America's Greatest Maverick Leader
George Patton and his sublime moment
May 11, 2006: Vol. 2, Issue No. 37
IN THE NEWS
One Man's Crusade
Stan Wojtusik's tireless effort has paved the way for Battle of the Bulge veterans to be honored.
ARLINGTON, Va. — As a 19-year-old in World War II, Stan Wojtusik was forced to surrender to the Germans along with his entire regiment. That might have been the last time he ever gave up in anything. The former private first class, now 80, has been on a personal mission for years to build monuments—here, there and, it seems, everywhere—to the Battle of the Bulge, the greatest conflict in U.S. military history.
—Tom Infield, The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 9, 2006
To the huge majority of today's young and middle-aged, fitness-obsessed Americans, the Battle of the Bulge brings a smirk at images of outsized tummies, dimpled thighs and love handles.
Sixty-two years ago, the Battle of the Bulge was one of the three defining events of World War II, along with the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor and the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In December 1944, the Allied armies were slogging their way through Europe toward Berlin. It was the coldest, snowiest winter in memory.
On December 16, 1944, Generals Eisenhower and Bradley were meeting at their headquarters in Versailles outside Paris when word reached them of German attacks in Belgium and Luxembourg. It was not taken seriously at first. But the commanders quickly discovered that Hitler had secretly massed three German armies and 10 corps—a total of 500,000 men, 600 tanks and 1,900 heavy guns—in one last great Hail Mary attack that penetrated 65 miles into the Allied territory and threatened the entire war effort.
By December 18, 1944, a vastly outnumbered contingent of America's 101st Airborne troops was surrounded in the Belgian hub town of Bastogne. At one point, two German officers and two enlisted men bearing a white flag arrived at American headquarters with a letter from the German commander demanding an "honorable surrender." Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe's response was to scrawl on a scrap of paper one word that electrified the world: "Nuts!"