Dec

16

 December 16th is the 65th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. Many historians consider this the turning point of the war.

I would love to hear people who are more knowledgeable about military history write on this subject. A simple exercise in counting tells us that there aren't many of these warriors left.

They, and all veterans of American wars, deserve our utmost respect and, if you're lucky enough to know one, maybe a handshake, a warm smile, and a thank you.

I am very grateful to those that have served and would like to extent my personal warm wishes and a thank you to those who were there in the Ardennes 65 year ago.

Chris Tucker replies:

My grandfather's brother Uncle Rube (Reuben Henry Tucker III) was the commander of the 82nd Airborne Divisions 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment or as the Germans in Sicily called them "Those Devils in Baggy Pants". Their exploits in The Bulge are chronicled at this Wikipedia entry.

 I only met Rube a couple of times as he passed when I was very young, but he was loved and respected by everyone that knew him. In the film "A Bridge Too Far" a character played by Robert Redford is a montage of two commanders, my uncle and Major Julian Cook. Rube distinguished himself throughout the war. To quote the wiki entry on him:

Lt Gen James M. Gavin, who originally commanded the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and later the Commanding General of the 82nd Airborne Division, stated in his book, "On to Berlin", "The 504th was commanded by a tough, superb combat leader, Colonel Reuben H. Tucker was probably the best regimental commander of the war.

Interestingly, Gavin would admit that Tucker "was famous for screwing up everything that had to do with administration. One story going around was that when Tucker left Italy, he had an orange crate full of official charges against his soldiers and he just threw the whole crate into the ocean. Ridgway and I talked about it and we decided we just couldn't promote Tucker." (from 9/28/82 interview of Gavin by Clay Blair)

Colonel Tucker was one of the most decorated officers in the United States Army. He was awarded two Distinguished Service Crosses, the United States' second highest medal for bravery, one of which was personally awarded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during a visit to Castelvetrano, Sicily, in December 1943, for extraordinary heroism under hostile fire in Italy in September.

Stefan Jovanovich comments:

KurskThe only historians who consider the Battle of the Bulge "the turning point of the war" are those who believe in the Band of Brothers version. Hitler launched the offensive in the Ardennes because he thought it would scare the British and Americans into suing for a separate peace and that would allow the Germans to have one more chance to halt the advance of the Red Army. What is remarkable about the Battle of the Bulge is how close the Germans came. All they needed was another week of bad weather to keep away the Allied air cover. After Bradley woke up to the fact that something was happening (it took him over a day from the time he heard the news until he returned to his headquarters), his assessment was that the Allied had to pull back towards Paris. (One of Eisenhower's many great accomplishments is that he ignored Bradley's hysteria and ordered Patton north to support the 101st.)

The turning point, if any, in the European part of WW II was Kursk. The war diaries of the Germans soldiers are consistent; those in the West still thought they had a chance to win until the Allies finally crossed the Rhine. The Germans in Italy actually thought they were winning; and, given Clark's performance, they probably were. But, in the East, no German with any sense thought the war could be won after the summer of 1943. The best evidence is how people acted. The largest single civilian migration in modern history remains the flight westward by Germans and others in 1944 and 1945 in hopes of escaping the Red Army.

Alston Mabry writes:

"Turning point" arguments are always fun. The Bulge would rank lower down the list (a tense operational showdown, but not a strategic turning point), and Kursk would definitely be at the top, along with the air campaign in the West.

The Allied air effort, though causing significant industrial damage, actually reached a low point in fall 1943 because of the loss rate, but then had an extended "bull run" (including the introduction of the P-51 in early 1944) which devastated the Luftwaffe and established Allied air supremacy in the West. The Red Army was the hammer, while the USAAF and the RAF were the anvil.


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