Last year the Standard posted Paul Belien’s excellent column on the Belgian anti-Bush urinal: “Piss off.” Belien’s column prompted us to recall that in December 1944 Belgium was the object of Hitler’s last major offensive. Thousands of American heroes served and died to repel the offensive and to liberate Belgium. Click here for an excellent site devoted to the battle. Hitler’s last gasp came shortly afterward in the lesser-known Operation Nordwind.
Stephen Ambrose’s terrific book Band of Brothers tells the story through the eyes of E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne Division — a unit that served “from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest” (as the book’s subtitle states). The men of E Company served on the front lines in ferocious, almost unimaginably arduous and brutal combat for the last twelve months of WW II. Many died, many were horribly injured, some survived.
At the very end of the book Ambrose briefly summarizes the postwar lives of those who survived. One of those who overcame a paralyzing injury suffered at Bastogne and survived was Corporal Walter Gordon. He went to law school and struck it rich through the exercise of great acumen in the oil business.
In December 1991, Mr. Gordon read that the mayor of Eindhoven, Holland had refused to meet with General Schwarzkopf because as general of the forces that served in the Gulf War General Schwarzkopf “had too much blood on his hands.” Ambrose recounts that Gordon wrote to the mayor of Eindhoven as follows:
On September 17, 1944 I participated in the large airborne operation which was conducted to liberate your country. As a member of company E, 506th PIR [parachute infantry regiment], I landed near the small town of Son. The following day we moved south and liberated Eindhoven. While carrying out our assignment, we suffered casualties. That is war talk for bleeding. We occupied various defense positions for over two months. Like animals, we lived in holes, barns, and as best we could. The weather was cold and wet. In spite of the adverse conditions, we held the ground we had fought so hard to capture.
The citizens of Holland at that time did not share your aversion to bloodshed when the blood being shed was that of the German ocupiers of your city. How soon we forget. History has proven more than once that Holland could again be conquered if your neighbor, the Germans, are having a dull weekend and the golf links are crowded.
Please don’t allow your country to be swallowed up by Liechtenstein or the Vatican as I don’t plan to return. As of now, you are on your own.
In her Star Tribune column yesterday, Katherine Kersten tells the story of another of the heroes of the ordeal of Easy Company: “‘Band of Brothers’ survivor keeps busy with remembrance.”