Author Topic: December 23, 1944...  (Read 455 times)

Offline St. George

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December 23, 1944...
« on: December 23, 2021, 08:28:20 AM »
Sometimes it's not the story - it's how the story gets told that makes it memorable, and this is one of 'those' stories deserving of the re-telling, because it sheds light on those quiet old men we dismiss as 'Grandpa' or Great-Grand-Dad' or 'Uncle' - never thinking of what they did or what they once were when they were young men.

It was brought to mind because of the recent news story about an un-tried, three-man Anti-Aircraft Gun crew and their young Officer during the Battle of the Bulge, who stayed behind to cover retreating US forces against German tanks - knocking out five, including a King Tiger - in the matter of two and a half hours while firing from a completely exposed position with a weapon designed to bring down flying aircraft.

Their Commander's words to the reporter - 'We stopped 'em cold...'

Here's another story from that very cold, dangerous and desperate place.

Late on the night of December 23rd, 1944, Sergeant John Banister of the 14th Cavalry Group found himself meandering through the village of Provedroux, southwest of Vielsalm.

He'd been separated from his unit during the wild retreat of the first days and joined up with Task Force Jones, defending the southern side of the Fortified Goose Egg.

Now they were in retreat again...

The Germans were closing in on the village from three sides. American vehicles were pulling out, and Banister was once again separated from his new unit, with no ride out.

A tank destroyer rolled by; somebody waved him aboard and Banister eagerly climbed on.

As they roared out of the burning town, somebody told Banister that he was riding with Lieutenant Bill Rogers.

"Who's he?" Banister wanted to know. "Will Rogers' son," came the answer.

It was a hell of a way to meet a celebrity.

An hour later, they reached the main highway running west from Vielsalm.

There, they found a lone soldier - PFC Martin, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, digging a foxhole.

Armed with bazooka and rifle, unshaven and filthy, he went about his business with a stoic nonchalance.

They pulled up to him and stopped - he didn't seem to care one way or another about the refugees as he dug in.

"If yer lookin' for a safe place," he drawled, "just pull that vehicle behind me. I'm the 82nd Airborne. This is as far as the bastards are going..."

The men on the tank destroyer hesitated.

After the constant retreats of the last week, they didn't have much fight left in them, but the paratrooper's determination was infectious.

"You heard the man," declared Rogers. "Let's set up for business!"

Twenty minutes later, two truckloads of GIs joined their little roadblock.

All through the night, men trickled in, and their defenses grew stronger.

Around that single paratrooper was formed the nucleus of a major strongpoint - around that strongpoint, Germany's last great hopes were dashed, and the way was opened to end the war, and forever change the world.

Sometimes, one man makes all the difference...

Sometimes - that one man just might be the old guy in the family you never stop to visit with or even bother to think about -  you may want to re-think your priorities, because he may have a tale to tell that'll make you proud.

Merry Christmas.


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"It Wasn't Cowboys and Ponies - It Was Horses and Men.
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Offline Trailrider

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Re: December 23, 1944...
« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2021, 11:11:15 AM »
Whoever that PFC was, he should have gotten at least a Silver Star, and maybe a DSC. Hope he made it through the war...
Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy, Safe New Year!
Ride to the sound of the guns, but watch out for bushwhackers! Godspeed to all in harm's way in the defense of Freedom! God Bless America!

Your obedient servant,
Bvt. Lt. Col. Commanding,
Southern District
Dept. of the Platte, GAF


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