Rep. Annie Kuster: Remembering the Battle of the Bulge
Earlier this week, I returned from a bipartisan congressional delegation trip to Belgium and Luxembourg to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge – the Germans’ last significant offensive during World War II. During the trip, my colleagues and I met with veterans of the battle in Bastogne, Belgium, and took part in several events, including an official ceremony at the Mardasson Memorial to mark the 75th anniversary.
My late father, Malcolm McLane, was flying in his P-47 fighter plane when he was shot down during the Battle of the Bulge on Christmas Eve in 1944. He spent the final months of World War II in a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp. In the letter my father wrote about his experience being shot down and held captive, he said: “I was falling out of the cockpit, half pushed by fire and trashing legs and half pulled by the two hundred mile-an-hour slipstream. Before my mind started working again, I was falling clear of the plane and reached for the ripcord on my chest. The blessed thing worked and the happiest moment of my life was then, as I looked up and saw that great canopy overhead gently letting me down to earth.”
After he was taken captive by the Germans, my father wrote, “There we were each popped into a little cell, 5 x 10, and of ordinary height. …The blackout shutters were closed from five in the afternoon until eight in the morning, leaving the room in total darkness for fifteen hours. The only break in the day came at meal time when guards opened your door long enough to push in two slices of bread and coffee for breakfast and supper and a bowl of grass-like soup for lunch.”
I can’t imagine what my father was feeling as he was held captive in that cell, cut off from the outside world. It was deeply moving to honor his memory and sacrifices during this trip as well as the thousands of soldiers and allies who bravely fought for our country during the Battle of the Bulge – including those who were wounded, killed or captured/missing in action.
I’m humbled by the courage my father and his fellow service members showed as they fought unspeakable evil to protect our nation and the freedoms we hold dear. Their heroic actions helped pave the way for the surrender of Nazi Germany in May 1945. We are forever grateful for their sacrifice, and we must continue working to ensure all those who serve have access to the care and support they’ve earned.
(Annie Kuster represents New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.)