium, Canada and France.