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1944 Frustrated Christmas


Wally Hoffman

Copyright © 2001
All Rights Reserved


December of 1944, was one of the bleak times of the World War II conflict in Europe. Under the cover of dense fog and freezing cold which covered all of Europe, the Germans had broken the American lines in the vicinity of Bastogne. This has become known as the "Battle of the Bulge". During this time I was a member of a B17 bomber crew stationed at Polebrook in northeast England not too far from Peterborough.

The dense fog covering England and Europe grounded all the Fighters and Bombers. This meant no critical air support was available to lend support of these men. The men on the lines in the Bulge were in total turmoil. It was not only from not being able to make any kind of a stand; but because of a lack of logistic support, and having to endure the freezing cold. We read in the “Stars and Stripes” and heard over AFN (Armed Forces Network) the desperate need of air support to give them some breathing room. The ground troops were not only pinned down, and freezing, they had no knowledge of what was happening because of the lack of observations and communications.

We sat on our fannies at our field in Polebrook warm and dry, and had been planning a gala Christmas Party for the local children including a full turkey dinner. The local English children had never seen oranges, bananas or candy since 1939, since the war started. We had been hoarding all of our fruit and candy plus scrounging for gifts. We had been assured we could bring these guests to the combat mess for Christmas. All the time, there was this black cloud hanging over all of us, concerning the privations of our compatriots who were living a freezing hell in Belgium. Wasn’t there anything we could do to help them?

Finally on December 19th, the weather in England cleared and the airfields were open for flying. Europe however was still covered by that same huge cloud when you couldn’t even see across the street. All of us had that very deep personal feeling of wanting to somehow reach out and help the desperate plight of those men on the line in Belgium. Although we had welcomed the enforced stand down from flying combat, everyone was willing to stick their neck out, and take any kind of chance to help, if we could only see the target and the ground when we returned

It was a welcome relief to be awakened by that ever-present flashlight and advised we were flying that day. For once there wasn't the usual grumbling; instead an attitude of "lets go, maybe we can be of a little help for those guys".

At the usual breakfast, I was immediately hit with the thick smell of frying eggs and bacon, which clung to the air. I was not ready to eat, but could easily envision those poor guys in Belgium would love such a breakfast. Even those eggs staring up at them!

Outside it was like the “Black Hole of Calcutta” as we proceeded to the briefing room. You could feel in the room not the usual fear, but the determination to get going. As the curtain was drawn on the huge map we followed the red yarn from Polebrook to Kall, Germany. This was a crossroads barely across the Belgium border in Germany. The mission was to interdict and prevent the normal transport of the German supplies so critical to them for the success and support of their troops in the “Battle of the Bulge”. We were advised to not drop if you can’t identify your target, as the front is so fluid we might be dropping on our own troops.

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