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24 December 1944

24 December 1944



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24 December 1944

War in the Air

RAF attacks Cologne and Bonn

B-29s bomb Iwo Jima

Eastern Front

Soviet troops block the western escape routes out of Budapest, cutting off German and Hungarian troops

Italy

Canadian troops capture Rosetta, on the Senio River



24 December 1944 - History

German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor, Martin Niemoller (center) with members of the congregation at St. Anne’s church in Dahlem, Berlin, after he held his first service since his release from imprisonment, following the allied occupation of Germany, Oct. 28, 1945. Niemoller had been imprisoned by the Nazi regime since 1938. George Konig—Getty Images

Arrested by the Nazis in 1937 for his defiance of Hitler, Pastor Martin Niemöller spent three and a half years in solitary confinement in Sachsenhausen concentration camp before being moved to the Dachau camp in 1941, where he was housed with other high-profile non-Jewish prisoners, including foreign dignitaries and Catholic clergy. There, on Christmas Eve 1944, Niemöller preached a sermon to a half dozen fellow Protestant inmates. It was the first religious service the Nazis allowed Niemöller to conduct since his arrest.

At first, Niemöller was hesitant about offering a service, knowing that his country was at war with the nations from which these other political prisoners came. He asked each of them privately if they wanted him, a German and a Lutheran, to conduct the service. Their insistence inspired and moved him. His “congregation” that Christmas Eve was unique in Niemöller’s experience — it was multinational and multidenominational, consisting of a Dutch cabinet minister, two Norwegian shippers, a British major in the Indian army, a Yugoslav diplomat and a Macedonian journalist. The appointed date for the service was the last day of Advent, December 24, the traditional day on which Germans celebrate the birth of the Christ child. For Martin Niemoller in 1944, it was the eighth Christmas he would not celebrate with his own wife and children.

Crowded into cell number 34, which had been consecrated as a chapel by imprisoned Catholic clergy, the pastor acknowledged the fear and uncertainty they all felt as Allied bombs rained down on German cities and Hitler urged his soldiers, old men and boys in some cases, to fight to the last man. Niemoller himself had lost one daughter and one son, ages 16 and 22, in the war. Despite the bleak and lonely circumstances, he counseled his fellow worshippers to rejoice in their common faith that God had built a bridge to the world — even to Dachau — through the birth of his son Jesus Christ.

Priests and pastors the world over have preached similarly on Christmas Eve, although not from behind barbed wire. But in Niemöller’s case the Christmas Eve service in Dachau signaled the beginning of a profound shift in his outlook — a shift from believing in a German national Protestantism to believing in an international world Protestantism.

The acknowledgment that the Gospel, the good news of Christ’s love and mercy, was for all of humankind — not only for Germans — represented a symbolic first step in the moral and political evolution of Martin Niemöller.

Niemöller was not in the habit of celebrating the Lord’s Supper with Anglican, Calvinist and Greek Orthodox Christians, much less Slavs. An ardent nationalist and devout Lutheran much of his life, Niemöller had proudly served as a German naval officer in WWI, fought with right-wing paramilitaries against Communist insurgents in 1920, and voted for the Nazis in 1924 — the same year as his ordination. Forty-one years old in 1933, he was euphoric when Adolf Hitler became chancellor, believing that the marriage of National Socialism and German Protestantism would bring his beloved nation the providential glory it deserved.

In order to win votes and consolidate his power, Hitler promised to work harmoniously with the Lutheran clergy to achieve national and moral renewal. But Hitler’s real intention became clear when Nazi officials began to meddle in church affairs and he supported a faction called the German Christian Movement that wanted to Aryanize the church by abolishing the Old Testament, worshiping an Aryan Jesus and banning Christians with Jewish ancestors.

Despite Niemöller’s deeply ingrained nationalism and anti-Semitism, he could not countenance such heresies in his church. He, along with Dietrich Bonhoeffer and others, founded the Confessing Church, which pledged to adhere to the gospels and defend Protestants with Jewish ancestry. Although Niemöller’s leadership of the Confessing Church put him at odds with the Nazis on church matters, he still considered Hitler to be Germany’s political savior and remained committed to the Nazi party’s program, which included national revival, territorial expansion and fighting so-called “Judeo-Bolshevism.” Unlike Bonhoeffer, whom the Nazis would execute in April 1945 for his resistance to Nazism, the former U-boat commander still displayed little interest in international fellowship or ecumenism.

But Niemöller’s concentration camp experiences changed him. In Dachau, where Niemöller was allowed to socialize with other special prisoners, he developed a camaraderie with Catholic priests, French politicians, British officers and others. They shared something in common now—their persecution at the hands of the Nazis. Outgoing and friendly by nature, Niemöller thrived in this setting after the years in solitary confinement. And the international and multi-denominational fellowship Niemöller experienced in Dachau turned him toward the possibility of a world fellowship in the Holy Communion, not just a German fellowship in national Protestantism. The international contacts he made in Hitler’s camps and in the immediate months following his liberation urged him to lead his country in repenting for the atrocities and crimes committed in their name.

Niemöller came to believe that he and his fellow countrymen who had supported Hitler, even while disagreeing with aspects of his rule, had a moral obligation to acknowledge their guilt, repent and change their ways. He did this by setting an example. He confessed his own guilt to German audiences repeatedly in 1946 in what is now known as the Niemöller Confession: “First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”

And his evolution didn’t stop there. The 1950s, ’60s and ’70s would see further changes as he embraced pacifism, marched for left-wing causes and became a vocal critic of racism and bigotry. On his 90th birthday Niemöller joked that he had started his political career as “an ultraconservative” who loyally served the kaiser. Now I’m “a revolutionary,” he said. “If I live to be 100, maybe I’ll be an anarchist.” But anarchism wasn’t in the cards. The journey he began in Dachau came to an end with his death in 1984 at the age of 92, after four decades of preaching the message of world fellowship he articulated for the first time in Dachau.

Matthew Hockenos is Harriet Johnson Toadvine ’56 Professor in Twentieth-Century History at Skidmore College and the author of Then They Came For Me: Martin Niemöller, the Pastor Who Defied the Nazis, available now from Basic Books.


World War II Today: December 24

1939
Pope Pius XII makes a Christmas appeal for peace.

1940
US refuses to admit Jewish refugees, believing it will lead to expulsion of all Jews from Europe.

Bonus Christmas ration is distributed in Germany—26 oz rice & vegetables, 1 lb sugar, coffee, and jam.

1941
Japanese troops make further landings on Luzon to the southeast of Manila in Lamon Bay. The Japanese 16th Division starts its drive north towards Manila in an attempt to link up with the North Luzon Force. General MacArthur announces his decision to withdraw his forces to Bataan. A supply base is to be setup on Corregidor with sufficient stock to carry on the fight for 6 months.

British Eighth Army takes Benghazi, Libya.

White House tree-lighting ceremony moved to south end of grounds to be easily seen, the last tree-lighting until 1945.

1942
US bomb Wake Island.

Following the suspension of ‘Operation Winter Tempest’, the relief of Stalingrad, the Red Army begins an offensive against Army Group Don toward Kotelnikovo, breaking through the lines of 4th Romanian Army.

Soviets take 1 of 2 airfields used in Luftwaffe supply of Stalingrad.

In Algiers, Admiral Jean-François Darlan, French commander in North Africa, is assassinated by Ferdinand Bonnier de la Chapelle, a French royalist.

1943
Commanders of the ‘Second Front’ are announced as Eisenhower, Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force Montgomery to be C in C of 21st Army Group.

Sir Henry Maitland Wilson is made Supreme Commander in the Mediterranean and Alexander is C in C Allied Armies, Italy.

The Russians commence a third winter offensive, with Vatutin’s 63 divisions in the Ukraine and capture Berdichev.

Roosevelt broadcasts about the Cairo and Teheran conferences and says plans have been laid for the invasion of Europe and its post-war reconstruction.

1944
In the English Channel, U-486 (Oblt.z.S. Gerhard Meyer) sinks the allied troop carrier SS Leopoldville with the loss of 763 men of the US 66th Infantry Division. All news and information on this incident is suppressed by orders of SHAEF headquarters.

In the largest mission to date, 2034 bombers of the US Eighth Air Force bomb German targets in the Ardennes.

Brigadier General Frederick Castle, commander of 4th Combat Bombardment Wing and former commander of US 94th Bomb Group, dies in crash after giving his crew time to bail out from his damaged B-17, receives Medal of Honor


Today in World War II History—December 24, 1939 & 1944

80 Years Ago—December 24, 1939: On Christmas Eve, Pope Pius XII appeals for peace.

75 Years Ago—Dec. 24, 1944: In the largest mission of the war, 2034 heavy bombers of the US Eighth Air Force bomb German targets in the Ardennes.

Brig. Gen. Frederick Castle dies in a B-17 crash after giving his crew time to bail out he will receive the Medal of Honor.

Two-day Guam Riot begins: white Marines open fire at black Marines who had been talking to Asian women 2 blacks will be killed in armed riots and 43 blacks—and no whites—will be court-martialed.

The San Francisco Ballet performs the first full-length performance of The Nutcracker ever in the US.


8th AF Mission #760 Dec 24th 1944 - Largest Bomber Mission In History (1 Viewer)

Dec 24th 1944 saw a change in the weather that had crippled allied missions over Western Europe, and aided the German Ardennes offensive. A ridge of high pressure now dominated and cleared the skies.

The 8th AF dispatched a record 2046 B17's and B24's of which 1884 bombed their targets. Objectives were airfields, railyards and communications centers (usually small towns that had roads or rail lines going through them).

1st BD dispatched 542 B17's and hit 5 primaries and 4 secondaries
2nd BD dispatched 634 B24's and hit all 14 primaries.
3rd BD dispatched 858 B17's and hit 6 primaries, 3 secondaries and a scattering of TO's

Only 12 bombers were lost.

The escorting fighters were also active 853 (almost all P51's) dispatched with 813 effective. For the loss of 10, they claimed 74.

When you consider the numbers of AC involved in this mission, PLUS what the AAF and RAF tactical commands put up the German army must have had their worst fears materialize that day!

Erich

The old Sage

the LW was pretty well screwed up by now but this operation was a combined assault on the LW fighters also included is the intercepts by RAF and the 9th AF P-47 units. Both of the latter lost fighters in the melee'

IV.Sturm/JG 3 Fw's scored at least 5 B-17's and JG 301 was also in the air and it's "heavy" gruppe - III. with Fw 190A-8 and A-8/R2's scored at least 2 B-24's in a confusing struggle

Interesting that II.Sturm/JG 300 claimed some 7 P-51's with their heavy Fw 'A's but got clobbed pretty good in the result with 17 fighters having 60-100% damage.

the LW overall lost some 139 fighters and another 55 damaged in under 60 %, too many KIA of 75, 24 wounded, 10 captured

Drgondog

Captain

Dec 24th 1944 saw a change in the weather that had crippled allied missions over Western Europe, and aided the German Ardennes offensive. A ridge of high pressure now dominated and cleared the skies.

The 8th AF dispatched a record 2046 B17's and B24's of which 1884 bombed their targets. Objectives were airfields, railyards and communications centers (usually small towns that had roads or rail lines going through them).

1st BD dispatched 542 B17's and hit 5 primaries and 4 secondaries
2nd BD dispatched 634 B24's and hit all 14 primaries.
3rd BD dispatched 858 B17's and hit 6 primaries, 3 secondaries and a scattering of TO's

Only 12 bombers were lost.

The escorting fighters were also active 853 (almost all P51's) dispatched with 813 effective. For the loss of 10, they claimed 74.

When you consider the numbers of AC involved in this mission, PLUS what the AAF and RAF tactical commands put up the German army must have had their worst fears materialize that day!

The only 47 group was the 56th. The 78th at Duxford was grounded by fog and did not fly. The 339th had the same problem so it was only Mustang group to not make this mission.

As Syscom noted this was largest strength air attack of the war for USAAF - in addition to every single bomb group and 13 of 15 FG's in 8th AF, the 9th, the RAF and 15th AF also sent large forces into Germany that day and night.

It was a crappy day weather wise over the UK but clear over Germany. a remarkable operation.

This 8th AF bomber strike profile was all tactical ranging from Coblenz, Bonn, Fulda, Frankfurt, Giessen, Kassel marshalling yards and airfields in western Germany behind the Bulge. The RAF also bombed the same general profile and targets that night


National Archives Remembers Battle of the Bulge with Featured Document DisplayPress Release · Monday, December 1, 2014

More Information

To mark the upcoming 70 th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, the National Archives Museum shares an unusual original holiday message from General Anthony McAuliffe, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, to his troops. On Christmas Eve, 1944, the 101st Airborne was besieged by German forces in the small Belgium town of Bastogne. General McAuliffe used this message to rally his troops by recounting his now famous “NUTS!” reply to a German surrender demand.

Free and open to the public, the display is located in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives Museum and runs through January 5, 2015. The Museum is on the National Mall at Constitution and 9 th St., NW.

Background

By December 1944, Allied generals felt confident that victory over Nazi Germany was near. Their armies had raced across France and were now approaching the Rhine River. No one thought the German Army could launch such a large-scale winter offensive.

The generals were spectacularly wrong. On December 16, more than 200,000 German troops and 1,000 tanks attacked along a 75-mile front through Belgium’s snowy Ardennes forest. As the Germans advanced, they created a “bulge” in the American lines. American soldiers resisted fiercely, but failed to stop the Germans. They did, however, delay them at several key road junctions. The most celebrated of these defensive actions came at the town of Bastogne where troops from the 101st Airborne Division and elements of other units were besieged.

On December 22, German officers under a flag of truce approached the American lines demanding Bastogne’s surrender. After reading the demand, Gen. Anthony McAuliffe, the American commander in Bastogne, remarked, “Aw, nuts!” Further discussion failed to improve on his first reaction, and “NUTS!” became his famous one-word response. When the Germans failed to understand, an American officer explained, “in plain English it is the same as 'Go to hell!’”

General McAuliffe’s December 24th “Christmas Message” to the men of the 101st recounts the German surrender demand, McAuliffe’s reply, and informs them of an American counterattack. And help was on the way. On December 26, after moving over 100 miles in five days, the 4th Armored Division’s 37th Tank Battalion relieved Bastogne. By mid-January 1945, Allied troops eliminated the “bulge,” but at a high cost. The U.S. Army had suffered over 75,000 casualties.

The display includes the following records:

  • Original “Merry Christmas” message to the 101st Airborne Division from Gen. Anthony C. McAuliffe, December 24, 1944. National Archives, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office
  • A photo captioned: “While enemy shells scream overhead outside, Christmas carols are sung by members of the 101st Airborne Division, under siege in Bastogne, Belgium, during 1944 midnight Christmas service. Shortly after this photo was taken enemy bombers broke up the service.” December 24, 1944, National Archives, Records of the Chief Signal Officer
  • A map titled: “Situation 1200 hours 25 December 1944 Twelfth Army Group” that illustrates the bulge caused by the German advance. National Archives, Records of Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II

Related film program: The Battle of the Bulge

Tuesday, December 16, at noon, William G. McGowan Theater
The National Archives will present the film The Battle of the Bulge a compelling chronicle of this bloody battle that includes newsreel footage and film from German and American archives. (2004 90 mins.)

Online resources:

  • See image of General McAuliffe unveiling the German Surrender Documents in the Rotunda of the National Archives, June 6, 1945.
  • Learn of Dr. Seuss’s connection to the Battle of the Bulge
  • Read how Hitler’s dental appointment was delayed by the Battle
  • Discover the National Archives’ extensive World War II holdings
  • Explore personal participation in World War II

For press information contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at 202-357-5300.

Connect with the National Archives on:
Twitter: @USNatArchives
Facebook: USNationalArchives
Tumblr: http://usnatarchives.tumblr.com

This page was last reviewed on December 19, 2018.
Contact us with questions or comments.


Today in World War II History—December 24, 1939 & 1944

80 Years Ago—December 24, 1939: On Christmas Eve, Pope Pius XII appeals for peace.

75 Years Ago—Dec. 24, 1944: In the largest mission of the war, 2034 heavy bombers of the US Eighth Air Force bomb German targets in the Ardennes.

Brig. Gen. Frederick Castle dies in a B-17 crash after giving his crew time to bail out he will receive the Medal of Honor.

Two-day Guam Riot begins: white Marines open fire at black Marines who had been talking to Asian women 2 blacks will be killed in armed riots and 43 blacks—and no whites—will be court-martialed.

The San Francisco Ballet performs the first full-length performance of The Nutcracker ever in the US.


Grasping Reality by Brad DeLong

On 23 December, the weather conditions started improving, allowing the Allied air forces to attack. They launched devastating bombing raids on the German supply points in their rear, and P-47 Thunderbolts started attacking the German troops on the roads. Allied air forces also helped the defenders of Bastogne, dropping much-needed supplies—medicine, food, blankets, and ammunition. A team of volunteer surgeons flew in by military glider and began operating in a tool room.

By 24 December, the German advance was effectively stalled short of the Meuse. Units of the British XXX Corps were holding the bridges at Dinant, Givet, and Namur and U.S. units were about to take over. The Germans had outrun their supply lines, and shortages of fuel and ammunition were becoming critical. Up to this point the German losses had been light, notably in armor, which was almost untouched with the exception of Peiper's losses. On the evening of 24 December, General Hasso von Manteuffel recommended to Hitler's Military Adjutant a halt to all offensive operations and a withdrawal back to the West Wall. Hitler rejected this.

However disagreement and confusion at the Allied command prevented a strong response, throwing away the opportunity for a decisive action. In the center, on Christmas Eve, the 2nd Armored Division attempted to attack and cut off the spearheads of the 2nd Panzer Division at the Meuse, while the units from the 4th Cavalry Group kept the 9th Panzer Division at Marche busy. As result, parts of the 2nd Panzer Division were cut off. Panzer Lehr tried to relieve them, but was only partially successful, as the perimeter held.


Operation Stösser - december 1944

Post by Davy » 13 Jun 2007, 12:17

Hi,
where can i find the OoB from Kampfgruppe von der Heydte?
These men fought during the Battle of the Bulge in Operation Stösser.
The only names i can find are Oberstleutnant Friedrich-August Freiherr von der Heydte
and Leutnant Bruno von Kayser, and the men came from several FallschirmJägerRegiments, but no further info.
What was the date that von der Heydte been captured by the US - 22 or 24 december?

Post by Prosper Vandenbroucke » 13 Jun 2007, 21:28

Post by Fallschirmjäger » 14 Jun 2007, 12:00

Ok here is some info Davy on them,i will see if my books or some other websites have more info too.though this is a bit,but you want its OoB,this is the unit layout and numbers etc..right.

Post by Davy » 14 Jun 2007, 21:03

Thanks for the info guys,
great site, but i've found here that von Kayser an Oberleutnant was, and he was
a Kriegsberichter, is this right? Kriegsberichter and Kompanieführer?
All info is welcome : Oob, strenght, casualties, etc.

Post by Óscar G » 14 Jun 2007, 21:11

More info

Post by Fallschirmjäger » 15 Jun 2007, 05:24

Some older link with info on the drop.


Operation Stösser
Originally planned for the early hours of 16 December, Operation Stösser was delayed for a day because of bad weather and fuel shortages. The new drop time was set for 0300 hrs on December 17 their drop zone was 11 km north of Malmedy and their target was the "Baraque Michel" crossroads. Von der Heydte and his men were to take it and hold it for approximately twenty-four hours until being relieved by the 12.SS Panzer-Division Hitlerjugend, thereby hampering the Allied flow of reinforcements and supplies into the area.

Just after midnight 16 December/17 December 112 Ju 52 transport planes with around 1,300 Fallschirmjäger (German paratroopers) on board took off amid a powerful snowstorm, with strong winds and extensive low cloud cover. As a result, many planes went off-course, and men were dropped as far as a dozen kilometres away from the intended drop zone, with only a fraction of the force landing near it. Strong winds also took off-target those paratroopers whose planes were relatively close to the intended drop zone and made their landings far rougher.

By noon a group of around 300 managed to assemble, but this force was too small and too weak to counter the Allies. Colonel von der Heydte abandoned plans to take the crossroads and instead ordered his men to harass the Allied troops in the vicinity with guerrilla-like actions. Because of the extensive dispersal of the jump, with Fallschirmjäger being reported all over the Ardennes, the Allies believed a major divisional-sized jump had taken place, resulting in much confusion and causing them to allocate men to secure their rear instead of sending them off to the front to face the main German thrust.


24 December 1944 - History

Lt. Robert H. Dee, Jr. 's Diary
Co-Pilot, 601st Squadron

Dee's Mission No. 10 (again)

No. 10 (All Over Again)
Dec. 24, 1944

The target was Coblenz. The target was 2 power plants. I flew with a new crew (Bornstedt) to check them out, but we were delayed as 2 ships blew up on take-off. One bombardier and one ground man who was helping him get loose were killed.

We were flying low squadron with a composite group with Ridgewell and Bassingbourn. They left on course before we got there. We flew behind our group. We were in flak (moderate and accurate for 45 minutes). The tail position had holes right by the tail gunner, but he didn’t get hit. We also had two holes in the Tokyo (gas) tanks. We carried 38X100 GP’s. When we came back it was dark and we were diverted to Rattleston, but in peeling-off the 2 ships following landed at Lavenham (486th BG, 3rd Division). They lost 8 ships to fighters. We almost froze last night, and came back here this afternoon in trucks, (Christmas). It was good to clean up today. I didn’t get to Mass yesterday or today.

Editor's Note: The 381st was based in Ridgewell and the 91st in Bassingbourn. The 91st, the 381st, and the 398th formed the 1st Combat Wing of the 1st Air Division.


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