Lieutenant Colonel Creighton Abrams’ tanks made it through late in the afternoon of the 26th. The 101st’s greeting party, by McAuliffe’s order, was well-dressed and cleanshaven, to show that they had everything under control. With an aide, McAuliffe rode a jeep over to see Patton’s troops for himself. Captain William Dwight, second in with his tank after 1st Lt. Charles P. Boggess, scrambled out, saluted, and asked, “How are you, General?”
“Gee, I am mighty glad to see you,” said McAuliffe, happy to be reconnected. The day after Christmas was not too bad. And for the enemy, if not for McAuliffe, it was still Christmas. In Germany das zweiter Weihnachtstag persisted.
“Just now at 1845,” Patton wrote to Beatrice, “Gaffey called to say we had made contact. Of course we did not do it with much, but we did it. My prayer seems to be working still as we have had three days of good weather and our air [force] has been very active. Of course they overstate [their results] at least 50 percent but they do scare the Huns.”
Several days later, arriving in Bastogne with Marlene Dietrich, who had been entertaining Allied troops there before the German attack and now returned, Patton saw white-clad enemy bodies frozen in the snow, now with a second coating of white. “Finest battlefield I ever saw,” she recalled him crowing in his high-pitched voice.
On the northern shoulder of the Bulge, Montgomery, temporarily in full command, reflected that Bradley, “such a decent fellow” but in over his head, had mistakenly permitted Patton “to go too far,” yet Monty had done little more than hold the line with American troops. The British counted about a thousand casualties, two hundred of them dead. Admitted American casualties were 80,987, including 10,276 killed and 23,218 missing, including prisoners of war and unrecovered dead. The German count was higher. Patton’s Christmas wish was that Eisenhower would not give in weakly to Monty’s “tidying up the lines” panaceas. “If ordered to fall back,” he wrote in his diary, “I think I will ask to be relieved.”
On December 27, Patton returned to offer a thank-you at the Pescatore chapel, anticipating that the Bulge was the enemy’s final counteroffensive—as it proved to be:
Sir, this is Patton again, and I beg to report complete progress. Sir, it seems to me that you have been much better informed about the situation than I was, because it was that awful weather which I cursed so much which made it possible for the German army to commit suicide. That, Sir, was a brilliant military move, and I bow humbly to a supreme military genius.
The Bulge was indeed the last chance for the Wehrmacht to create a situation that might have forced, through frustration and disillusion in the West, some form of negotiation that might have forestalled the invasion and destruction of Germany itself. That did not happen.
Pressing eastward as the Bulge was flattened, Patton passed through the Belgian town of Houffalize, above Bastogne. He was appalled by its utter destruction as the Germans withdrew after mutually costly fighting. “I have never seen anything like it in this war,” Patton wrote. Giving in to his profane streak, yet still close enough to Christmas to exploit a carol, he penned yet another verse
Quo Fata Vocant-Whither the Fates call