Monday marks 75 years since the beginning of one of World War II’s most savage battles. In December 1944, the Nazi army surprised U.S. and Allied forces in the frozen forests of Belgium. Badly outnumbered, the U.S. lost 10,000 soldiers amid frigid conditions in the war’s deadliest conflict. John Yang reports on the commemoration of what became known as the Battle of the Bulge.
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Seventy-five years ago today, one of the most savage battles of World War II began.
John Yang has our look at today's commemoration of the Battle of the Bulge.
Memorial trumpets sounded on the solemn ground where U.S. soldiers held off the Nazi war machine's last gasp. In the forests of Bastogne, Belgium, American veterans of the Battle of the Bulge received a hero's welcome. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper:
On this ground, where the outcome of the Battle of the Bulge hung in the balance, American troops fought and forged an incredible victory that assured Hitler's defeat.
At dawn 75 years ago today, the German army launched an assault on advancing Allied forces in Belgium and Luxembourg; 1,000 Nazi tanks and 200,000 troops tried to break the Allied line and nearly did, creating a bulge as they pushed defenses.
Badly outnumbered U.S. forces bore the brunt. For more than a month, they battled both the Nazis and the bitter cold with meager supplies and low ammunition. At one point, the Germans demanded surrender.
The now legendary response from American Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe, a defiant, "Nuts."
His troops were ultimately reinforced by a soldiers led by General George Patton. Together, they fended off the Nazis and dealt them a paralyzing defeat, but at a brutal cost; 10,000 Americans died, the costliest battle in the entire war.
Today, performers honored their sacrifice. Artificial snow fell amid the day's cold rain, a reminder of the battle's frigid conditions. One veteran of the battle, 96-year-old Malcolm Buck Marsh, recounted his experience.
Malcolm “Buck” Marsh:
It was in blizzard conditions. A Belgian lady with a shawl on came out and had two mugs of hot chicken soup for each of us, best meal I have had, I guess, ever.
Marsh and the other veterans laid roses at a memorial for their fallen comrades.
The once young soldiers, now among the last remaining survivors of the men who held this line, stood for the national anthem, a salute to and from the greatest generation.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm John Yang.
So remarkable to see the veterans. And we thank them for their service.