Citizens & Soldiers: The First 200 Years of Norwich University


In my final years at Norwich University, I took a course about the school’s history, one of the high-level seminars that you take in the field. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect (other than that it might be kind of boring), but I liked the instructor, and it turned out to be a really fascinating field of study. It also proved to be one of those courses that charts the direction of your interests and career. My final project was a study of the Norwich students who fought at Normandy during World War II, and it came with a neat opportunity: a trip to the battlefield along with some high-level alumni and donors. I was the youngest by decades, but got to talk extensively about the students whose footsteps we were literally following, both at school and on the battlefield.

Over the years since, I’ve done quite a bit of study in the topic: I researched Norwich students who fought at the Battle of the Bulge and during World War I, as well as a smattering of articles. The latest is now available in a new book, Citizens & Soldiers: The First 200 Years of Norwich. The school is coming up on its bicentennial next year, and to commemorate it, the school commissioned bestselling author Alex Kershaw (you know, the guy who wrote The Bedford Boys, The Few, The Longest Winter, The Liberator, and others) to write it. He’s on the level of Stephen Ambrose when it comes to WWII histories.

The book is a narrative and independent overview of Norwich’s history, and to flesh it out in places, the school brought in some freelancers to contribute some pieces. I got to write about the 2nd Armored Division, which I’d covered in some of my work.

The book isn’t widely for sale just yet: if you’re in Vermont, you can stop by the school to pick up a copy (either a $1000 Commemorative Edition, or an $85 edition), but it’ll apparently hit their online store at some point in the near future, and they spoke a bit about plans for an eBook or paperback edition for students at some point in the future.

I haven’t read this yet — it’s a big book — but I’ve spoke with Alex about his work on it, and heard him speak about it: an epic story of a school that had a real footprint in the history of our nation, and even if you’re not an alum, it should make for a really interesting read. I’m happy to have a small part in it.

3 Norwich Stories from World War II

I have a feature up on Norwich University's Norwich Today! From Top Brass To Enlisted, Norwich Helped Build the U.S. Forces of WWII, which covers three soldiers I've come across: General Edward Brooks, when he and a small platoon held off a massive German attack, Captain George Lucey, when he was captured in Africa, and Corp. James Logan, and his efforts during the Battle of the Bulge.

On Sept. 2, 1944, he was in Marchiennes, France, accompanied by a small group of six enlisted men and four officers, when local residents notified them a German column was making its way into town. Marchiennes had recently been cleared by the 2nd Armored Division, but Brooks and his tiny force were virtually alone. Brooks took stock of what they had at their disposal: a single armored car with a machine gun, one quarter-ton truck with a light machine gun, one submachine gun and several carbines for the men.

Read it here.

Complicated History

A couple of months ago, I went to the Sullivan Museum and History Museum at Norwich University for a talk by one of the history professors, Dr. Steven Sodergren, as part of an exhibit series on the Civil War. His talk was about the specific motivations for individuals on each side of the Civil War, refuting the idea that there was a uniform block of support behind both the Union and Confederate governments. Some Southern states, when the decision came to vote on the decision to split from the United States, had a close majority: no more than 55-60% of the population supporting the idea, leaving a substantial chunk in opposition.

The idea behind the talk was a sound one, taking on the idea of the very nature of taught history: it's not as simple as it's made out to be. History is a difficult topic to convey to a large audience: big, complicated and multi-facetted, the very instruction of the field is just as enlightening as a separate topic. The Civil War was never quite as clear cut when it came to the motivations of the soldiers on the field: according to Sodergren, it was a deeply personal and difficult choice for everyone who took up arms. More recently, a talk on VPR with Vermont Historian Howard Coffin noted that looking at enlistment numbers is important: high initially, support dropped off following the first major battles when bodies began to return home.

I recently presented a paper at the New England Historical Association, where I talked about Norwich University's efforts during the Battle of the Bulge. My panel's commentator noted that between the papers, there's a high level view of history, with the strategy and big decisions, and the ground level, with the individual soldiers fighting: my paper bridged the gap, telling the story of the Bulge through the soldiers who fought there, but also how their actions played into a much larger story. Their own actions were far from singular: they spanned the entire command structure, from a Private First Class to a Major General. In our continued study of Norwich History, my wife and I have found soldiers who enlisted in foreign militaries prior to the United States' entry into the Second World War, while others were drafted.

A recent article by Slate Magazine caught my eye: How Space-Age Nostalgia Hobbles Our Future: Contrary to popular belief, public support for space exploration in the 1960s was far from universal. It's an interesting read, presenting a very contrary view to the supposed popularity of the Apollo program during the 1960s-1970s. Far from the major popular support that we perceive, the public approval rating for the program only hit a majority around the time that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon, and individual accounts from around the country shows that there was a wide range of opinions as to the value of the program. Support for the space programs also varied wildly depending on age group, and undoubtedly, on location as well.

Looking at political records from the time, there's also an important story when it comes to how Congress approved wartime funding: the public easily remembers President John F. Kennedy's speech at Rice University. The reality of actually funding the space program is far more complicated, with competing national priorities. Even Kennedy's speech, while influential, isn't so clear cut: it was designed in the aftermath of the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion, and was issued to help divert attention away from the administration's blunder.

A book that I particularly detest is Victor David Hanson's Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power, an enormously popular and reviled book on the nature of culture and war: he outlines that the very nature of democracy makes a standing military inherently stronger, because the individual soldiers have a stake in their government and by extension, their destiny. It's a very appealing, straight-cut assumption, and one that breaks down when one considers the enormous complexity inherent in a democratic nation: no sane person makes the decision to take up arms for their country lightly, and Hanson's text does a disservice to the historical community by overly simplifying a situation that shouldn't be simplified.

In a lot of ways, this falls under the same public mentality that spawned the Greatest Generation from the Second World War and the Lost Cause line of thinking from the Civil War. Looking even further back into our nation's history, the War for Independence was likewise far from universally supported! Another specific example from one of my instructor's talks was the Boston Tea Party: essentially a rebranded name in an age of nostalgia to smooth over the fact that the 'Destruction of the Tea' was committed by political radicals.

I often wonder as I hear political reminiscing about the space age or the greatest generation or of Lincoln's efforts, whether people throughout the ages understand that the rosy memories upon which we build the future on is really nothing more than a shared fabrication, and why we reject the complicated story for something that has been watered down to the point that it's contrary to the original message.

History is our most wonderful, complicated Mandelbrot set that continues to bring out new levels and stories. Dr. Sodergren's talk highlighted a key point in how we approach history: it becomes defined by its major outcomes, as opposed to the actions that lead up to them, and increasingly, it feels as though the lessons that we can learn are missed, overlooked or simply ignored.

Who knows, though? Maybe we need the simple stories.

Norwich & Progressive Education

Norwich University is holding a Pride week, which has been met with mixed responses from alumni and current students alike. As a two time graduate of the school, I'm happy to see that Norwich is continuing its tradition of progressive reforms that keep it at the forefront of military education. With the repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, everyone is permitted to serve the military, and events like this help to break down some of the barriers and promote understanding. Knowledge and advancement cannot occur without open dialogue, and a willingness to see another point of view, even if it's not a position that one understands or supports.

I would like to think that there's a component of those in opposition to this that aren't as caracatured by the media and much of the left spectrum of politics: my friends who didn't (and I would assume don't - I haven't talked with a lot of them lately about this) support same-sex marriage initatives weren't throthing at the mouth in hatred, nor do I think that hey wish any ill-will upon them: they just want things as defined within their own comfort level. That's fine: I don't believe that everyone should blindly support such changes, and that questioning it is a positive thing in the long run. What I don't agree with is the notion that things will never change or that they should never change; that as they are now is the way that things always will be, ad infinitum. It should be noted that there's also a difference in opinion over a pride week and some of the specific events that are being held. One of the lightning rods for the controversy was an event called the Condom Olympics, something to do with safe-sex practices. It's not a particularly tactful title for an event (and apparently hosted by an outside group), and I'm a little puzzled about it: why not just call it what it is? Safe-sex education?

This isn't the first time that popularly held concept has been challenged by the school, overturning tradition with a radical change in education. In 1916, Harold 'Doc' Martin was admitted to the University on the recommendation of a Boston-based scholarship committee. He would do well at NOriwch, graduating four years later with a degree in Electrical Engineering, becoming the first African American student in Norwich's history. This came a full thirty years before President Truman worked with military leaders to officially desegregate the U.S. military.

In 1974, Norwich once again made history when the first class of women were admitted to the University, two years ahead of the service academies. The school had admitted women two years earlier to the Vermont College Campus down the road in Montpelier, but the intigration with the school's Corps of Cadets was a first in the nation, which ultimately would lead the way for other schools, such as West Point, to follow suit.

Neither decision came without controversy. While recently researching the 2nd World War, I came across letters written to school officials decrying the admission of women to the school. Undoubtably, there are others for Cadet Martin, who would go on to work with the Tuskegee Airmen.

Norwich's founder, Alden Patridge, established the school to provide a liberal education, revolutionizing the American education system as he did so, and setting the role for the Citizen Soldier model that persists to this day. The country is not homogeneous in its composition, and I believe that everybody should have the ability to serve and recieve the tools that they need to serve and lead our armed forces. The Pride Week is one method amongst many that helps to reinforce community and understanding.

I'm saddened by some of the messages that I've recieved over the last couple of days: it shows that the message hasn't reached everyone, and that there's more work to be done. But, considering that I see a large mix of women and representatives of various races walking around Norwich's Vermont campus whenever I go up there, it's clear that the message will eventually take hold. I for one, am happy that my alma mater has taken this direction: I believe that it will only further strengthen Norwich as we step into the future.

Out of the Ashes: How an Irish Episcopal Priest Saved Norwich University

I've sold a new article to the Norwich Record, titled Out of the Ashes: How an Irish Episcopal Priest Saved Norwich University. This was one of the projects that I was working on last fall, and shortly after the start of the New Year, I submitted my final draft. The research phase was interesting: going through archives and piecing together a rather interesting and diverse man that was a central, but forgotten figure in Norwich University and local Vermont history.

When assigned to this project, I was a little skeptical: what exactly were the links between the Episcopal Church and how would something like this be relevant to today's reader and Norwich alum? After reading up on Bourns, it became clear that there are some interesting things that he has to teach us today.

Out of the Ashes: How an Irish Episcopal Priest Saved Norwich University

The year 1866 was a pivotal one for Norwich. In March, a fire destroyed the school’s primary building—the Old South Barracks—and the University’s future lay in jeopardy. The disaster represented the biggest challenge to date in Reverend Edward Bourns’ tenure as president, a career that had shepherded the young school through fifteen years of adversity, including hostilities from the citizens of Norwich and Hanover, crippling debt, and four years of civil war. Yet, under the immensely popular Irishman’s steadfast guidance and vision, the University would not only survive, but thrive.


Reverend Edward Bourns was well-equipped to run a college. A learned man, he not only held the office of president, but served on the faculty, teaching ancient languages and moral sciences. An ordained Episcopal priest, he held religious services on Sundays.

The reverend’s lack of military training in no way hindered his leadership abilities. Described by Adelbert Dewey as “a man of peace by profession, better versed in canon law than cannon balls,” he had nevertheless acquired “the swinging stride of the modern soldier.” An insatiable reader renowned for his “incisive and delicate wit,” it became a saying among the cadets “that no one could enter the doctor’s rooms on the briefest of errands and not depart wiser than he came.” An imposing presence at six foot two, Rev. Bourns was respected by all, and perfectly suited—both as a shrewd administrator and genial leader—to steer Norwich safely through perilous times.

Born October 29, 1801, in Dublin, Ireland, Bourns entered Trinity College in 1823, but put his education on hold to serve as a private tutor, completing his degree a decade later. Ellis’ History of Norwich University describes him as “a man of learning and acumen,” and at Dublin he won numerous book prizes for scholastic achievement.

From Dublin he moved to London, where he engaged his skills as a writer and reviewer, working alternately in the publishing industry and as a teacher. In 1837, he journeyed across the Atlantic to the United States, where he became acquainted with a fellow Irishman, the Reverend William DeLaney, Provost of Pennsylvania University. Shortly after, Bourns followed Reverend DeLaney (now the Bishop of Western New York) to Geneva, where he enrolled at Hobart College, earning his MA and becoming an adjunct classics professor. By 1841, having received his LLD from Hobart, he was ordained Deacon of Geneva’s Trinity College. Four years later, after a short stint as a fully ordained priest, Dr. Bourns resigned his professorship at Hobart and left for Brooklyn, N.Y., where he taught ancient languages for five years.


You can read the full article here.

Norwich University and the Battle of the Bulge: Conclusions

Sixty-Seven Years ago, on December 16th, 1944, the German military struck back against Allied forces in Belgium, the first major blow to the advance to Germany. During the battle, over a hundred members of the Norwich University community participated; former students who had graduated and advanced in the ranks of the U.S. military, and students who had graduated early to join the fight. They fought under some of the harshest conditions imaginable, and succeeded after a month of combat in the Ardennes. In 2010, I began a research project for the University, studying the role of the students and the school in the Battle before travelling overseas to Belgium. They played an incredible role in the battle, and undoubtably helped with many of the successes that would eventually lead to an Allied victory.


While the German attack on December 16th caught the allied forces by surprise, the response was swift: US leaders recognized the strength of the attack, and took swift steps in negating the German advance further into Belgium: holding actions by the 106th and 28th Infantry Divisions helped to stall the German forces long enough to position reinforcements towards the edge of the withdrawal. In particular, the actions at St. Vith delayed the German forces long enough for the 101st Airborne Division and the 10th Armored Divisions to move into Bastogne, where they denied the German military a key crossroads, thus helping slow their attack further west.

Further actions from the 2nd and 3rd Armored Divisions, the 82nd and 17th Airborne Divisions and the 84th and 26th Infantry Divisions helped to halt the German advance and push it back, closing the gap within a month, and closing the salient in 41 days. Considering the logistical element of coordinating the forces of two, multi-national (largely American) armies numbering in the hundreds of thousands of soldiers, vehicles and supplies, this seems to be an astonishing feat.

Norwich University alumni played key roles in the battle, most notably those in the 2nd and 3rd Armored Divisions, but with others playing smaller roles that helped define the successes that they earned over the course of the campaign. Norwich’s heritage and emphasis on equestrian training and tactics brought numerous Norwich men into armored cavalry units, a dominant force in the battle.

As in the Normandy invasion, Norwich had a presence in every part of the battle where American soldiers fought, from the north and south shoulders of the battle, to Bastogne, St. Vith and the attacks in the West, at Marche, during every point in the campaign, from the opening salvos on December 16th to the end as the gap between the 1st and 3rd Armies closed.

Direct combat experience on the battlefield was not a prerequisite for a direct impact on the battle. For the hundreds of soldiers on the ground, there were others who helped to support their efforts from afar, such as Major Duffy Quinn ’34, of the 3rd Armored Division as a logistical officer:

Duffy is the S-4 of Combat Command B and has gone down in history as one of the greatest experts on logistics in this war. We never lacked supplies of any kind all through the campaign, and, even in the dash through Belgium into Germany, when it was necessary to go over 100 miles to the rear to obtain gasoline,, Duffy kept our tanks and vehicles rolling. (Maj. Duffy Quinn, '34, Expert on Logistics, Cp. Riley, '32 Reports 1945)

Norwich played a meaningful role in the training of the men involved in the battle. Lieutenant Colonel Clifton Batchelder noted in a University survey years later that the “Four years of living in the Corps of Cadets with all the lessons, discipline, combined with the tactical instruction…” was most valuable during the war. (C. Batchelder n.d.)

Numerous men would continue with their military careers: Generals Ernest Harmon and I.D. White continued to serve in the Army following the war, as did Arthur Pottle, who rejoined the military for Korea, and eventually worked at the Redstone Arsenal under Werner von Braun, where they developed the US’s first guided missiles. Timothy Donahue Jr. returned to Northfield, Vermont, where he became the town’s postmaster for many years afterwards – fitting, as he worked as the divisional message chief in the 2nd Armored Division. James Burt lived in New Hampshire, where he taught high school. Harmon would later return to Norwich University, to serve as president for fifteen years.

While only around 13% of the men involved held the rank of Major or above (Major, 4.85, Colonel, 1.92%, Lieutenant Colonel 4.81%, General 1.92%), a far greater number held the rank of Captain at 22.12%, with an even greater number of Lieutenants, 32.12% making up the population. Enlisted men made up a total of 19.23% (Sergeant, 8.655, Corporal. 4.81% and Private 5.77%), with a further 12.5% of the men holding an unknown rank. The numbers would seem to indicate that a majority of the Norwich population held some form of leadership role, and thus some interpretation of the orders that they received from their superiors, interpreting them for the men under their command and carrying them out.

Indeed, a letter from General Harmon to Vermont Representative and former Norwich University President Charles A. Plumley on January 28th, just days after the Bulge officially ended, outlines his own admiration of the men from the school:

“I had many fine Norwich men in the [2nd Armored] Division, and I am happy to report that I have turned it over to a Norwich Man, Brigadier General I.D. White, to command… Other Norwich men are Johnson, who will be G-3 of the Division; [Batchelder], who you will remember, is now a Lieutenant Colonel commanding a tank battalion; and there are hosts of other junior officers who are all top-notch lads and are doing fine.”


  • "1940 Class Survey." Northfield: Norwich University.
  • Baker, Herbert A. "Career Questionnaire - Norwich University." Norwich University, July 1953.
  • Batchelder, Arthur. "Letter."
  • Batchelder, Clifton, interview by Norwich University. Survey
  • "Biographical Sketch, Ralph H. Baker Jr." Northfield: Norwich University, July 1953.
  • Brown, Albert Galatin. "Survey." Norwich University, 1987 - 1990.
  • Burt, James. "Letter to Francis." Norwich University Archives, January 11, 1945.
  • "Letter to Francis." Norwich University Archives, December 30, 1944.
  • Christie, Dr. Robert. "Archival Files." Norwich University Archives.
  • Cole, Hugh M. United States Army in World War II: The European Theater of Operations: The Ardennes: The Battle of the Bulge. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1964.
  • Cook, Bradford A. "Archival Files." Norwich University Archives.
  • Dean, Jerry. Memorial Day means more for local vets. 5 25, 2006. (accessed 11/15/11).
  • Eisenhower, John S. D. The Bitter Woods: The Battle of the Bulge. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Da Capo Press, 1995.
  • Gothard, Kristin A. "Deseased Notices for the Classes of 1944-1951." Northfield: Norwich University, October 25, 2006.
  • "Deseased Notices for the Classes of 1978-1987." Norwich University, March 15, 2006.
  • Harmon, Ernest M. Combat Commander: Autobiography of a Soldier. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1970.
  • Henry, Walter. "World War II Years." 6.
  • Kelly, Jacques. "George Norman Anderson Jr. Obituar." Baltimore Sun.
  • Baltimore, February 15, 2009.
  • MacKeerer, Donald, interview by Andrew Liptak. (November 14, 2011).
  • Miller, Ted. "Letter to Ernest Harmon." Harmon Files, Norwich University Archives.
  • Noriwch University Record. "Lt. Dick Bullens, '40, Wounded in Belgium." March 2, 1945: 17.
  • Norwich University. "Donald Wing Deceased Constituent File."
  • Norwich University. "John Carey Lee, Jr. ("Jack") 155 E. Main, Norwich N.Y." October 1, 1947.
  • Norwich University. "Lt. Arnold MacKerer, '46, Dies of Wounds." March 2, 1945: 4.
  • Norwich University Record. "1600 Norwich Men in Service, 1218 Are Officers."
  • January 5, 1945: 1.
  • Norwich University Record. "1st Lieutenant Frederick D. Wing, '44." June 22, 1945.
  • Norwich University Record. "Capt. John McGauley, '41, Names Norwich Men With Him At Bastogne." April 27, 1945: 18.
  • Norwich University Record. "Col. John MacDonald, '20, Avenges Hogan's 400."
  • March 2, 1945: 8.
  • Norwich University Record. "Corp. Henry Waters, '46, Missing in Action." March 2, 1945: 28.
  • Norwich University Record. "Howard Chilson, '41." June 11, 1948.
  • Norwich University Record. "James Logan, '45." March 16, 1945: 8.
  • Norwich University Record. "Lt. Bob Christie, '44, Gets Quinn Welcome." March 30, 1945: 12.
  • Norwich University Record. "Lt. Carl Huges, '42, with Capt. Al Hicks, '36, At Hurtgen Forest." March 2, 1945: 31.
  • Norwich University Record. "Lt. Col. Blanchard, '36, Twice Decorated." March 2, 1945: 25.
  • Norwich University Record. "Lt. Col. Henry Learned, '30, Shows Germans A Trick."
  • March 2, 1945: 16.
  • Norwich University Record. "Lt. Don McKerer, '46, Visits Brother's Grave." March 30, 1945: 14.
  • Norwich University Record. "Lt. George Campbell '44, Wounded in Same Action."
  • May 25, 1945: 28.
  • Norwich University Record. "Lt. Leonard Wing, '45, Is German Prisoner." March 2, 1945: 20.
  • Norwich University Record. "Lt. Tom Vollenweider, '46, Killed Over Belgium." June 8, 1945: 9.
  • Norwich University Record. "Maj. Duffy Quinn, '34, Expert on Logistics, Cp. Riley, '32 Reports." March 2, 1945: 14.
  • Norwich University Record. "Maj. Gen. Harmon, '16 And His 2ndnd Armored Break Runstedt Drive." February 2, 1945: 18.
  • Norwich University Record. "Maj. General Harmon '16, And His 2nd Armored Break the Runstedt Drive." February 2, 1945: 18.
  • Norwich University Record. "Maj. Sherwood Adams, '34, Fighting In Belgium."
  • February 2, 1945: 16.
  • Norwich University Record. "Perley Brainerd, '40, Named Postmaster at Bradford." March 1955.
  • Norwich University Record. "Pfc. John Bacon, '47, Reports His Travels." April 13, 1945: 15.
  • Norwich University Record. "Pvt. John Hurlburt, '45, Wounded at Aachen."
  • February 2, 1945: 19.
  • Norwich University Record. "S.Sgt. Walt Henry, '45, Wins Quick Promotions."
  • May 25, 1945: 31.
  • Norwich University Record. "Sgt. Edwin Seeger, '46, Killed In Breakthrough." March 2, 1945.
  • Norwich University Record. "T-4 Seeger, '46, Died Defending Post." April 13, 1945: 14.
  • Norwich University Record. "T-5 Wesley Tibbetts, '45, Caught in Big Push." March 2, 1945.
  • Norwich University Record. "Three Norwich Men Direct 2nd Armored Advance to Rhine."
  • March 30, 945: 9.
  • Norwich University Reecord. "Sgt. Burleigh A. Smith, '46." June 22, 1945: 8.
  • Olson, David S. "Class of '45 Letter." Northfield: Norwich University, June 6, 1996.
  • Pottle, Arthur, interview by Andrew Liptak. (10 15, 2011).
  • Priscilla, N. Gilbert. "CPT James M. Burt, USA (RET)." Northfield: Norwich University,
  • February 15, 2006.
  • "Richard P Biggs Obituary." Patriot Ledger. Quincy, May 22, 2000.
  • "Richard Sircom Bullens, 83." Portland Press,. Portland, May 1, 2001.
  • Toland, John. Battle: The Story of the Bulge. Nebraska: Bison Books, 1999.
  • War Whoop. Northfield: Norwich University, 1947.
  • Whaley, David J. "Alumni Letter ." Norwich University, November 1990.

Norwich University and the Battle of the Bulge: The End of the Battle

Sixty-Seven Years ago, on December 16th, 1944, the German military struck back against Allied forces in Belgium, the first major blow to the advance to Germany. During the battle, over a hundred members of the Norwich University community participated; former students who had graduated and advanced in the ranks of the U.S. military, and students who had graduated early to join the fight. They fought under some of the harshest conditions imaginable, and succeeded after a month of combat in the Ardennes. In 2010, I began a research project for the University, studying the role of the students and the school in the Battle before travelling overseas to Belgium. They played an incredible role in the battle, and undoubtably helped with many of the successes that would eventually lead to an Allied victory.

Cleanup, December 26th – January 25th

Following the high water mark on December 26th, the 2nd Armored Division rested for several days following their combat operations, pulling out of the line on December 28th, and received orders on January 1st to move 30 miles to Grandmenil, north of Bastogne. (Harmon 1970, 242)

It was during this time that Staff Sargeant Walter Weatherill ‘44, of the 106th Infantry Division was killed:

Walter participated as a member of the 106th Division, which was cited by the President, in the Battle of the Bulge. He was wounded in the shoulder, but fought on until he was hit with a hand grenade about the face. A companion carried him to a German medical station after they were captured. He died somewhere in Germany in a motorized German prison hospital on December 29th. (War Whoop 1947, 22)

On December 30th, the 11th Armored Division, with 1st Lieutenant Howard Chilson, ‘41, launched an attack from Neufchateau towards Bastogne, to hold open the highway. Behind them, the 17th Airborne Division moved into position to further reinforce the Bastogne highway.

By January 3rd, the 2nd Armored Division returned to the fight, moving with the 84th Infantry Division to Houffalize, where they would spend the next thirteen days fighting, described by Harmon as “the most difficult campaigning that I have ever experienced. Heavy snow fell continuously, blotting out all light like clouds of fog.” (Harmon 1970, 242) Captain James Burt, in a letter to his wife, Frances, noted that “…we have fought under every condition possible now. Including darkness in woods in [daylight?] with foot of snow already on the ground.” (Miller n.d.)

The division seized several towns on their way, and by January 16th, the 82nd Reconnaissance Battalion with 1st Lieutenant Herbert Baker, linked up with elements of the 11th Armored Division, 1st Lieutenant Howard Chilson, just west of Houffalize. (Harmon 1970, 245) The north and south elements of the U.S. Army had begun to close in.

The Associated Press praised Harmon’s efforts in the war in a profile of the General and his division shortly after the division had halted the German advance:

His men have taken several hundred prisoners and re-liberated a half dozen Belgian villages in weather that would bother a polar bear.

They are back in combat after only three days’ rest following one of the greatest battles of the war – a head-on smash that broke the Rundstedt’s drive towards the Meuse River, kicked back the Nazis 10 miles and practically destroyed a prize SS armored division.

A second force under Brig. Gen. I.D. White of Des Moines Iowa, swept through Ciney to Celles and polished off an enemy column just outside of town. (Maj. Gen. Harmon, '16 And His 2nd Armored Break Runstedt Drive 1945)

At the same time, the 3rd Armored Division also moved ahead to converge on Houffalize, with the 82nd Airborne protecting their left flank. (Toland 1999, 334) British soldiers from the 6th Airborne also moved towards the city, and together, attacking from the north, west and south, struck against the entrenched German forces. The Germans, already suffering reduced numbers due to the ongoing fighting, received no replacements, unlike the American units, which were receiving new troops daily. (Toland 1999, 334)

On January 4th, the German military made a renewed attack against the Bastogne area, particularly against the 17th Airborne Division, who experienced their first combat on that day. (Toland 1999, 334) This unit contained four Norwich men: 1st Lieutenant Joseph M. Cronin, '47, 1st Lieutenant Frank Diefauf, '48, 1st Lieutenant Christo Zoukis, '47 and Corporal James Logan, '45. The unit received fierce resistance, and on the 7th, the 513th Regiment moved on Flamierge, where Corporal Logan, was killed:

“Jim’s unit,” the 17th Airborne Division, was flown to Paris from England, where they had completed their training, on December 24th, 1944. Because of a blinding blizzard, the Division went into action as infantry on January 1, 1945, for the blizzard blocked any plan for parachuting into combat. He was an expert rifleman, but was serving as a machine gunner on January 7th, 1945, near Flamierge, Belgium, when he was killed by an enemy tank artillery barrage after assisting a wounded companion into his foxhole.” (War Whoop 1947, 24)

However, by January 9th, German troops began to withdraw, starting with the 6th Panzers, while Patton, armed with the 26th, 35th, 87th and 90th Infantry Divisions, the 4th and the 6th Armored Divisions, and the 17th and 101st Airborne Divisions, pushed ahead.

2nd Lieutenant Arthur Pottle ’44, fighting with the 86th Mechanized Cavalry Squadron in the 6th Armored Division, was ordered to move from the southern-most part of the attack at the German-French borders on Christmas day. The unit arrived on January 1st, where he worked to listen in on the Germans. He helped to set up a listening post near Bastogne ridgeline, with German forces on the other side. He recalled ordering his men to dig foxholes in the frozen ground. Armed only with entrenching tools, they soon gave up.

“[We] had a heck of a time getting them going. Went into the position late in the afternoon. It was a moon-lit night, and we saw a couple of [artillery] batteries had pulled into a nearby field behind us. The Germans spotted them, and sent in aircraft to bomb them. Some of the bombs hit very, very close. I didn’t have to urge the troops to start digging.” (Pottle, Interview with Arthur Pottle 2011)

He would continue forward with his unit, noting that the weather was really bad with the ice and snow, and that they weren’t able to be resupplied from the air. At some point, the men in his unit built a large bonfire to ward off the cold, where he ran into a fellow classmate from another division, Hubert Schietinger ’43, as well as fellow 6th Armored Division member 1st Lieutenant Donald F. Wing ’44, of the 15th Tank Battalion. Following the meeting, towards the end of the Bulge, Pottle led his men to check a town. Crossing an empty field, he and his men discovered they had come across a minefield, and continued across, losing two soldiers in the process. The Germans promptly surrendered once they had reached the edge.

At this point, the 101st Airborne and 4th Armored Divisions were moving up to Noville, pushing past Bastogne, taking it on January 15th, the day before the 1st and 3rd Armies closed the gap between them. (Eisenhower 1995, 427) The 2nd Armored Division reached the Ourthe River at Houffalize, where they were joined by the 11th Armored Division on the next day. Two days later, the 17th Airborne Division relieved the 11th Armored Division.

Several days after meeting Pottle, Lieutenant Wing was killed in action on January 16th as the 6th Armored worked to push the German military back:

"When his platoon reached a ridge beyond the edge of town, the enemy met them with heavy, direct anti-tank fire. Realizing the situation would not permit the continuation of the attack until these guns were destroyed; he directed the withdrawal of his tanks and covered them with fire from his vehicle.” (Norwich University n.d.)

On the 16th, the Belgian Bulge was considered closed, although it would not be until the 25th of January that the Allied forces returned to their original positions held on December 16th.

Tomorrow: Conclusions


Norwich University and the Battle of the Bulge: 2nd Armored Division at Ciney

Sixty-Seven Years ago, on December 16th, 1944, the German military struck back against Allied forces in Belgium, the first major blow to the advance to Germany. During the battle, over a hundred members of the Norwich University community participated; former students who had graduated and advanced in the ranks of the U.S. military, and students who had graduated early to join the fight. They fought under some of the harshest conditions imaginable, and succeeded after a month of combat in the Ardennes. In 2010, I began a research project for the University, studying the role of the students and the school in the Battle before travelling overseas to Belgium. They played an incredible role in the battle, and undoubtably helped with many of the successes that would eventually lead to an Allied victory.

2nd Armored Division at Ciney – December 21st – December 26th

On the 21st of December, the 2nd Armored Division had begun to receive word about the situation developing in Belgium: the Germans had broken through allied lines, and were headed west. (Harmon 1970, 228) On the same day, General Ernest Harmon was ordered from the 9th Army to the 1st Army, and to deploy 70 miles away, between the Muese River and Havelange, Belgium. They were to move 13,000 soldiers and 3,000 vehicles across snow and ice, during blackout conditions. The unit was also to avoid contact with the enemy, but to wait and secure their position for a counterattack against the incoming German soldiers.

By the evening of the 22nd, the entire 2nd Armored Division was in place. In a Christmas letter sent to Harmon a number of years after the Battle of the Bulge ended, Ted Miller recounted a brief encounter that the two shared:

’General’, said the young man, ‘do you remember at the Battle of the Bulge when your division stopped for rest at 2:00am? We were really fatigued, weren’t we? General, I stood right beside you at that time and you had a cup of coffee in your hand. You looked at me and said, “Boy, you’re pretty white. You need this coffee more than I do,” and gave me the cup.’ (Miller n.d.)

After arriving in the Marche Plain, Harmon met with locals in Havelange, ordering a stop to all civilian movements along the roads, to help with his own troop movements. (Harmon 1970, 232) Already, the German military had attempted to swing north, only to hit the 3rd Armored Division, and the 84th Infantry Division already in place in Marche on their left flank to the east. (Harmon 1970, 233) The 84th Infantry contained three Norwich men by the time of the Bulge: Captain Richard Bullens, ’40, Corporal Garret A. Kavenagh, ’47 and Private John Hurlburt, ‘45.

After the long trek across three countries, the 2nd Armored expected to wait for a week while waiting for German soldiers to show up. However, on the 23rd of December, Harmon received a report from a wounded soldier in the 82nd Reconnaissance coming in from a patrol, relaying that the Germans were already within ten miles of the Division. Harmon immediately ordered some of the nearest tanks to move out to Ciney and to block off the town. Only then did he turn around and tell his superior, Brigadier General Joseph Collins, that he was committed to the fight.(Toland 1999, 228) By the next day, Ciney was under the control of Brigadier General I.D. White’s ’22, Combat Control B and with CCA under the control of Brigadier General Joseph Collier, at Celles. (Harmon 1970) Collier, who would later be stationed at Fort Knox would have an aide, W. Russell Todd ‘50, who would rise through the ranks, and upon his retirement, become the President of Norwich University.

Brigadier General Collins authorized an attack on December 25th, described by Harmon that they “[knew] that the outcome of the whole Bulge battle might be riding in our turrets.” (Harmon 1970, 237) Moving south to Celles, Brigadier General White broke his unit into two columns, one to the south, positioned to cut off a German retreat, and another moved northeast and west of the town. One of these units, the 82nd Reconnaissance Battalion, was part of the task force that hit from the North, with 1st Lieutenant Herbert A. Baker ’41, helping to destroy the German battalion that they came into contact with. (Eisenhower 1995, 372) Their actions allowed them to take Celles by 5pm and fend off several counterattacks. (Harmon 1970, 237) While the 2nd SS Panzer Division was pushed back, they were soon to receive reinforcements from the 9th SS Panzer Division. (Eisenhower 1995, 368) However, at this point, it was increasingly clear to German planners that the offensive had begun to stall. (Toland 1999, 287) At some point on the 25th, Captain James Burt’s 66th Armored Regiment came across a German supply truck. After the doctor examined its contents, he and his men had a surprise dinner: steak. (Burt, Letter to Francis 1944)

In all, the 2nd Armored Division included at least eleven Norwich Alumni within its ranks: Major General Ernest Harmon ’16, Brigadier General I.D. White '22, Lieutenant Colonel Clifton Batchelder ‘32, Colonel Briard P. Johnson '27, Captain George D. Bacon '33, Captain Donald P. Chace '37, Captain Philip M. Hawes '37, Captain Robert M. Hallam '44, Captain James Burt '39, 1st Lieutenant Herbert A. Baker '41, 1st Lieutenant Robert C. Atwood '40, Timothy M. Donahue Jr. '47 and Ted Miller.

Nearby, and at the same time on the 25th of December, Captain Richard Bullens ’40, of the 84th Infantry Division led his unit to retake a village that had been taken by the 2nd SS Panzer Division the day before:

Lieut. Bullens was given the assignment of re-taking a village that had been captured by the Germans the day previous. Early on Christmas morning he attacked at the head of his company and was successful in his assignment. He was just about to set up his command post in the village when a sniper opened up on him, and he was shot twice through the left leg above the knee. After getting things organized, he was assisted to a dressing station by some of his men. (Lt. Dick Bullens, '40, Wounded in Belgium 1945)

The next day, just to the west of the 84th Division, Brigadier General I.D. White’s CCB turned north to clear out any remaining German soldiers, spending the next couple of days in the area. By this time, the 2nd SS Panzers were ordered to pull back to Rochefort. (Eisenhower 1995, 374)

The actions on the 26th, with the combined victories from the 2nd Armored Division and the reestablishment of contact with the 101st Airborne in Bastogne, General Bradley informed Lieutenant General Walter Smith that he believed that the attack had “reached [its] high water mark today”. (Eisenhower 1995, 375) The allies had begun to win the battle.

While the high watermark had been reached, the battle was only half over, with further challenges to come. On the 27th, 2nd Lieutenant Tom Vollenweider ’46, of the 22nd Fighter Squadron, was shot down and killed over the battle zone. (Lt. Tom Vollenweider, '46, Killed Over Belgium 1945)

At some point around this time, near the 84th Infantry and 2nd Armored Divisions, the 34th Railsplitter Infantry Division pushed German forces from Laroche, Belgium, the largest town to be retaken at that point:

Members of the 4th U.S. Cavalry, one of the oldest forces in the American Army, attached to the 34th Railsplitter [Infantry Division] beat the British by a few hours into this largest town yet retaken from the Germans in the Battle of the Belgian bulge.

Blizzard conditions, which are making this the most difficult fighting yet experienced by doughboys in Europe, Italy included, coated this Ourthe River town with a merciful mantle of white.

Late yesterday, the Fourth Cavalry Task Force under Col. John C. Macdonald of Fort Sam Houston, Texas, former commandant at Norwich University, avenged Task Force Hogan.

Task Force Hogan’s 400 had abandoned all of its equipment in the little mountain town of Marcourary, north of Laroche. The 84th [Infantry] Division’s cavalry retook Marcouray, driving the Germans back to the south.

Macdonald ’20, had never graduated from Norwich, but had left the University to serve overseas in the First World War, according to the 1920 War Whoop. In 1923, he returned to the school, where he served as the school’s Commandant until 1927.

Tomorrow, the end of the Battle.

Norwich University and the Battle of the Bulge: The Meuse River & Bastogne

Sixty-Seven Years ago, on December 16th, 1944, the German military struck back against Allied forces in Belgium, the first major blow to the advance to Germany. During the battle, over a hundred members of the Norwich University community participated; former students who had graduated and advanced in the ranks of the U.S. military, and students who had graduated early to join the fight. They fought under some of the harshest conditions imaginable, and succeeded after a month of combat in the Ardennes. In 2010, I began a research project for the University, studying the role of the students and the school in the Battle before travelling overseas to Belgium. They played an incredible role in the battle, and undoubtably helped with many of the successes that would eventually lead to an Allied victory.

The Drive to the Meuse River

December 17th saw the beginnings of an organized response to the invasion: Generals Eisenhower and Bradley ordered the 7th Armored Division south from Holland and the 10th Armored Division from Patton’s command north, towards Bastogne. (Eisenhower 1995, 215) Additionally, the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions, both recuperating in Reims, France after the fight in Holland, were activated on the 17th. (Cole 1964, 305) The 101st was trucked to the key crossroads at Bastogne along with the 10th Armored, while the 82nd Airborne moved further north, to Werbomont and Trois Ponts.

As the German military was prevented from moving inwards from the top of the line at Monschau, the German military moved up from the center, aiming for Liege and Trois Ponts, and was focused on the town of St. Vith, where American forces had begun to dig in. This battle would become known as the ‘Fortified Goose Egg’. Two regiments of the 106th surrendered to German forces, while a third held their ground at St. Vith, with the 7th Armored Division moving in to their aid. At least one Norwich graduate was with the 7th Armored, 1st Lieutenant Perley Brainerd Jr, ‘40. The combined forces, which were reinforced by remnants of the 28th Infantry and 9th Armored Divisions in addition to several other scattered units, held their ground from the 17th as pitched fighting for the city began. (Toland 1999, 106)

By December 18th, the German military had pushed heavily into the region, some nearly as thirty miles into Allied territory. (Toland 1999, 97) Captain Albert Hicks and 1st Lieutenant Carl Hughes, were still located to the south of the 106th Infantry Division’s positions, where the situation became desperate: their mission changed from stopping the German advance to delaying them as much as possible. As the German military moved in towards Bastogne, the 28th worked to slow their advance, as US reinforcements arrived to contain them. (Eisenhower 1995, 253) Elements of the 9th Armored Division, with 2nd Lieutenant Olin C. Tosi ‘45, helped on the 17th, but ultimately, the 28th Infantry Division units fell apart under the German advance, allowing them to advance towards Bastogne.

However, because the German military relied on a strict timetable, the delaying actions of the units helped to stall German advance, allowing the 101st Airborne and the 10th Armored Divisions to move into Bastogne, where they were ordered to hold the crossroads at all costs.

At the same time on the 18th, the 3rd Armored Division moved into place between the Salm and Ourthe rivers, between the 84th Infantry Division and the 7th Armored Division, West of St. Vith. Lieutenant Colonel Elwyn W. Blanchard, '36 had only just returned to command a battalion within the 3rd Armored, having been recovering from wounds he sustained in France. He continued his command until he was wounded again.

1st Lieutenant Robert Christie ‘44 recalled his unit, the 33rd Armored Regiment, ordered into the fight, brought in by train, with little idea of where they were headed or what they were faced with:

It was not many days thereafter that I found myself travelling through Belgium in “Forty Hommes et 8 Cheveaux”, rolling stock where I damned near froze to death for three or four days and was only kept warm by occasional swigs of calvados bought at the trainside from the French. From the train, I recall travelling in a 6x6 deep through Belgium and seeing wrecked tanks and other vehicles along the way, and occasionally unrecovered and unburied German and American bodies strewn across the road, this being the area in the middle of the Ardennes salient (Battle of the Bulge) by the Germans. (Christie n.d.)

Shortly after his arrival to Belgium, Christie encountered a fellow Norwich alumnus during the battle, although not face to face:

The day I hit the 33rd, I was ushered into a candle-lit room. From the big, dark bed, a voice boomed from the stack of blankets about a foot thick: “Who in hell’s Christie?” I made an appearance, and the next thing I heard was a gruff command to take a brace in the middle of the room and sing ‘Norwich Forever’. About that time, I had a small suspicion that perhaps there could be a Norwich man in the crowd. Sure enough, it was Major ‘Duffy’ Quinn, ’34… Still haven’t seen Duffy’s face. He was so wrapped up in those blankets, I didn’t get the opportunity. (Lt. Bob Christie, '44, Gets Quinn Welcome 1945, 12)

Christie would go on to describe a Vermont winter as being a dozen times better what they were going through. He would later write a book about his experiences in the 2nd World War, in which he noted: “His chest suddenly tightened as he saw the partially displaced helmet from the sprawled body of a GI, the barrel of his rifle projecting upward out of the snow at a low angle. He suddenly realized what a dead American soldier really was.” (Christie n.d., 77) Christie’s experiences and his turn towards writing after the war come as no surprise when his experience with the Norwich University Record and the War Whoop are taken into consideration. (War Whoop 1947, 67)

Including Christie, eight Norwich men belonged to the 3rd Armored Division: Lieutenant Colonel Elwyn W. Blanchard, '36, Major Scott Gordon, '33, Major Duffy Quinn ‘34, Captain Charles J. Adams, '39, Captain George Riley, ’32, 1st. Lieutenant Arthur Curtis, '41, 1st Lieutenant Herman J. Lavin '33, 1st Lieutenant Charles Sellars, '47 and 2nd Lieutenant Richard P. Briggs, '42.

The battle for St. Vith at this point was “in full swing.” (Toland 1999, 106) The 3rd Armored Division met with the 82nd Airborne Division by mid-day on the 19th, when the 82nd began to move east, towards Trois Ponts, just to the northwest of St. Vith. By the 20th, they had set up a perimeter around Werbomont in all directions, while the 3rd was directed to move out as far south as Houffalize. (Cole 1964, 344-346)

On December 19th, the 26th Infantry Division moved to Luxembourg to help advance Northwest against the Germans moving on Bastogne, with Norwich members Captain Leonard E. Nysted, ’42, 1st Lieutenant Burton B. Fall Jr., ’44, and Corporal Bradford A. Cook Jr. ’44 along with the unit. (Cook n.d., 520) They attacked on the 21st at Rambrouch, Grosbous and to the Wiltz River, joining with the 4th Armored Division which contained Captain George Fairbanks ’39 and Private Charles Bailey, ’47.

For his actions throughout the Bulge, Fairbanks was awarded the Bronze Star:

Since [November 9, 1944], this unit has never wanted for supplies of any type so long as they were at all available. There is no limit to the extent to which Capt. Fairbanks will go to obtain the necessary supplies, even though this entailed many trips to rear areas at all hours and under all types of weather conditions. On numerous occasions, he has gone to company positions in an unarmored vehicle under enemy shelling to obtain a list of the daily needs.

Capt. Fairbanks was with the Fourth Armored Division when the crack tank outfit effected the historic relief of the besieged 101st Airborne Division in Bastogne, Belgium.

Along with the 4th Armored Division’s push, the 104th Infantry Division with John W. Howley, ’44, and 80th Infantry Division, with Joseph Caffrey Jr., ’48, this push absorbed some of the remaining members of the 28th Infantry division. By Christmas Day, the force moved to Arsdorf, Belgium, encountering heavy fighting, where they would be pushed back. They regrouped in January for a renewed push to the area. At some point during this engagement, John Howley ’44, would be captured and sent to a POW camp, from which he would escape three times.

On December 21st, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery ordered a retreat from St. Vith, forfeiting the position. The 106th Infantry and the remnants of the other units pulled out during this withdrawal. Two things largely saved the units at St. Vith: the ferocity of the Allied defense around the city, and the readiness of the German field units, which had yet to receive their full strength by December 20th. Despite the failure to hold onto the positions, the actions at St. Vith helped to further slow the German advance.

Bastogne, December 20 - December 27

 With the difficulties that the Germans faced with the defense of St. Vith, their focus shifted to the next set of crossroads, located at Bastogne. (Cole 1964, 306) General Eisenhower, over the protests of General Patton, ordered the 10th Armored North to the crossroads. The Division contained a number of Norwich men: Captain Phil Baird, ’38, Captain Dave Perrin, ’41, Captain, Marinus Van Kleef, ’41, Captain John R. McGauley, ’41, 2nd Lieutenant Wilburn Hardy, ’45, Corporal Joseph McCloskey, ’42, Joseph Haines Clarke ‘40, Captain Philip R. Calder, ‘41, Lieutenant. Hubert Shietinger, ’43, and Staff Sergeant Robert G. Buttinger ’48. One member of the unit, Captain McGauley, recounted in a letter to the Norwich Record of his experiences in the unit:

 I have met several Norwich men over here so far. Most interesting were meetings during the ‘Bulge’. I was at Bastogne when the Germans started through, and in the tumult of action, I ran into Cap. Phil Baird, ’38. The last time I had seen him was when I was a freshman and was acting as an orderly for him. When the 4th Arm’d broke through to us, one of the first persons I met was Maj. Tom Churchill, ’40.

The only members of my class still with me are Capt. Dave Perrin, and Capt. Marinus Van Kleed, both of whom have been wounded, and since returned to duty. Capt. Joe McCloskey, ’42 and Lt. Hubert Shietinger, ’43, are in this outfit also. (Capt. John McGauley, '41, Names Norwich Men With Him At Bastogne 1945)

Joining the 10th Armored Division was the 101st Airborne Division, who drove towards Bastogne, reaching it on the 19th. An eventual member of the Norwich community, Howard Brosseau was a member of the 502nd Regiment of the 101st Airborne, which supported the north-northwest shoulder around the city. The American units around Bastogne dug in securely, with the mission to hold the town at all costs. (Eisenhower 1995, 318) The German military was aware that the US had moved in two of their airborne divisions to the center of the attack, but failed to anticipate how quickly they would set up around the city, and were forced to react as they came into contact with the three combined-arms task forces supplied by the 10th Armored Division that were sent along the roads leading out of the city. The Americans were able to hold off the Germans for the remainder of the 19th, but by the 20th, they were cut off by German forces. Over the next couple of days, they would repel attacks from all sides in one of the most dramatic engagements of the battle, receiving supplies by air on the 23rd and 24th before being cut off again by poor weather on Christmas day. By the next day, units from the 4th Armored moved in and helped hold open supply lines, likely aided by Major Churchill and Captain Fairbanks.

With the breakthrough of the 4th Armored, the siege of Bastogne was over. Like at St. Vith, the allied actions helped to further slow the onslaught, denying the German military a vital crossroads that they required to support their objectives to the west. (Cole 1964, 480-481)

Monday: the 2nd Armored Division and Ciney

Norwich University and the Battle of the Bulge: Breakthrough

Sixty-Seven Years ago, on December 16th, 1944, the German military struck back against Allied forces in Belgium, the first major blow to the advance to Germany. During the battle, over a hundred members of the Norwich University community participated; former students who had graduated and advanced in the ranks of the U.S. military, and students who had graduated early to join the fight. They fought under some of the harshest conditions imaginable, and succeeded after a month of combat in the Ardennes. In 2010, I began a research project for the University, studying the role of the students and the school in the Battle before travelling overseas to Belgium. They played an incredible role in the battle, and undoubtably helped with many of the successes that would eventually lead to an Allied victory.

Breakthrough, December 16th - December 17th

By December, the Allied advance towards Germany had slowed down. The Allied armies settled along the German border in Belgium and France where units received replacements, retrained and waited to move forward. On December 15th, Private First Class Walter Henry, ‘45, of the 44th Infantry Division, went on leave in Paris, France where he planned on seeing Glenn Miller’s orchestra. While there, word came through that Miller’s airplane had been reported missing somewhere over the English Channel. Disappointed, Henry returned to his unit in Belgium. (Henry, Questions of Oct. 18 re: Battle of the Bulge 2011)

The German breakthrough of Allied lines began at 5:30 in the morning with an artillery barrage against 85 miles of Allied lines on December 16th. (Toland 1999, 23) At the top of the invasion near Monschau, three Norwich men were part of the 9th Infantry division: Major John Costello ’42, and twin brothers Arnold and Donald MacKerer ’46, both 2nd Lieutenants. Several miles to the south were six Norwich men assigned to the 106th Infantry Division: 1st Lieutenant Ralph H. Baker Jr, ‘43 Corporal Howard R. Clement ’32, Sergeant Edwin Seeger '46, Corporal Henry Waters, '46, Sergeant Walter H. Weatherill, '44, and Private Gregory Sarmanian, '47, who was part of the 14th Cavalry Group. In the center of the invasion was the veteran 28th Infantry division, which included Captain Albert E. Hicks, ’36, and 1st Lieutenant Carl Hughes, ’42. At the bottom of the invasion, the 4th Infantry Division included 1st Lieutenant Thomas L. Fulham, 2nd Lieutenant Robert H. Harrington and John W. Knowlton, all of the class of 1947.

During the initial attack, Sergeant Seeger of the 106th was killed in action, defending his post, while occupying a forward position that was overrun near Winterscheid.

Sergeant Seeger’s squadron was providing reconnaissance for the 106th Division on the opening day of the battle of “The Bulge”, December 16th, 1944. The Sergeant, with three other men, were occupying the most advance post of their squadron when the Germans overran their position. He was fatally wounded while “defending his position against overwhelming odds,” near Winterstchied, Germany, in the St. Vith sector on the first day of the battle of “The Bulge”. (War Whoop 1947, 30)

He appears to have been one of the first Norwich casualties during the battle, although he would not be the last: at some point on December 16th, 1st Lieutenant George Norman Anderson ’43, of the 1121st Combat Engineering Group, was captured, force marched to a prison camp in Bavaria, where he was later recovered by US forces.

Corporal Henry Waters ’46, was also reported as a casualty on the 16th: Corp. Henry C. Waters, Jr. has been reported missing in action in Germany as of Dec. 16. The son of Mr. and Mrs. H.C. Water of Marblehead, MA, has been overseas since Nov. 11, and was in a unit of the 106th Division which was rushed to the front lines following the Von Rundstedt breakthrough. (Corp. Henry Waters, '46, Missing in Action 1945, 28)

As the German military advanced, units of the 14th Cavalry Group occupied one of the key routes which stood in their way, with other units 25 miles away in Vielsalm. (Toland 1999, 27) Private George Sarmanian ’47, a member of the unit, was likely present at the first moments of the attack. By 1300 hrs, the 14th Cavalry Group had run out of ammunition, and began to retreat west towards American lines.

At the same time on December 16th, the 28th Infantry Division was hit alongside its entire divisional front. The center of the Division’s lines were hit hard by the German invaders, blowing open the route towards the interior of Belgium. (Toland 1999, 27) The two Norwich alumni were present amongst its ranks, Captain Albert E. Hicks, and 1st Lieutenant Carl R. Hughes would remain close friends after the war. During the attack, Hughes' unit, the 102nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, was surrounded by German forces. Hughes escaped by walking through the enemy lines, arriving back at American lines three days later on the 19th.

Carl Hughes described his experiences in a letter for the Norwich Record:

Here’s a bit of news. I was in Luxembourg when the breakthrough came. My unit was surrounded for three days, and then we made a break for it. We lost our wheels, so I walked through the German lines three days and nights. Now am getting a few days of rest after 170 days of combat. I saw Al Hicks ’36, in Germany during the battle of Hurtgen Forest. We were working side by side. (Lt. Carl Huges, '42, with Capt. Al Hicks, '36, At Hurtgen Forest 1945, 31)

At the same time that the Record received Hughes’ letter, further news arrived about Hicks:

“The squadron commander had my troop fall out into formation while he pinned by captain’s bars on me although the Germans were shelling about 400 yards away.” Capt. Hicks wrote his wife, “so you see I got my promotion on the battlefield after all.”

Attached to the 102nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, Capt. Hicks at one time pursued the Germans for 140 days with only little rest. Up to this time, he has been decorated with the Silver Star for gallantry in the face of the enemy, the Bronze Star for meritorious achievement and numerous other citations. (Lt. Carl Huges, '42, with Capt. Al Hicks, '36, At Hurtgen Forest 1945, 31)

At the bottom of the German invasion, the 4th Infantry Division met elements of the German military’s attack head-on near Echternach, where they held onto their territory, backed up by the 5th Infantry Division and Patton’s Third Army. The 6th Armored Division, with 1st Lieutanant John F. Hammell ‘44, 1st Lieutenant Donald F. Wing ‘44, 2nd Lieutenant Arthur Pottle ’44, and Sergeant John H. Pimm ‘47, was located in the same area, between the French-German border, where they faced off against German forces on the other side of a river.

The northern most section of the invasion was held by the 9th Infantry division, who arrived near Monschau by the 20th of December. It helped to contain the enemy advance towards the north and limited their movement around the center of the invasion. 2nd Lieutenant Arnold ‘Bill’ MacKerer ‘46, had recently earned the Silver Star medal for his actions in Schlick, Germany, ten days earlier:

Lieutenant MacKerer was awarded the Silver Star Medal for gallantry in action on December 11, 1944, near Schlick, Germany. He crawled forward, under enemy fire and observation, to within twenty-five yards of a machine gun. With complete disregard for personal safety, he threw two grenades, destroying the gun and killing the entire crew of the machine gun. (War Whoop 1947, 29)

His twin brother, Donald, would survive him after the war, and described his brother as “a very strong person, totally fearless in combat, and he took more chances. He was much less bothered by the terror of warfare than I was” (Dean 2006).

The unit would stay in place for the battle, keeping the German advance back from Holland in the battle’s northern shoulder. (Cole 1964, 134) As the German military advanced, Bill MacKerer’s five man patrol was tasked with finding the whereabouts of the Germans in their area: His brother’s patrol performed its mission all too well, Don said. It turned up a nest of German machine-gunners, and Bill, struck by a burst of machine gun fire, fell mortally wounded. (Dean 2006)

His actions were reported in the Norwich Record:

Ten days after the action for which he was posthumously decorated, he was hit by machine gun fire while on a reconnaissance patrol near Monschau, died as a result of the wounds, and was buried in the Henry-Chapple Cemetery near Leige, Belgium. (Lt. Arnold MacKerer, '46, Dies of Wounds 1945)

Following the death of his brother, Donald took command of the same platoon, which he remained in charge of until he himself was wounded shortly after the end of the Bulge, on February 2nd, 1945. (Lt. Arnold MacKerer, '46, Dies of Wounds 1945)

By December 17th, most of the Allied forces had to pull back: The 106th Infantry Division pulled back towards St. Vith, while the German advance went through the 28th Infantry Division’s lines. One of the units that had moved following the attack was the 44th Infantry Division, along with a newly promoted Staff Sergeant Walt Henry. While the Germans had not yet hit their area in the south, they moved quickly to better ground. As they moved out, Henry recalled leaving with only their guns and ammunition. Left behind was a newly arrived package from his wife, Edith: “Some lucky German [son of a bitch] enjoyed all the goodies that Edith had so lovingly packed and sent me. I’ll never forgive them for that.” (Henry, World War II Years n.d.)

The Axis advance was aimed straight in towards American lines, uncontained.

Tomorrow, The Drive to the Meuse River & Bastogne.

Norwich University and the Battle of the Bulge: Introduction

Sixty-Seven Years ago, on December 16th, 1944, the German military struck back against Allied forces in Belgium, the first major blow to the advance to Germany. During the battle, over a hundred members of the Norwich University community participated; former students who had graduated and advanced in the ranks of the U.S. military, and students who had graduated early to join the fight. They fought under some of the harshest conditions imaginable, and succeeded after a month of combat in the Ardennes. In 2010, I began a research project for the University, studying the role of the students and the school in the Battle before travelling overseas to Belgium. They played an incredible role in the battle, and undoubtably helped with many of the successes that would eventually lead to an Allied victory.

Introduction - The Battle of the Bulge

The Battle of the Bulge was the most intense and costly engagement that the United States and its allies waged against the German military during the Second World War. Over a million soldiers on both sides were involved in the clash that would last for 41 days. In the pre-dawn hours of December 16th, 1944, the German military struck against the Allied advance along the German-Belgian border. Relying on a combination of inclement weather and surprise, the Germans caught Allied leaders by surprise, and were able to push through their lines far into Belgium. The 1947 memorial edition of the Norwich University War Whoop, described the battle succinctly:

We continued to advance against the Germans in Europe with occasional set-backs, such as “the Bulge”, which was not just another set-back for the men who were there, but a battle fought for the highest stakes by both sides.

Norwich University played its own role in the battle, with just under one hundred alumni spread out across the battlefield. The training and education that the school provided her alumni undoubtedly played a role in the conduct and leadership abilities that guided them as they were shipped off to Europe. By the time December 16th arrived, the Norwich University Record reported that 1,600 Norwich Men were involved in the war, with 1,218 of them serving as commissioned officers. A further 15 held the rank of General, demonstrating the value of the training they received in Vermont.

Norwich men occupied every level of the command structure in units that participated in the Battle of the Bulge, ranging from the rank of Private First Class on the front lines to Major General, overseeing the operations of an entire division. Each played a pivotal role in the direction of the battle’s outcome. In the fight, Norwich University alumni gave their blood and their lives in Belgium; the ultimate sacrifice for their country in a time of grave need.

Soldiers from Norwich were also present throughout the battle, from the first moments of the battle, to the last, over a month later, occupying airborne, infantry and most particularly, armored units, instrumental in all aspects of the battle.

Setting the Stage

On June 6th, 1944, Allied forces came ashore in Normandy, France, where the fight into Europe began in earnest, pushing the German military further back over the course of the fall that year. During that time, a number of Norwich University alumni arrived to fight for their country: On June 9th, elements of the 2nd Armored Division arrived on shore, under the command of General Edward Brooks ‘16, a Norwich graduate, who would eventually hand over command to General Ernest Harmon ‘16, who would continue to push deeper into Europe.

From Normandy, Allied forces moved to liberate Paris, engaging in a long campaign to capture the ground between the beaches and the capital, eventually doing so on August 25th, 1944.

In September 1944, the allies launched Operation Market-Garden against German positions in Holland. Allied forces looked to capture ground and allow for a quick march straight to Germany. Its eventual failure pushed back expectations that they would reach Berlin in a timely manner.

The 2nd Armored Division found themselves in the midst of the action as they pushed towards Germany and through the Siegfried Line, described as the division’s worst experiences in the war. During this campaign, Lieutenant Colonel Clifton Batchelder ‘32, and his unit were visited by a Red Cross truck with several women handing out supplies. The women were invited to join the officers, and Batchelder, pulling rank, sat next to one of the Red Cross nurses, Anne: “From then on, when I wasn’t fighting, I was chasing Anne; until two weeks after VE day when we were married.” (A. Batchelder n.d., 2) Batchelder had been a student at the same time that the division’s Commanding General, Ernest N. Harmon, had been the Professor of Military Science and later, Commandant of Cadets. He explained after the war that one of his highest points during his experience was Harmon’s instruction in equitation.

On October 13th, 1944, the 2nd Armored Division saw action at Wurselen, Germany, where Captain James Burt ‘39, of the 66th Armored Regiment’s B Company, earned the Medal of Honor for his actions against a German garrison over the course of nine days. During that time, he directed fire from his units, scouted enemy positions, and aided the wounded soldiers involved in the fight:

In the first day's action, when infantrymen ran into murderous small-arms and mortar fire, Captain Burt dismounted from his tank about 200 yards to the rear and moved forward on foot beyond the infantry positions, where, as the enemy concentrated a tremendous volume of fire upon him, he calmly motioned his tanks into good firing positions. As our attack gained momentum, he climbed aboard his tank and directed the action from the rear deck, exposed to hostile volleys which finally wounded him painfully in the face and neck. He maintained his dangerous post despite pointblank self-propelled gunfire until friendly artillery knocked out these enemy weapons, and then proceeded to the advanced infantry scouts' positions to deploy his tanks for the defense of the gains which had been made. The next day, when the enemy counterattacked, he left cover and went 75 yards through heavy fire to assist the infantry battalion commander who was seriously wounded. For the next 8 days, through rainy, miserable weather and under constant, heavy shelling, Captain Burt held the combined forces together, dominating and controlling the critical situation through the sheer force of his heroic example. To direct artillery fire, on 15 October, he took his tank 300 yards into the enemy lines, where he dismounted and remained for 1 hour giving accurate data to friendly gunners. Twice more that day he went into enemy territory under deadly fire on reconnaissance. In succeeding days he never faltered in his determination to defeat the strong German forces opposing him. Twice the tank in which he was riding was knocked out by enemy action, and each time he climbed aboard another vehicle and continued the fight. He took great risks to rescue wounded comrades and inflicted prodigious destruction on enemy personnel and materiel even though suffering from the wounds he received in the battle's opening phase. (MOH Citation for James M. Burt n.d.)

Burt’s actions were understatedly heroic over an extended period of time. His letters to his wife from the same time reflect little of the actions that he had just carried out, and following the war, he returned to a quiet life as a high school teacher in New Hampshire: the very embodiment of a citizen soldier.

Tomorrow, the Breakthrough.

Norwich University and the Battle of the Bulge: Introduction

As of right now, I’m enroute to Brussels, Belgium. Last fall, I was tasked with researching the role that students and alumni played during the Battle of the Bulge, one of the defining engagements of the Second World War. Over six months, I looked at a number of records and publications, gathering information on the students, then at the units that they were a part of, before examining where they all fit together into the actual battle. It was quite a bit of fun, and over the next week, I’m touring the battlefields on what’s called a Staff Ride, essentially consulting and providing information on how the university played a role in the battle. Over the next week, I’ve split up my paper into parts, and as I’ll be in the country, it seems fitting that I share the work (somewhat modified from the original paper, in places) while I’m there. I’ll have plenty of pictures to share when I return.

Introduction The Battle of the Bulge was the most intense and costly battle that the United States and its allies waged against the German military during the Second World War. Over a million soldiers on both sides involved in the clash that would last for 41 days, beginning on December 16th, 1944. This battle was the only time that the German military fought against the United States with the upper hand, due adverse weather conditions for the allies, limiting their abilities, and the overconfidence in the Axis’ ability to wage war.

Norwich University played its own role in this engagement, with around one hundred alumni at or potentially at the battlefield, based on the records examined at various sources from the university. The school undoubtedly played a role in the conduct and leadership abilities of the students who trained and shipped off to Europe, with soldiers with university credentials (or eventual university association) ranging from the rank of Private, First Class, on the front lines, to the rank of Major General, overseeing the operations on a divisional level, playing pivotal roles in the direction of the battle. Indeed, Norwich University alumni gave their blood and their lives in Belgium, making the ultimate sacrifice for their country in a time of grave need, helping the battle and their comrades through to the end.

Soldiers from Norwich were also present throughout the battle, from the first moments in the early morning of December 16th, 1944, to the last, on January 25th, 1945, 41 days later. They participated as airborne, infantry and armored units, instrumental in all major actions taken during the campaign to push back the German onslaught.

Setting the Stage On June 6th, 1944, Allied forces came ashore in Normandy, France, where the fight into Europe began in earnest, pushing the German military further back over the course of the fall that year. Over the course of the fall, a number of Norwich University alumni arrived to fight for their country: On June 9th, elements of the 2nd Armored Division arrived on shore, under the command of Major General Brooks, a Norwich graduate, who would eventually hand over command to General Ernest Harmon, who would continue to push deeper into Europe.

From Normandy, US and Allied forces moved to liberate Paris and the rest of Europe.

In September 1944, the allies launched Operation Market-Garden against German positions in Holland, where allied forces looked to capture ground and allow for a quick march straight to Germany. Its eventual failure pushed back expectations that they would reach Berlin in a timely manner.

On October 13th, 1944, the 2nd Armored Division saw action at Wurselen, Germany, where Captain James Burt, of the 66th Armored Regiment B Company, earned the Medal of Honor for his actions against a German garrison, directing fire from an exposed position, and in the course of which he was wounded. Over following nine days, he continued to scout enemy positions, direct friendly fire towards enemy positions and to aid the wounded.

The 10th Armored Division likewise saw some action at this time, and on November 27th, Joseph Haines Clarke, with 10th Armored Division’s 3rd Cavalry, Troop D, was wounded in action.

As the German military was pushed back into Germany and out of lower Europe, German High Chancellor Adolf Hitler began to plan an offensive that would hit allied forces where they were the weakest, between the British and American militaries. Code-named Wacht am Rhein (Watch the Rhine), the planning began in September 1944, with the intention to move out towards Muese, and then to Antwerp.

On December 13th, just days before the German military stepped off their attack on the morning of the 16th, Major Wesley Goddard, ’33, of the 18th Field Artillery Group, was killed, after commanding units in France and Belgium.

Tomorrow, the start of the Battle: December 16th.

Karl Marlantes on 'Matterhorn'

Each year, the Colby Symposium awards the Colby Award to a first notable book from an author that deals fundamentally with the nature of warfare and contributes substantially to the field. During the awards dinner this year, executive director and Norwich University Alum, Carlo D'Este said that it was rare that the entire committee universally agrees on a single book, but that this was the case for the 2011 prize, going to Karl Marlantes, with his first acclaimed novel, Matterhorn.

Karl Marlantes is a Marine Corps veteran, a Rhodes Scholar, and a graduate from Yale University. In the course of his military service during the Vietnam War, he earned the Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts, two Navy Commendation Medals for Valor, ten air medals and the Navy Cross, amongst numerous others. He first attempted to publish his novel in 1967 and was unsuccessful until 2009, when his book was published by El Leon Literary Arts, and later by the Atlantic Monthly Press in 2010.

Matterhorn is a work of fiction, but is closely tied to Marlantes's own experiences in Vietnam. Early in his presentation, he told the group that he wanted to tell the common experience of Vietnam, rather than simply his own: in literature, readers relate to the characters in the novel, whereas in a memoir, the reader's experience is somewhat different. He believed that fiction was the better route in this case, also because he wanted to get into the heads of a number of different characters, rather than just one person.

Like Stanton, he noted that part of a soldier's training is that people make mistakes: the key is to make sure that the mistake isn't repeated. In the instance of military operations, mistakes can be fatal, and officers are responsible for the people under their command. He noted that the military is run by human beings, and that he didn't believe that there were villains, just people with flaws.

Vietnam, he said, is akin to the alcoholic father, the elephant in the room: it's influential, but nobody wants to talk about it. Like we're seeing now in Afghanistan, we didn't understand the culture, we were restrained by very strict rules of engagement and we worked with a very corrupt and illegitimate native government. One key difference is that there is the absence of major civil unrest in the United States right now, unlike in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1969, there were over 200 fragging instances, where someone would take a fragmentation grenade and roll it into someone's tent. These incidents of fratricide were usually racially motivated. He said that when you take a bunch of 19 year olds and give them weapons, you have the very definition of racial tensions.

Another major difference was the institution of the draft. While the draft was incredibly unfair - people could be exempted from being called into service (if they were attending college, for example), but we have a burdened all volunteer military now. Marlantes asserted that changes needed to be made and that the volunteer military needs to be rethought, as extended periods of warfare put an incredible strain on our armed forces and on the country as a whole. He cited an indifference to the military right now, and that that wasn't good for anyone.

One of the major problems that helped to define Vietnam (and according to Jack Segal, Afghanistan as well): the lack of definable progress with the war. World War II was a clear cut battle: there were objectives that were captured, defined and tangible enemies that were pushed back, islands captured, and so forth. With Vietnam, the only progress was a body count (which he also noted was heavily distorted by soldiers on the ground). Using a body count as a measure of war is immoral. The purpose of the military is not to kill (although it carries that out in the course of its duties) but to stop their enemy from continuing the fight. As soon as one military gets the other to stop, they've won. The killing should never be the objective of the war. In a way, Vietnam became a game. In all things, whether it's warfare or a business, the objectives and the metrics used need to be clear-cut, careful and solid.

Marlantes also cited that there shouldn't be a separation between the people on the ground and the strategy for the war as a whole. Micromanagement of soldiers is problematic, and its essentially a double-edged sword, something that began in Vietnam, and is something that we continue with today. The people on the ground need to understand what the objectives are, and the people setting the objectives need to understand the capabilities and resources available to them in the people on the ground.

At every reading, Marlantes was asked where Matterhorn was. He fought at Hill 484, where they fought very hard to take and hold the position: at one point, they were down to seven bullets per man, before resupply. The North Vietnamese Army (NVA) was very well organized, and formidable enemies. 484, and another hill, 3107, heavily influenced the novel. He noted that a lot of people pulled him aside and recounted their own experiences, and how similar the book's lined up with their own, an indication that the war saw numerous similar experiences for a number of different people.

One major problem with Vietnam, he noted, was the way in which the war was approached and fought. Just a couple of decades after the Second World War, the Navy and Marines were geared towards certain ways of fighting: the marines were geared towards amphibious warfare, while their helicopters were geared towards tactical missions, rather than resupply. During WWII, the Marines worked to take islands, dropped off by the Navy, who would then retreat out of range. Rather than simply bombing, the Marines sought to exchange casualties for speed. However, capital ships weren't in regular danger, and that this caused problems in the execution of the war's strategy.

Personal problems also flared up: drug usage was heavy amongst soldiers, which shouldn't come as a surprise, but soldiers of Vietnam exchanged alcohol for pills, or weed. This is something that's continued forward with the current wars in Afghanistan, although now, it's through legal means, and is something that Marlantes believes will be causing a number of psychological problems for soldiers after the war is over.

Matterhorn is a novel that he hopes will demonstrate the character of the Vietnam War, and through the course of the talk, it's clear that there's a number of parallels between the conflicts in Vietnam and the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East: the changes in strategy, the metrics of warfare, the organization and command of the soldiers and the uncertain battleground and objectives. Matterhorn is on my personal to-read list, and at some point in the future, I'll have a review for it here. There are lessons in the past that should not be overlooked, or forgotten.

Battlefield Doctor: Dr. Chris Coppola

Norwich University's Colby Military Writer's Symposium is an annual event that gathers military writers together in Northfield, where a series of panels and presentations help to educate the student body and general public on relevant and pressing matters in today's military. I've looked forward to the event each year, and once again, I've been impressed with the quality and information this year.

The first presentation of the symposium was held in the Kreitzberg Library's multipurpose room, featuring Dr. Chris Coppola, author of the book Coppola: A Pediatric Surgeon in Iraq, where he recounted his experiences as a surgeon in Iraq during his two deployments. In years past, where the symposium has discussed larger issues such as counterinsurgency doctrine or civilian interactions in the battlefield, this represented a bit of a departure, because it shed a bit of light on a major combat element: the casualties.

Dr. Coppola noted that the casualty infrastructure that has been put into place in Iraq during the invasion and subsequent occupation was an unprecedented one in the history of warfare. At any point in the country, a soldier or casualty was never more than twenty minutes from a hospital: once a soldier was injured, a helicopter was flown in to the scene, and the casualty was evacuated to a hospital system. A system had been put into place, with hospitals numbered with a certain level, which would allow for a certain amount of treatment. The wartime hospitals ranged from a level one to a level three center, which would allow doctors to treat and stabilize the wounded. For more serious cases, people were evacuated to Germany by plane, to level four hospitals, and eventually, to level five hospitals in the United States.

According to Dr. Coppola, this was a key element to saving lives on the battlefield. His hospital, he told us, had a survival rate of 98%: if people went in with a pulse, they had a very good chance of surviving their visit. The short trip after being wounded helped: this wasn't always the skill of the doctors there, (although with the internet, they had access to a lot of information and the cumulative experience of prior doctors), but the fact that a wounded soldier with serious injuries could be treated very quickly. Another factor, he noted, was new equipment, such as body armor and vehicles engineered to redirect blast energy if hit by an IED.

However, doctors faced new types of wounds in addition to bullets: blast wounds from explosives, were common, and resulted in numerous types of injuries. As Dr. Coppola said: anything on the body can be hurt. When he received his first patient in Iraq, he saw that he had to treat five of the most serious wounds that could be done to a person.

Civilians were another major problem that they faced, as his hospital received far more civilian casualties than they did US soldiers or even enemy combatants. This was compounded by a couple of problems: the Iraqi healthcare system was broken, with numerous doctors killed or known to have fled the country, as well as being behind the times. As a result, when word got out that there was a pediatric surgeon in the area, people began to bring their children to the hospital, where doctors worked to fix other long-standing issues, such as birth defects, injuries, and other problems that treatments simply weren't readily available for families. While the primary mission of the doctors was to treat soldiers to return to the battlefield or stabilize them for further treatment, doctors played to their strength and helped within their specialties.

One particular anecdote, Coppola recounted a story of where a known insurgent had been brought in, who had talked about killing former patients. It was an incredibly difficult thing to have to do, treating the person, but they followed through and fulfilled their mission: treating patients who came through the door. Undoubtedly, this will be an ethical question that doctors will continue to face in the future.

Coppola wrapped up by addressing the affects of warfare long after the battle is over. He acknowledged some of the problems in the system at home, in the treatment of soldiers after they have returned home. Despite the issues, he said, we owe them the care. A 20 year old amputee, he said, has a better chance of rehabilitation, and incredible advances are being made in post-injury treatment. Other problems might come up in the near future, long after we've left the battle: soldiers who are using legal drugs, such as energy drinks and sleeping pills, might have an increased risk of mental problems, with undesirable problems after the fact: there's been a rise in suicides, fratricides, and long standing problems such as Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. That's a legacy of the war that we'll need to cope with, and learn to handle as the years move on.

Coppola's talk was an enlightening one: I have a feeling that it's something that should be seen by everyone, because of the graphic nature: it's a vivid demonstration of war's effects on the people fighting it, and the people unlucky enough to be in harm's way during the conflict. Coppola seemed optimistic, though, noting that where doctors had learned from their experiences, he learned from their experiences, and that he regularly consults on cases with doctors overseas, putting his own experiences to continued use.

Battle of the Bulge: Phase II

On December 17th 1944, from what I can tell so far, the 100th Infantry Division was ordered to the Bastogne, Noville, and Bras areas to stop the sudden attack by German forces. The 28th Infantry division found itself on its second day fighting for its survival as their entire divisional front was under attack, and member of the division, 1st Lt. Carl Hughes of the 102nd Cavalry Recon Squadron continued to make his way through enemy lines. The Battle of the Bulge was in full force in Germany and Belgium, and would continue to rage on for over a month.

The anniversary of the beginning of the battle saw the start of the second phase of my project documenting the Norwich University alumni who fought there. I had hoped to have finished the writing by this point, but that hasn't happened yet, but the research and collection of raw data has largely wound down for the project. From the data that I was able to collect, I've assembled a list of just under a hundred and fifty people from a variety of sources: publications, records, mentions, with thirty people confirmed with sources that they were present at some point, another 73 people who might have been there based on their unit, ten people who can be written off, with a further 30 people who may or may not have been there, but with very little to go on, other than a country reference.

This collection of raw data has some additional bits of information that goes along with each student: their rank, unit, whether they were wounded or killed, what medals they earned, and any other additional notes. As a whole, it's a wealth of information that only tells me a couple of certain points that help lead to the next stage.

Raw data by itself is somewhat useless. I can tell you ten things about Carl Hughes. He was a first lieutenant in the 28th Infantry division with the 102nd Cavalry Recon Squadron, that he graduated from Norwich in 1942, that he received the Bronze and Silver Stars in addition to a purple heart, and that he walked through enemy lines for three days following the attack when his unit was surrounded. The next step involves adding context to the situation.

Going unit by unit, this next step involves adding that context. With it, I've learned that the 28th Infantry Division had taken the first impact of the German advance on December 16th, along a 25 mile stretch that enveloped the division, and that from the 16th through the 22nd, the unit was involved in heavy fighting before pulling back on the 22nd to Neufchateau to reorganize. This additional layer helps to put the individual experiences of the soldiers into better context.

With rare exceptions, student information on their individual experiences during the battle are rare, and in those instances, I have a paragraph at the most, or a brief sentence at the least that indicates that an alum was present at any part of the battle. The additional information as to what the units as a whole were up to help to fill in the blanks and gives me a general idea of what any given student might have been doing at the time. Furthermore, the individual data points that make up Norwich Students on the timeline helps to etch out a clearer understanding of how the battle worked: it was complicated, with numerous fronts, battles and units involved. Approaching the battle from the people who studied at Norwich also helps to demonstrate the impact that Norwich itself played during the battle, much like I discovered with the Operation Overload paper that I wrote in 2007. There was a collective Norwich experience that was widespread throughout the conflict.

This next step is far from done - quick passes through the Army Historical blurbs allow me to pin point some key dates for units, and a second pass will help to put in more detail for some of the larger units, such as the 2nd and 3rd Armored Divisions and the 17th Airborne Division, which seems to have a larger collection of Norwich men within it. With a codified timeline in place, the events of the battle can be put down into more detail, and a larger story of the Battle of the Bulge will appear, seen through the eyes of the school's alumni.

It's an exciting bit of work as I am able to gather more and more information on individual units and to see the battle emerge from the raw data points that I've collected. One thing is for sure so far: Norwich University was present on the front lines (and in one case, above them) and undoubtably, given some of the notations, medals and units that these men earned and occupied, it had some hand in the outcome of the battle, providing a basis for the actions of the men who fought in 1944 and 1945.

Good Leadership means Continued Learning: ADM Thad Allen at Norwich University Last night, Retired Admiral Thad Allen talked before a group of Norwich University students and Northfield residents for the latest entry in the Todd Lecture series, with a talk titled 'Leading Through Crisis and Times of Change'. Adm. Allen is uniquely qualified on this particular subject, having served as the person in charge for the Hurricanes Katrina and Rita cleanup just after the storm destroyed parts of New Orleans, the Haiti Earthquake and as the National Incident Commander for the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this year. Each disaster was an unprecedented event that warranted extraordinary response measures, and in each case, the issues that

Leadership was the focus of the talk, amongst the times when leaders were most needed to complete and correct the problems that have typically faced the country. While Allen's experiences are monumental, major disasters, much of what he had talked about were very applicable lessons for everyone: ways to confront challenges in the workplace, in the community, and if needed, on a state or national level. Over the course of its history, the country has tackled a number of challenges and problems facing it, and there is no doubt that there will be plenty more in the future. One of the key things that I've found in both my education and employment at Norwich University (more so with my employment) is that leadership is an incredibly important thing when it comes to any organization.

When Katrina and Rita hit New Orleans, Allen likened it to the effect of a weapon of mass destruction, without the criminal element, and then response to the problem. Had the city been hit with a nuclear weapon or something that could produce a similar effect, a vastly different response would have been put together. A key element in leadership is the people in place who can reconcile both competency and opportunity in the face of a situation while seeking the appropriate outcome. The major issue with the Katrina disaster was that the people in charge of the recovery at first didn't understand what the problem was. There was a broken link between understanding what the priorities were, and applying the resources accordingly. When he arrived eight days after the storm, a different problem had to be tackled, with authorities operating without a clear chain of command. They broke the city up into different sections, with various organizations such as the Marines and 82nd Airborne taking control of specific tasks. First responder teams worked to provide logistical, security and rescue support for each house in the city, with the members of these teams given the authority to work under the Mayor of the city.

The thing that struck me the most was how much of leadership consisted of problem solving, and just how profound the realization was that problems changed dramatically while they're playing out, and that the best response often comes beforehand, with people under one's command / supervision who can be used to deal with problems as they arise. When it came to Haiti, Allen likened it to Katrina on a much larger scale, and with other, additional problems. While the country's leaders had survived, the UN mission found itself without leadership when their building collapsed, causing problems interfacing between the country and the rest of the world. As what had been found during the Katrina response, a clear, unified command wasn't present in the country. Many of the lessons that were learned during Katrina were applied in the response to Haiti, to the effect of where U.S. command and control infrastructure was packed up into a C-140 and flown down.

Haiti was devastated, and once again, relief efforts had to utilize the resources at hand. Port du Prince was destroyed, Allen said, due to engineering and the magnitude of the quake, cutting off the only major way to receive large amounts of materials. As a result, the air space was restricted, and a large-scale effort was put into place to bring in supplies by air. At the peak of the air operations, 160 flights per day were landing, helped by several years of work from the 1st Air Force and lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan. NGOs on the ground were also used, because the people on the ground knew the people that they were delivering relief to: a human response to the human problems was needed, and helped in a lot of ways.

The next major issue was the one that is still in the news: the Gulf Oil Spill. Allen was very clear on a couple of points: despite the controversy over BP’s role in the spill, his attention was on the parts that needed to be taken care of right away: containing the spill, capping the well and killing it. Despite the fact that the oil company had a hand in the disaster, they made incredible efforts to kill it, and faced enormous technical and engineering problems that resembled more of Apollo 13 than the Exxon Valdez.

Additionally, there wasn’t an apparent role for the federal government: this started off as a private sector problem, and BP wasn’t seen as a responsible party because they weren’t answerable to the general public.

The oil spill was incredibly complicated. The spill had to be stopped, and three missions emerged: the technical problems with stopping hot hydrocarbons gushing out at 12,000 psi into a cold environment, an oil spill on the surface that changed every day with the wind, and protecting the coastlines. The scale of this disaster dwarfed the response plans currently in place, and was so different (aimed towards something along the lines of a tanker spill than a blow out) that it required a new way of thinking. Once the response came under way, a massive job was undertaken to coordinate the efforts: all efforts needed to be coordinated in order to bring about the best results: boats on the water cleaning oil and the shorelines, and when an organization becomes complex in ways such as this, some things break down.

One thing was transparency, which Allen noted was essential in this day and age. People are armed with cameras, social media, and are willing to use them, and in this instance, while responsible parties can work on coordination and delegation, people on the ground need to be included, with the assurances that what they’re doing will be backed up by the people in charge. A transparent organization works the best, because it tends to be self-correcting. It was noted that the decision to put up cameras was a positive one, because people could see what was going on, and when things were starting to get better. Requests to put a time delay on the video were denied, because it would damage perceptions that the company and cleanup efforts were honest and doing what they were supposed to.

Coming out of these three disasters, Allen imparted several key things when it came to leadership. The first is that anyone can be a better leader, and that the best leaders never stop learning. They continue to learn and adapt to the situation, and from prior disasters or incidents, lessons can be learned. Lessons 9/11 informed Katrina, which informed Haiti, which in turn informed the Gulf Oil Response.

Second, leaders cannot lead from the top down, the bottom up or from the center: they lead from everywhere. The human element of any response is a key thing, and people who are working to address a problem need to be empowered to do their jobs, with someone backing them up from the top. According to Allen: “To be a better leader, you must become a better person,”

What strikes me as most relevant to these points is not that they are only applicable to major disasters, but to any number of instances that most people face, and the key to this talk was that leadership can be found everywhere, in everyone: people need to recognize when actions are needed, by managing the appropriate resources available in the proper way.

What struck me the most was how focused Adm. Allen was throughout the talk, especially when he spoke about social media and the 24/7 newscycle that we now have in the country. They key element seems to be to adapt and work with people on the ground who want to help, but to remain focused on the task at hand, regardless of perceptions, pundits and political elements who have their own agendas. His view of BP clashed with the perceptions of the public and that of the media, and while he noted that they had their own issues in their image, they approached the problem with the best of intentions where it was needed: without the resources and expertise that BP provided and applied to the spill, the crisis would have been much worse.

In the future, he noted, there needs to be a better doctrine to shift from short-term solutions to long term recovery for places such as Katrina, Haiti and the Gulf, which in and of itself will require new ways of thinking about problems. In the meantime, lessons need to be learned for how to tackle the next unforeseen problem that will face the country: natural disasters, attacks, industrial mistakes, and so forth are all possibilities, and the only sure solution will be someone who can find an effective way to recognize the problems and apply the proper response needed. Such effective leaders should empower those under their supervision, and will be ones who will learn from the experiences and lessons of the past.

Hardwired Historian

As I've begun work on the Battle of the Bulge project, I've found that there have been some major changes in how I'm able to go about researching the event since the spring of 2007, when I did a similar research project on the Normandy Invasion. Since then, computers have become smaller, Norwich University has a campus-wide wireless network, and information on databases has grown.

Over the past couple of weeks, I've been pouring over books and file folders, hunting for references to soldiers who were in a set number of units, dates, locations, specific references to the Battle of the Bulge itself. Four years ago, I brought along a notepad and a couple of pens (or pencils, when I was up in the University Archives), and wrote down every reference that I could find, even the tangential students who might have been in the right area at the right time.

Fast forward to 2010, and the options have changed. Rather than taking a notepad and pen with me, I've been carrying my iPad and iPhone, on which I've been jotting down information as I find it. Slowly, as the lists are growing, I’m planning on taking the information and placing it onto a spreadsheet. While I do this, I’ve tapped into the wireless network, and as I come across soldiers in various units, I’ve discovered that running a quick check against the unit’s history online can help me determine if the soldier is someone I’ve been able to use, as their unit was present at the battle, or if they were somewhere else at the time, either because they hadn’t arrived, or were in another theater of operations altogether.

The move to electronic recording likewise has the benefit of being able to copy and paste my results directly into a spreadsheet, rather than having the extra step of translating my handwritten notes (no small task!) into the spreadsheet. The transfer of data is transferred between two mediums rather than three. (original, handwritten and computer). It allows me to keep information that I transpose intact far more easily than before.

The next step is something I’m thinking of trying: integrating this with Google Docs, which would allow me to keep my data online, accessible from any number of locations. Unfortunately, this isn’t a very practical thing on an iPad (I can’t easily tab between apps, and I don’t have the internet at home), but for some of the research portions, it seems like it would be an excellent thing to use, especially if someone is working with others. In this case, my girlfriend is helping out with some things, and the ability to update the same piece of data, without redundancies, would be helpful when gathering data is put together.

What I’m hoping is that the move to computers, rather than using handwritten notes, will allow me to be more efficient, and thus quicker, with the research that I’m working on. The amount of information that I need to go though: there’s something like five thousand additional files to go through when it comes to deceased students, not to mention the information on the units and after action reports that exist.

This also covers the first large phase of the research: gathering all of the raw data that I’ll need to form the basis of the project. The next step, actually distilling and then writing the report, is already digital: I can’t actually think of a time when I haven’t used a computer to type up a project. Those advantages are well known, and something that I know to work.

The Battle of the Bulge

In 2007, I went overseas to France, shortly after I finished college, to help provide the Norwich University side of things for the battlefield staff ride that we took. The D-Day study (which is partially documented here in the archives) was the final paper that I had written for my undergraduate coursework. Back in May of 2007, I had realized that this was something that I found interesting, and noted that I could easily expand this sort of research to encompass other elements of the European Theater of Operations.

I've largely kept things under my hat lately, but now that I've started, it's something that I can talk more freely about. While I'm not expanding my D-Day paper, I've been asked by Norwich to write another one, and to consult on an upcoming Staff Ride. This time around, I'll be focusing on the Norwich University Students who fought at the Battle of the Bulge at the end of 1944.

The battle, largely regarded as the last credible push on the part of the Germans during the Allied advance towards Germany, was a massive coordinated pushback that trapped U.S. forces behind enemy lines, and slowed Allied efforts in their push towards ending the war. Like in Normandy, Norwich students fought and died there, and occupied a number of positions within the U.S military.

This is a project that I'm very eager to return to, and the research phase has me very excited. This project will be coming in a couple of phases. The first, which I've started, is the research element, and I'm going to be specifically targeting several achieves and sources here at Norwich, starting with the yearbooks (a memorial edition from 1947 was what I tackled today, with very good results), and the Norwich University Record, the alumni paper, two sources that provided an incredible amount of information, along with two archives up on campus, which should provide some additional detailed information and allow me to draw up a roster of possible participants in the battle. From there, cross-checking each soldier's unit based on the historical record and actions of said unit will help to weed out the people who wouldn't have possibly been there. Student X was in Unit Y, but Unit Y didn't arrive into the area until day Z, which was after the battle, for example.

Running parallel to this will be research into the battle itself, looking for specific dates, people, unit actions and the story to which Norwich personnel will be placed. Here, the people I am looking at will be a small and unique look into how the battle went.

Once the research phase is over, the writing will begin, which I'm planning on starting around November, and finishing up by December. January through March/April is a little more fluid, but I'm guessing that I will be editing, fine-tuning and researching small details for the paper, while preparing presentations for the actual staff ride, which will take place in May of next year. Needless to say, I'm flattered and excited for this entire project.

This style of research makes a lot of sense to me, because I can work to connect the actions of the soldiers in the field to an institution that is steeped in history, and link said actions to the overall mission of the school, and provide a historical context and concrete examples of where graduates have changed the world through their actions. (And, some of these soldiers have accomplished incredible things, helping to see through the successes of various operations and actions throughout Norwich’s history.)

Learning to Understand

Earlier today, the former Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, Gen. Gordon Sullivan, spoke at the museum at Norwich University's campus that bears his name for a brief talk to students. As he opened, he noted that he didn't have a plan for what he wanted to talk about, but pointed out objects in one of the rooms that related to his experience within the time that he had spent in the military. Over the course of his 36 year career, Sullivan has seen a lot: he volunteered to go to Vietnam and served for a couple of tours there, while his career culminated in his presiding over the transition of the U.S. Army after the fall of the Soviet Union, and the massive changes that came as a result of that. A number of points that Sullivan brought up stuck with me over the course of his talk.

General Sullivan is a person that I personally admire greatly, and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him a couple of times: the first was in 2007, shortly after I graduated from Norwich with a B.A. in History. Several short days after I walked, I boarded a plane for England, then France, and found myself in Normandy with a contingent from Norwich, with Generals Sullivan and Nelson leading the tour of the battlefield, providing a rich amount of historical context for the battlefield, but also an incredible amount of information on the value of good leaders. There is no better place to highlight that issue than on a battlefield, and over the years since, I’ve become fascinated in how this can be applied to everyday life.

One topic that he touched on has particular significance in the modern face of warfare. “It takes troops on the ground, not technology, to solve problems.” To illustrate this, he picked up a piece of metal, a tool that was used in gun, and pointed out that it took over a hundred people to make that part: it was a high tech piece of machinery, and is likely the cumulative result of thousands of hours of research and development, testing and deployment. He then took our attention to a wooden cowbell on the wall of the exhibit, noting that we (The U.S.) were operating in an area where this was a level of technology, and that the combatants on the battlefield could face the United States and come out victorious.

During his tenure of the U.S. Army Chief of Staff during the Clinton Administration, he was working to transition the military after the end of the Cold War, when the operation at Mogadishu resulted in a number of U.S. casualties. The point that he made seemed to wear on him, and he noted that every soldier that died represented a huge loss, losses that the rest of the army, and himself, as the top of the chain of command, were responsible for. And, he noted, this was in a time of peace. His attitude towards the current operations is fairly clear: “You can't kill your way to victory”, and through this, the U.S. has to work with people, get them to change their minds, in order to succeed in this new battlefield.

At one point in his talk, Sullivan noted that he was proud to be a Norwich graduate: "I am proud to say that I took an oath in 1955... I've been part of this for 50 years, and it started here." (paraphrased), and that Norwich was an important place in his life. This has gotten me thinking all afternoon about the value of the two educations that I’ve earned here. The world, and military affairs are incredibly complicated businesses, and a certain level of comprehension brings about a different understanding of the situation.

The military affairs that are going on now are not as cleanly cut as portrayed, and winning is simply not as it was fifty years ago. The military has an ongoing change as its mission shifts from one enemy to others, and with different styles of fighting. Leadership, of the highest caliber, is required to guide these transitions, and I believe that the education that I’ve gotten here, and since earning the official stamps of approval, have given me the mindset that is really required of understanding (at least in part) some of these elements, which I feel will become even more important to our lives. However, as it grows in importance, there needs to be a greater importance in comprehending said events.

I personally count my time in Normandy as one of the most formative educational experiences of my life. I hope that others will follow.

Rick Atkinson & History


This summer’s entry in the Todd Lecture series at Norwich University was Pulitzer Prize winning author Rick Atkinson, former reporter for the Washington Post and author of several of books, most notably, An Army at Dawn, about the Invasion of Africa (which won him the Pulitzer in history), and more recently, The Day of Battle, about the invasion of Italy, both part of his epic trilogy on the events of the Invasion of Europe. In an already cluttered field of works on the Second World War in Europe, Atkinson’s books stand out immensely as some of the best books about the conflict, and the third book, of which he’s completed the research for, and is now outlining and writing, will be out in a couple of years, and will undoubtedly be a gripping read.

Atkinson spoke about an important and relevant topic to the history graduates before him: the value of narrative history, and more specifically, the need for a writer to recognize the value of a story within the heady analysis and synthesis of an argument. Personally, I find the division and outright snobbery of most academic circles to be frustrating, especially when it comes to popular and commercial non-history. Within history is a plethora of stories, values, themes and lessons to be breathed, learned and valued, and an essential part of education is bringing across the message to the reader or general audience in a way that they can comprehend and relate to the contents of any historical text.

Commercial nonfiction has its good and bad elements to it. Bringing anything to a general audience can water down an argument, and the balance between good stories and good history is one that has to be balanced finely. Some authors do this well, and from what I’ve read of Atkinson’s books, he has done just that.

Mainstream history is important. It is what helps to bring the lessons and analysis of the past to the people, and a population that reads and learns from their historians is a population that can intelligently call upon the past to make decisions for the future by comparing their current surroundings to similar happenings in the past. More than ever, this is important, and Atkinson’s talk and follow-up questions help to drive this point home.

Atkinson’s books are in the unique category of bridging the divide between academic and popular reading, and he noted that the failed to believe that history needed to be dry, uninteresting and irrelevant. History does not need to be relegated to only the academic circles, but it should be something that is in the foremost thoughts of the American population.

History is important, not just because of the lessons that are learned from it, but because of the mindset that is required to comprehend it. History is not a record of events gone past, but of the interpretation and story that those events tell. What is required from those who examine the field is an understanding of how a large number of events, political and societal movements and individuals all come together in a sort of perfect storm to create the past. Much of this is cause and effect, and contrary to popular belief, the past holds no answers for the future: it is the understanding of how said events occur, within their individual contexts that allow for the proper mindset to understand how similar happenings might happen in the future and how to prepare for what is to come.

Atkinson’s talk was a good one for students to hear, and different approaches to history are simply the nature of the field. The Military History students who graduated last week were ones that have a large number of options open to them, and Atkinson’s talk (and his own stature as a historian) demonstrated that a doctorate isn’t the only way to make a living at this.

You can watch Mr. Atkinson's talk here.