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 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.
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  • "Deseased Notices for the Classes of 1978-1987." Norwich University, March 15, 2006.
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  • 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.

Changing the Skies

So. A year of waiting, several weeks of research and writing, and it's finally here: the November 2011 issue of Armchair General. On page 36, and running for 8 pages (including some awesome pictures and captions), is my first print article titled Changing the Skies: Curtis LeMay and the Cold War Transition of U.S. Strategic Airpower from Planes to Missiles. It's a bit of a long-realized dream, and on Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago, I opened the mail to find a thick package with several copies: my advance copies of the entire magazine, in glossy print, with my name right below the article title.

In March of 2010, Norwich University held the annual Colby Symposium, a two day event dedicated to military history and writing, typically on the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, at least since I've been there. I've missed a single year since 2002, and ever year, I come away from the talks with a better understanding of how War works. Almost two years ago, while at the Meet the Authors Dinner, I met Col. (RET) Jerry Morelock, the editor in chief of Armchair General, which sponsors a student scholarship, and we began to talk. He gave me his card, and within a couple of days, I'd e-mailed him back with a couple of article ideas. The one that stuck was a transition from the Second World War to the Cold War, particularly when it came to how the United States transitioned from aircraft to missiles.

The article came out of a couple of projects that I'd been working on prior to that. In 2009, I'd finished my Master's in Military History through Norwich, and I'd presented at two conferences, one of which, I presented my capstone paper on Spaceflight and the Military influences, particularly the strategic arms race that raged between the US and USSR. After finishing that work, I came across some additional sources that shed more light on the broader subject, and I wanted to explore more about it.

After gaining approval for the article and signing the contracts, I began research, looking to tie together a better story than the scattered ideas that I had, eventually discovering that much of the history went through General Curtis LeMay, who had implimented many of the lessons that the US put to the skies post-WWII.

The article was turned in, then it came back for a couple of rounds of revisions, and by May, it was complete, a nice feeling. I moved on to a couple of other projects, and soon, the magazines appeared at home. (Another issue, July 2011's, also features a classmate, David Armstrong, with another piece that I've got on the to-read pile.) It's something to know that they'll be coming out, with all the work completed, but it's quite another to see the finished product, from the cutaways, the pictures (and the absolutely gorgeous front page spread), and my name under it all. The people at the magazine seemed to really like it, and the various family members and co-workers who've taken my advance copies have also been quite positive with their reactions, something I barely dared to hope for.

It's been a very, very cool opportunity, one that I'm following up with another project through Armchair General, this time on the late General Ernest Harmon, who commanded the 2nd Armored Division during the Second World War. The research is exciting, and I'm looking forward to getting this one written and turned in.

Changing the Skies appears in the November 2011 issue of the magazine, but subscribers should be receiving it now (I've gotten an additional copy through work in the mail). You can subscribe to the magazine here and get more information about the magazine at their website.

Captain America & World War II

The best part of the latest Marvel film, Captain America, is the end credits. Bold propaganda posters with bright, 1940s colors, jumping out of the screen in the best display of three dimensions in the entire film, the credits capture everything that’s to know about the entire film. Fun, splashy, with more than a little propaganda splashed in there somewhere, it’s everything that America remembers broadly about the Second World War: a classic fight against unmentionable evil, where the good guys win in the end.

Captain America as a superhero film felt like a mixed product for me. One part advance marketing for the 2012 Avengers film, helmed by Joss Whedon, another part superhero origin story and the last bit war film. On the whole, it’s a fun ride: Chris Evans is spectacular as the titular character in Red, White and Blue, with one of the better origin stories set to celluloid (or gigabyte as it were), up there with the original Spiderman and Iron Man films. Yet despite that, the film is torn between missions, and fell pretty far from my expectations, which surprised me, given the praise that the film has garnered from a lot of outlets that I generally trust.

One of the film’s strongest and weakest points was its setting of the Second World War. It’s a fantastic place to place a superhero origin, given the near supernatural nature of the war itself, not to mention accurate to the character’s origins. World War II has taken on a mythological status within the United States, as it’s arguably the one point where the country displayed its absolute best, and absolute worst (necessarily – I’m not being revisionist!).

The movie is good – great even – when we’re introduced to a scrawny Steve Rodgers getting booted from his physical, and given the opportunity to prove himself with some medical experimentation that turns him into the only super soldier that the United States is able to create. Johnson sets up a good arc for Rogers as he’s selected not for his physical strength, but for his purely American character of being a well rounded individual: good of heart, smart, resourceful, all traits that live up to a supposed ideal American that the modern right wing would point to. It’s an admirable goal, to be sure: Steve’s a nice guy, and he saves the entire Eastern seaboard, but it’s a simple vision for how the United States and her allies collided with the Axis powers in Europe. (Japan is barely referenced.) The film builds as Rogers is put onto promotional detail, and it’s not until he reaches the front that he realizes his full potential as a soldier. Once there, he gets one awesome costume / uniform that I love.

It’s the wartime action part of the film that drags the film down. Full of tired action scenes with the all-token American team, the film never really materializes as any type of war film: it’s a collection of sequences against a faceless (literally!) enemy who serves as a stand-in for the Nazi and German soldiers on the front lines of the war. Part of this is from the fact that this is a comic book film in a bizzaro Marvel universe, but I can’t think that the reasons for why we didn’t see Nazis in the films: The Hydra soldiers could have hardly beat out the SS troops as ridiculously cartoonish in and of themselves, and there’s an incredible opportunity missed here when looking to set up a story of American good vs. evil. The action scenes feel as if they’re there for their own sake, penciled in by the screenwriters because they couldn’t be bothered to pick up a Stephen Ambrose story, or any one of the other millions of tomes released in the last decade about the Second World War. As a whole? It’s also pretty boring: Cap hits people with his shield, bounces around Europe to take out the Hydra baddies, and jumps over things on his motorcycle.

In a way, this feels very much as how the United States sees and views the Second World War: we know the basics: the US was attacked, went overseas to far-off battlefields against an enemy who displayed a real disregard for any type of human dignity (not that there’s much in war to begin with, but there’s certainly a line drawn at human experimentation and outright murder), where we won by the strength of our soldiers with a moral imperative to win the war. Rogers / Captain America certainly fit this bill to a T.

My argument here is that it’s just too simple, much as Captain America is, and that the film is basically a reflection of our own understanding and our collective desire to understand the war. The United States faced an enemy that really outgunned and out trained our soldiers for years on the battlefield, bound by a strong nationalistic sense of duty that bordered on fanatical in some instances. The United States largely won the war by outsupplying their armies, slowly improving the training and equipment of our GIs and keeping to a strategy that outmaneuvered the Axis powers, rather than simply outfighting them at every turn by our own prowess, strength and will to fight. This in and of itself is a bit of a simplification, but the study of World War II is akin to a complicated onion, with layers upon layers: it was truly a global war, with innumerable facets.

The Superhero archetype that Captain America displays is something that we commonly believe as a country: it’s a nice narrative, and in a way, Captain America is us, or at least, the parts that we really want to see. The conflict set up between him and Red Skull is horribly underplayed: all things equal, the only differences between the two men are their inner natures: Captain America is good, Red Skull is evil, and it’s a fight that’s set up with some real promise, but ultimately never goes anywhere meaningful, beyond action sequences. Not that the film needed much more than that: it’s designed as a fun action film, so this works, but other Marvel films such as Iron Man really demonstrated that a strong character film is possible: Iron Man succeeded wildly as a story of a self-examination and role within the nation’s character. Captain America never quite does this, although it does a far better job at it than Superman, another type of national hero, does.

Finally, I’m personally tired of the Avengers crossover that seems to be bleeding into every film. Before, we just had to content with the trailers as the beginning of the film: now, they’re in the movies themselves, and while I’m just as excited to see everything next year, I hate the amount of pandering that Marvel is displaying for the film: there’s connections to Iron Man and Thor here in this film, and for someone who hasn’t seen every film, it doesn’t feel so much like connecting stories as trying to bleed the audience dry. The film also hints rather overtly that the next main storyline will be the Winter Soldier run, with the (spoiler!) off-stage death of Bucky.

Captain America is a fun film, but it’s no Iron Man. Well acted (Chris Evans is a superb Captain America and Tommy Lee Jones has some fantastic comedic moments throughout, as well as some of the supporting cast) at points, but the film’s unable to really capitalize on the 2nd World War beyond turning it into one giant series of action sequences that does little to move the characters forward, or even make the audience care about them. The real shame is that I’ve seen people point to this as the ultimate sort of patriotic film, which annoys me because it’s not much more than a regular run of the mill summer blockbuster, just wrapped up in the flag.

Like the end credits, it's propaganda, a self-fulfilling mythos that we perpetuate ourselves to remind us of how great we are. That bothers me, a great deal. Still, it’s fun to see quasi-Nazis get hit in the face with a red, white and blue shield. That never gets old.

Europe Trip


I'm finally back from Belgium and caught up with work, rest and a bit of reading to start to put things together on the trip. Short story, Belgium and Germany both rock, while US Airways sucks. A couple of weeks ago, I posted up the sections of the paper that I wrote up, an overview of the Battle of the Bulge and the role that Norwich University students played (note, however, that it's a bit of a work in progress) during the battle.

Seeing a battlefield for one's self, however, puts an entirely new dynamic understanding the battle. Going to Belgium and Germany to look at the lead up to the Bulge, and the Bulge itself, helped me understand a lot, but also showed me where I need to continue to research to make the paper better. That'll likely happen this summer, as I update what I wrote a bit, and write up an article on the 2nd Armored Division for Armchair General.

Flying was a nightmare, and you can read the other post for the specifics - it's not worth remembering, honestly. But, getting into Brussels left me a little time to wander, so I walked a couple of miles from the hotel into the city center (I didn't want to worry about figuring out the bus and train system, and I was impatient). Taking out a map, I noted which streets I went down, and wandered my way over, which is something that I recommend in any foreign city - I did it in London, and in Athens, and I honestly believe that I got a better sense of the city than I otherwise would have. It's a neat place, entirely not what I expected, and a huge contrast from the downtown tourist section.

Meeting up with the group, we had our initial briefing, then set out the next morning to look at the northern advance of the 2nd Armored Division in the months preceding the Bulge, as Norwich had a member, Captain James Burt, who earned the Metal of Honor in Aachen for his actions during a firefight. We looked at several towns in the lead up to that fight, examining some of the logistical problems that would have cropped up, as well as some of the battlefield sites.

One of the parts that always hits the hardest when looking at battlefields is looking at the US Cemeteries: they're immaculate, haunting, and stark. We visited the Henri Chappelle American Cemetery and Memorial, where we discovered the final resting place of a Norwich Alum, Arnold McKerer, a 2nd Lieutenant from the 9th Infantry Division who was killed the day after he was deployed to Monschau. It was sobering, and drove a couple of points home: our institution had a real stake in the battle, and this was a tangible result.

Monschau was lovely: an ancient town, set in a valley, with traditional, German looking structures, a castle on one side, and some ruins on the other. I set out away from the group again and walked around the streets, covering most of it in the couple of hours that we had. It felt very touristy in some places, although it was gratifying to see that there were also German tourists there. I bought an wooden whistle for my dad, in the shape of an owl, then hiked up to the top to the Castle, and then to the ruins.

Monday, we set out from Monchau to look at the opening moments of the Bulge attack. Hitler and his forces achieved near complete surprise in their attack against the allies, which resulted in the near destruction of the 28th and 106th Infantry Divisions. This was in a heavily wooded section of the country, where there was limited mobility, units that were resting from hard combat and new to the front lines. As we drove to the first sites, we saw the remains of the Siegfried Line, dragon's teeth fortifications that were designed to stop an invasion. It's astonishing that they're still there, a pointed reminder of the war and Hitler's legacy.

Going into the woods was eerie. The temperature dropped a couple of degrees, and there's a peaceful calm feel to the woods. The trees are planed in lines, shooting straight to the sky. We could hear birds, owls and the wind as we walked to a monument to the 99th Infantry Division, the unit that fought in that area, as well as the Volksgrenadier Division that was also there. Moving in deeper, we came across the remains of the trenches and foxholes that the allies had dug in place, and listened to some discussion of life in the trenches. Such a violent past felt very out of place in those woods.

From there, we moved further West, towards St. Vith, and looked at the surrounding territory, and the intentions of the German military as they swept inwards. We had a couple of Norwich students perish in this area. Another stand saw more foxholes. We climbed out of the valleys and up into the high ground to the north of the section, where the 82nd Airborne Division held territory, before turning in for the night at Bastogne.

Tuesday, we focused extensively on the 2nd Armored Division, driving out to the western sections of the battlefield, 'classic tank country', according to our guides, BG (RET) Hal Nelson and MG (RET) Gordon Sullivan. Norwich University had focused on cavalry training early on, and we had a number of students present in the ranks, including the general, Ernest Harmon, who would eventually become the university's president in the post-war years. There were several key towns that we looked at that saw some major actions from our soldiers there, who worked to cut off the German advance, and stopping it in its tracks. I could spend an entire week there, looking at that, I think.

The last day, Wednesday, we stayed in Bastogne, where we drove out to the memorial, a towering star-shaped structure that spells out the actions of the bulge. It's an impressive memorial, one that would be a good place to stop to get a good overview of the battle. We didn't look much at Bastogne, but we saw where the significance came from, and the actions that the US 101st Airborne and 10th Armored Division played in helping hold the ground. From there, it was back to Brussels, where we had our final briefing and dinner, then departed for the night. I spend the next two days trying to get home, but ultimately, the trip was worth the trouble. I want to go back to that territory: it's gorgeous out there, with a fascinating role in the 2nd World War.

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.

Doug Stanton on US Special Forces in Afghanistan

Cover Image The third talk of the Colby Symposium featured author Doug Stanton, author of the widely acclaimed New York Times bestseller In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors (Published in 2002), and Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of US Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan (published in 2009). Stanton has written for a number of publications, ranging from Esquire to Sports Afield to Outside, and is a contributing editor at Men's Journal. His talk centered on the Special Forces who were first deployed to Afghanistan in 2001. He opened by noting that on September 11th, he wondered what, as a writer, he was supposed to do, and realized that he could explain the situation and tell the story of the people who would be fighting.

Shortly after he released In Harm's Way, he toured the country, signing his book at bookstores across the country. At every stop along the way, he found that people everywhere had some way in which they could relate to the disaster of the U.S.S. Indianapolis: they were veterans, they had served on the ship, or were related to someone who had a meaningful relationship with the ship before it sank during the Second World War.

The sailors who had survived the sinking went through a hellish experience: hundreds of survivors in the water, without provisions and hunted by sharks (the disaster helped inspire elements of the film Jaws), numerous sailors simply gave up and perished. The descriptions were horrific: a sailor would let go from the life raft and would be set upon by sharks, after several days without water, with swollen digits and eyes, burned by the sun and hearing the screams of men around them. However, he said that many people told him that they had thought about giving up and going under, but were stopped by the memory of someone talking to them: a grandfather, parent, teacher, who encouraged them to continue onwards just a little longer. Three and a half days later, the remaining 321 survivors (out of the 880 who survived initially) were located and rescued. Stanton said that that made him wonder what he had said, what his parents and teachers had told others that would allow them to continue onwards in a hard situation. This was particularly relevant to the cadets in the room.

Stanton said that he was fortunate to be able to point attention to the veterans of the wars: their stories were at risk of being forgotten or under realized, and that writing was a particularly important way to preserve the past. People need to recognize and understand the contributions of the veterans.

When it came to researching the story behind Horse Soldiers, Stanton said that he ran into trouble because he was used to calling people up and asking them questions: the people involved in the US Special Forces weren't used to that, and he recounted several experiences where the soldiers weren't very forthcoming, because of the nature of their positions in the military, and that it took a little while before they realized what he was doing, and opened up to him. On September 10th, he told the group, you likely wouldn't have found Afghanistan on the plans for any military operation: it was a remote country that caught people by surprise, and there was a scramble to figure out just what to do. The first plans involved the deployment of conventional soldiers into the country, but there were no plans in place, nor any training to support such a mission. Plan B involved 12 Americans in a helicopter that landed in Uzbekistan, where they linked up with a couple of CIA operatives and twenty thousand Anti-Taliban fighters. Special Forces had never been used as the first people into an engagement such as this. The first operations were fast, cheap (70 million dollars), and involved around 300 soldiers, and were shortly followed up with conventional troops. On September 11th, the anti-Taliban forces had heard of the attacks on New York City and Washington DC, and realized that they would soon get help to their cause.

Special Forces, Stanton noted, were unique because they operated very differently from the conventional military: they weren't taken as seriously, because they were forced to understand how to affect changes from the inside of a command structure, rather than from an external means. As Jack Segal noted earlier, the people in Afghanistan have a very different outlook and mindset on their existence, something that has been difficult for the US to understand and either work with (or against). Building a common cause was essential, and the training that the soldiers had was essential.

Stanton talked about a training operation that special forces soldiers went through, called Pineland. USA Today has a good explanation of some of the background on the exercise here, but in short, it's a training operation that forces soldiers to work within relationships of another country: something that is highly relevant in today's battlefield in the Middle East. He noted that their training has a lot to do with failure: the key is to learn from one's mistakes, but also that it's not the decisions that they make when you have a problem: it's the decisions that you made 7 or 8 turns ago that are important.

Improvisation and decentralized decision making are important for this style of warfare as well: soldiers need to learn to improvise and to understand the context of what they are doing, but also to learn on the go as events change quickly. When the first soldiers arrived in Afghanistan, they were asked if they'd ever ridden a horse. Only two raised their hands, and that had only been as children. Stanton went on to characterize the war as a western, only with lasers. It's a situation that changes fluidly, and that the best way to understand, and to fight in a situation like that, is to understand the choices and decisions that were made earlier, and how they influence the present.

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.

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.)

The Dawn of the Nuclear Age

Today marks the 65th anniversary of the detonation of 'Little Boy', the first nuclear warhead in the U.S. arsenal to be used as an act of war, and changing the world upon its use. The bomb, which was followed by 'Fat Man' on August 9th, caused casualties in the hundreds of thousands, with its effects lasting far into the present day. The United States marked a change in policy earlier today when Ambassador John Roos attended the reemergence ceremony earlier today. The onset of nuclear warfare marked a massive change in the structure and hierarchy of the world.

The culmination of the Manhattan Project and the subsequent implementation of nuclear arms into the U.S. arsenal was the result of years of work and research on the part of the United States, and one that remains fiercely debated to this day. The first, and only use of the weapons over Japan sparked much attention, but in and of itself was a single element in a larger strategy that was used to extend U.S. military power abroad. Earlier bombing runs, notably with the switch from conventional explosives to incendiary explosives on the part of the Army Air Force over Japan yielded similar results to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings: a high number of civilian casualties and military targets were directly attacked, killing hundreds of thousands. The nuclear warheads are in and of themselves notable because of the sheer destructive force, and the ease to which an opposing force can destroy a comparable target when examined alongside prior methods. Previously, it required a large bombing force over enemy territory, where planes were susceptible to anti-air craft fire and mechanical breakdown. With a single air craft, the ability to do the same appeared.

It would seem that with the smaller force, and ease of destruction, that nuclear warfare would be an inevitable end to civilization as we know it. Large military forces require far more expenditure, logistics and manpower to accomplish their goals, with steep casualty costs, as seen in the casualty rates of the airmen who ventured over Axis-occupied territory during the Second World War. This misses the point, I believe, of the ease of destruction often predicted by science fiction authors. The scary thing itself isn't the bomb itself, but the system in which deploys it. The Second World War industrialized warfare to an incredible degree due to military necessity, and as a single nation almost untouched by war on its own borders, the United States found itself with the manpower, equipment and weapons in which to enforce its will across the world. When the Soviet Union joined the nuclear club, it acted as a balance of power, but one that tread upon very uneasy ground, as the potential for nuclear warfare grew immensely, and teetered on the edge at such moments like the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Fortunately, the fears of apocalypse never came to pass: cooler heads prevailed, and the implimentation of strategy that was designed to deter, rather than to destroy outright came to pass, but the introduction of nuclear weapons demonstrated that the balance of power had changed in a profound way: nations could enforce their will through the threat of force, and advances in science and technology allowed for a continued strategy on the part of the countries that were involved in the Cold War. In a real sense, with such advances, the world became a truly global, interconnected place, and affairs that had once been inconsequential now became important to the world as a whole.

The Nuclear age arguably never began with the Japan bombings, but earlier, as military strategy attempted to find ways in which to end the threat to U.S. interests. In doing so, unprecedented measures were undertaken: cities were destroyed, in what can be looked at as the closest thing to apocalypse and speculative fiction one has ever seen, and examining the aftermath provides for some almost surreal accounts: it is no wonder that people believed that the world would end with a flash of light, and it is uncomforting to realize that this sort of threat is one that is ongoing: the Cold War has since ended, but the threat of nuclear power is still one that will exist while such weapons exist, and will undoubtedly continue to influence those who look towards the future. What needs to be determined from policy makers and strategists as to the true risk, and to determine if the stakes are high enough.


On the early hours of June 6, 1944, the first Allied units began to move in towards Normandy, France, taking part in one of the defining moments of the Second World War. In the three years since the attack on Pearl Harbor, United States has become embroiled in a massive confrontation, deploying soldiers first to Africa and then to Italy to relieve the pressure off of Europe and the Soviet Union and to open additional fronts against the German military. Operation Overlord is notable for a number of reasons. While it was by far the largest seaborne invasion that the world had ever seen, it was not the operation that spelled the end of the German occupation of France and mainland Europe. The invasion was a component, one that very nearly failed, in larger wartime strategy and planning that as a whole, helped to end World War II.

In addition to the complications involved in a major, multinational strategy, Operation Overlord was an incredibly ambitious, dangerous and complicated military offensive that integrated seven separate military forces and numerous branches of said militaries, which in and of itself, lent itself to numerous difficulties and challenges. Different militaries (The United States, The United Kingdom, Canada,  Free France, Poland, Norway and Australian armies all took part) operate to different standards, procedures and tactics, and moving all forces onto a single series of battlefields, with specific timetables and goals required an incredible amount of planning and coordination. This was helped by the landings on separate beaches by different nationalities, with Sword taken by the United Kingdom and Free French soldiers, Juno by Canadian and UK forces, Gold Beach by UK, while Omaha and Utah beaches were taken by the United States.

Other difficulties came with inter-unit coordination. Prior to the United States landings on Utah and Omaha, the 8th and 9th Air Forces flew over the beach sites on bombing runs, working to take out German emplacements and weapons, while providing cover on the ground for soldiers. The second wave of soldiers would be the airborne soldiers, flying in overnight to begin their attacks on German units. They were then followed by a navel bombardment, which sought to further disrupt German batteries on the beachfronts themselves. Finally, ground soldiers were deployed to the beaches to begin their attack against the German forces on the beaches and into Normandy.

As to be expected with any major operation, there was much that went wrong. While the allies achieved air superiority over the skies of the invasion zones, bombers were hampered by inclement weather, and out of sight of their targets, opted to drop their bombs slightly later, to avoid hitting any of the ships and soldiers waiting off the shore. As a result, most bombs landed inland, away from their targets. Airborne soldiers, hampered by the same weather, and pilots avoiding anti-aircraft fire, were hopelessly scattered across the invasion zone, where they operated in smaller units, often miles from their original targets. Naval bombardments missed, or did little damage to hardened targets and batteries, while the weather once again hampered invasion plans as landing ships moved off course, disrupting major units and the tactics that had been planned out for them. The invasion could have very well become one of the worse disasters in U.S. Military History.

However, it wasn't. When the soldiers landed on the beach fronts, they were faced with preset German emplacements and enemy fire. Soldiers were thrown together with soldiers from other units, sometimes from landing zones that were very far away, and quickly learned that the missions that they had trained for weren't necessarily accomplishable. However, with guidance from their officers and from each other, they worked together, pulled upon their training and realized what their immediate goals were, and worked towards placing those goals towards the overall goal of the day: to get off the beach and to form a beach head for the waves of soldiers, materials and weapons coming in behind them. Soldiers from every unit worked to get off the beaches, up the cliffs and pushed the German lines back. By the end of the day, US forces had secured the beaches and had begun to move inland, where they then engaged in a bloody struggle against German resistance in France.

While Normandy was a vital component of the Allied push against the Axis forces, it was not the only one. However, it demonstrated the training and sheer force that was available to the United States and her allies at the time, and showed that technology and a mass of soldiers were not the only things that were in place to win the war: it was the soldier's training and ability to improvise, recognize their goal and seek the means in which to achieve it.

The Pacific

Last Sunday, HBO began their World War II miniseries on the Pacific Theater of Operations, simply titled The Pacific, as their long awaited follow-up to Band of Brothers. Band of Brothers was one of my earlier influences in the history field, and ever since high school, seven years ago, I've been awaiting for such a follow-up, which has been worked on in the ensuing years. The series already has paid off in the long wait between 2002 and now. In the past couple of years, I've graduated with two degrees in history (one was specifically in Military History), and as such, my views on commercial history have changed a lot since I first saw it.

The Pacific follows three soldiers, Robert Leckie, John Basilone and Eugene Sledge, and where Band of Brothers is based off of the book by the same title, this series is following the memoirs of Leckie and Sledge (Helmet for my Pillow and With the Old Breed, respectively), while Basilone is a well known figure in the Pacific War history. As such, the series has a somewhat different feel, apart from the differences in location and military units. Instead, the series has started off with much more of a personal story, rather than the story of an entire unit.

The Band of Brothers comparisons is something that the Pacific will be unable to really escape from, and that carries with it a need for some changes in how the stories will be told, as well as certain expectations with its appearance and what sort of story that it will be telling. To be bluntly honest, this isn't a historical story in the slightest - it features real stories and actions, but care should be taken to remember that primarily, this is a dramatic war movie, stretched out over ten nights. It'll be highly accurate, with a lot of care in that department, but history it is not.

What I really appreciate about this sort of series is the ability to get younger students (upper high school and the like) interested in World War II history, which in turn can act as a sort of gateway to other conflicts. In my own studies, I was highly interested in the Second World War, for all of its complexities and differences, and things to study. It's something that continues to fascinate me to the present day, and I'm sure that I'll be fascinated for a long time down the road. Band of Brothers, when it was released, most certainly hooked a number of people, getting them interested in the character stories, and going from that point onwards to other happenings.

This miniseries focuses extensively on the Pacific theater, with the Marines who fought in the island hopping campaigns that dug into Japanese territory. While the European theater has been extensively covered with movies, the Pacific has had a lesser degree of interest, for whatever reason, and I'll be interested to see how well this comes off in the series. From the first episode, it's clear that there's quite a lot of attention being paid to the characters and their own stories. This first episode is centered around Robert Leckie and the 1st Marine Regiment as they land on the first engagement at Guadalcanal as part of the Battle of the Tenaru, the opening actions for the Guadalcanal campaign. The U.S. Marines landed and secured the islands, but were surprised when the Japanese defeated their supporting ships off shore. The Marines secured the airstrip on the island, and engaged Japanese soldiers on August 21st, in the middle of the night, when the Japanese came across their lines. The first assault was turned back, and the second attack was once again turned back by mortars and heavy machine gun fire. In the morning, the U.S. Forces counter attacked, and over the course of the 21st, the US killed most of the Japanese forces, with just a handful withdrawing.

This first episode shares a pretty limited view of this battle, with Robert Leckie taking part in the first assault over the night and through to the next day. Leckie was part of this battle in real life, as a machine gunner, and the episode captures, fairly effectively, the horrors of that first engagement, from both the determination of the Japanese soldiers in the 17th Army (attacking or committing suicide after they were injured, taking American soldiers with them) and the measures that the U.S. forces took in retaliation.

The Pacific is very different from Band of Brothers, as the Pacific Campaign was vastly different than the European one. There were numerous lessons to be learned in these differences, and I'm eager to see how the remaining aspects of the campaign play out for this series.