AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, THE: BATTLE OF THE BULGE (TV)

Summary

One in this documentary series. This program recounts the Battle of the Bulge, one of the greatest American battles of World War II. Interviews with former GI's and local civilian witnesses comprise an oral history of this battle -- a surprise German counterattack on American lines in the Ardennes, a wooded plateau region in southeastern Belgium, northern Luxembourg, and France. The first-hand accounts are intercut with original newsreel footage and still photographs of the December 1944 to January 1945 battle. Included are the following segments: a look at the jubilant mood in Paris in late summer 1944 as American GI's swept into the reclaimed city, and the general sense that Hitler was on the run and the war would be over soon; the American shift of troops to the Pacific and an optimistic dip in production of artillery and munitions; Hitler's secret plan for a counterattack, which included the underground production of weaponry and the creation of the "People's Infantry"; Hitler's wish to drive a wedge in the British-American alliance; the thin American patrol on the eighty-mile line fronting the Ardennes; warnings of increasing German activity behind the front from citizens of Luxembourg and American soldiers -- and the subsequent dismissal of these warnings by American superior officers; the start of the surprise German assault on the line on December 16th, 1944 with 250,000 Germans at the border and the dark, foggy weather greatly aiding Hitler's plan; the confusion and fear of the inexperienced American infantrymen stationed at the front, who had no idea they were being hit by one of the largest German artillery attacks of the war and were outnumbered ten to one in some places; General Dwight D. Eisenhower's initial lack of concern upon receiving word of the attack; the ragged American retreat amid heavy German fire; the worsening situation in the next few days, which included diminishing ammunition and the surrender of the 106th Infantry; the decision of Eisenhower and General Omar N. Bradley, now aware of the enormity of the situation, to call in their only reserves -- the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions; 101st Airborne commander General Anthony C. McCauliffe's refusal to surrender Bastogne, a small town on the line in southeastern Belgium and the site of the 18th Corps headquarters -- though the American line was split wide open and Bastogne was surrounded; how Bastogne became a symbol of resistance to the Americans, which Hitler realized and sought to destroy by flattening the little town; General George S. Patton's attempt to send his men into Bastogne for a Christmas day arrival; how the unexpected clearing of the foggy weather on the 23rd allowed American planes to fly in, and ultimately made McAuliffe and the 101st the pride of the American army; the stalling of the German advance at the Meuse River; an account of the long, slow, costly offensive over the next weeks to push the Germans back to the original line; the terrible physical and emotional toll on the American soldiers in the worst European winter in memory; the specific difficulties and horrors of foot battle; growing strains between Eisenhower and British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery; the increasing loss of American soldiers due to frostbite and consequent foot amputations; the lowering of physical standards and abbreviated training of new American recruits for an army losing 2,000 men a day for almost a month; the plight of local citizens who existed in subterranean cellars; Patton's final assault on January 13th; the rejoining of the American front on January 16th, with several miles of pushing still left to be done; the waning number of men, lack of blood and penicillin; the plight of the "ragmen," infantrymen who suffered injuries, were summarily treated, and sent back to the front to meet their probable doom; soldiers who became emotionally disturbed; the questionable "psychiatric treatments" the disturbed were given to get them back in combat; the end of the battle as the Americans reached the original front line; the toll of the Battle of the Bulge, which included 16,000 Americans killed and 60,000 wounded or captured; the apocalyptic landscape left behind and the two years it took to find all the bodies of fallen soldiers; the enormous impact of this experience on the young American soldiers who survived it -- making everything in their lives that came after merely a footnote. Includes interviews with and/or footage of the following individuals: Capt. Ben Kimmelman of the 28th Infantry; Maj. Chet Hansen, an aide to Gen. Omar Bradley; Second Lt. Oliver Patton of the 106th Infantry; ReichsfŸhrer Adolf Hitler; Col. H.W.O. Kinnard of the 101st Airborne; First Sgt. Roger Rutland of the 106th Infantry; Guy Franz Arend, curator of the "Nuts" Museum in Bastogne; Jannye Marx, a French citizen; Norm Plumb and Clyde Burkholder, privates in the 28th Infantry; Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower; Gen. Omar N. Bradley; Pvt. Bob Dunning of the 101st Airborne; Gen. Anthony C. McAuliffe, commander of the 101st Airborne; Gen. George S. Patton; Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery; Sgt. Jim Foster of the 17th Airborne; Pvt. Bart Hagerman of the 17th Airborne; Pvt. Bob Conroy of the 75th Infantry; Sgt. Ed Stewart of the 84th Infantry; and Ardennes region citizen Josef Scheer. (This program is a 1994 Peabody Award winner.)

Cataloging of this program was made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, 1995.

Details

  • NETWORK: PBS WNET New York, NY
  • DATE: November 9, 1994 Wednesdasy 8:30 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 1:27:24
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: T:38108
  • GENRE: Public affairs/Documentaries
  • SUBJECT HEADING: Bulge, Battle of the, 1944-1945
  • SERIES RUN: PBS - TV series, 1988-
  • COMMERCIALS:

CREDITS

    • For "The American Experience":
    • Judy Crichton … Executive Producer
    • Susan Mottau … Coordinating Producer
    • Margaret Drain … Senior Producer
    • Charles Kuskin … Theme Music by, Series Theme by
    • Michael Bacon … Music (Misc. Credits), Series Theme Adaptation by
    • David McCullough … Host
    • For "Battle of the Bulge":
    • Thomas Lennon … Producer, Writer
    • Mark Zwonitzer … Associate Producer, Writer
    • Helen Weiss … Researcher
    • Daniel Bonmariage … European Research by
    • Elly Beintema … European Research by
    • Janet Simonelli … Production (Misc.), Production Coordinator
    • Brian Keane … Music by
    • Rena C. Kosersky … Music (Misc.), Archival Music by
    • David McCullough … Narrator
    • Guy Franz Arend
    • Omar N. Bradley
    • Clyde Burkholder
    • Bob Conroy
    • Bob Dunning
    • Dwight D. Eisenhower
    • Jim Foster
    • Bart Hagerman
    • Chet Hansen
    • Adolf Hitler
    • Ben Kimmelman
    • H.W.O. Kinnard
    • Jannye Marx
    • Anthony C. McAuliffe
    • Bernard L. Montgomery
    • George S. Patton, Jr.
    • Oliver Patton
    • Norm Plumb
    • Roger Rutland
    • Josef Scheer
    • Ed Stewart