Could an army of atheists have won the famous Siege of Bastogne, the December 1944 engagement in the Battle of the Bulge regarded as a final turning point in World War II?
Certainly it was possible, acknowledges Jerome Corsi, author of a new book on one of the most heroic victories of the war, “No Greater Valor: The Siege of Bastogne and the Miracle that Sealed Allied Victory.”
But the facts Corsi mines from original documents can’t be ignored: An outmanned, outgunned and surrounded U.S. force somehow held off Hitler’s overwhelming Panzer divisions – an outcome that can only be described as “miraculous.”
On the 70th anniversary of siege, Corsi says in the book’s introduction he sought to demonstrate the Americans who fought and won the Siege of Bastogne believed “the Christmas miracle that turned the battle in their favor may never have happened had they not had faith in God.”
Based on a record of oral histories, original field maps, battle orders and other documentation, Corsi pays close attention to the how the battle was “won by a small group of American soldiers who largely believed in God in accordance with the Judeo-Christian traditions that have steeled American soldiers against foreign enemies since 1776.”
In his research, for example, he found that legendary Gen. George Patton ordered the chaplain of the Third Army to write a prayer asking God for favorable weather.
“When the weather broke unexpectedly after the chaplain delivered Patton his prayer, God seemed to deliver on schedule the Christmas miracle the U.S. military needed to win the day,” Corsi writes in his introduction.
He says those “who rushed into the breach to defend Bastogne were motivated by their faith in God, their devotion to family at home, their brotherhood with their comrades-in-arms, and their conviction that their cause was right.”
“Moral resolve then left those who rushed to defend Bastogne no other choice but to put their lives and limbs at risk,” he writes. “How else can we explain why those who fought at Bastogne suffered frostbite, hunger, and sleep deprivation that even today we find remarkable to contemplate?”
Not in vain
Corsi notes in the introduction to “No Greater Valor” his father served in World War II with the Army Air Corp, and he had been fascinated with the Siege of Bastogne since he was a child, recalling conversations with veterans who regarded the battle as a final turning point in the war.
He hopes ultimately to inspire readers to resolve that “those who bled and died on the soil of that obscure Belgium town did not do so in vain.”
The battle began just as the war in Europe showed promise of ending by Christmas. But on Dec. 16, 1944, Hitler launched a daring, last-ditch counterattack in the Ardennes Forest in Belgium with a classic blitzkrieg, or “lightning war,” maneuver. Hitler’s aim was to divide the Allied forces and deny them their main port of resupply.
Corsi writes that as Hitler launched his Wacht am Rhein, or Guard on the Rhine, offensive, American troops “who seemed within weeks of going home victorious took up arms once more and rushed into battle, prepared to die if necessary in the eleventh hour of the most deadly war up to that moment in human history.”
The Nazis offered surrender, but as Corsi writes, “true to form,” the artillery general thrust into leadership of the 101st Airborne Division, Anthony McAuliffe, rejected the offer “with a one-word reply that electrified American forces around the globe.”
“Nuts!” he told the Germans, “sending them on their way back across German lines along with their white flag.”
“No Greater Valor” has received praise from the likes of highly decorated retired Lt. Gen. William Boykin, a founder of the elite Delta Force, and retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely, former deputy commanding general of Pacific Command.
Boykin said the book shows how the Judeo-Christian values that define the nation “sustained the defenders of freedom in December 1944” when “outnumbered U.S. forces won a decisive battle because of their reliance on the same Creator as their forbears.”
Vallely noted he studied the Siege at Bastogne at West Point, calling it a “battle of valor, survival and victory of our 101st Airborne Division and other assigned units against overwhelming Nazi infantry and panzer units.”
Corsi, a senior staff reporter for WND, received a Ph.D. from Harvard University in political science in 1972. In 2004, he co-authored the No. 1 New York Times bestseller “Unfit for Command” with John O’Neill. In his career, he has written numerous books, including six New York Times bestsellers.
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