Christmas Eve 1944: a brief moment of peace on the battlefield

Original post from abmc.gov

While the “Christmas Truce” of 1914 has achieved legendary status in the history of World War I, there has been little coverage of similar events involving American troops. When America entered World War I, years of massive casualties discouraged any brotherly feeling between the opposing armies, and senior officers actively discouraged any repeat of the events of 1914. In World War II, there were few chances for such events, as American troops were in close contact with German forces only in relatively small numbers in North Africa and Italy prior to the 1944 D-Day landings. Any large scale truce for Christmas 1944 was impossible as just nine days prior to Christmas, the Germans launched their largest counteroffensive of the war in the west, resulting in the Battle of the Bulge and heavy fighting throughout the holiday.

Yet while there is no mention of any “Christmas truce” in the official records, we do have a personal account of a much smaller truce during the height of the fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. This is the story of Fritz Vincken, a young German boy at the time of the battle. Fritz, then 12-years-old, had moved with his mother to a small cottage in the Huertgen forest after their hometown of Aachen was partially destroyed in an earlier American offensive. The area had stayed quiet until nine days before Christmas, when the German Ardennes Offensive had crashed through the area. According to Fritz, “we heard the incessant booming of field guns; planes soared continuously overhead; at night searchlights stabbed through the darkness.”

On Christmas Eve, 1944, Fritz and his mother answered a knock at the door — three American soldiers, one badly wounded, were standing there. While the Vinckens did not speak English nor the Americans German, they were able to communicate to a limited extent in French. Fritz’s mother invited the Americans inside and attempted to make them comfortable. Fritz remembered:

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