Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Sunday, October 7, 2018

100 Years Ago: The Lost Battalion Evacuated from the Pocket

Lost Battalion Survivors—Major Whittlesey at Far Left

For [five days, the Lost Battalion]  repulsed over two German attacks a day. [On scene commander Charles] Whittlesey refused to withdraw and leave his casualties behind and by 6 October food was gone and ammunition was almost exhausted.

Alexander and the 77th Division did not save Whittlesey. Major General Hunter Liggett, who then commanded the I Corps, did that on the morning of 7 October by turning a brigade of the 82d Division east and threatening the Germans with encirclement. [The attack plan was drawn up by future WWII notable Lt. Col. Jonathan Wainwright.] When elements of the 77th Division moved forward, the Germans were already withdrawing and out of roughly 500 Americans who had been caught in the treacherous brush and barbed wire filled ravines, 146 walked out.

The Pocket, Visible in the Distant Center, from the Present-Day Memorial

In the wake of the relief, the blame game began. Reputations had to be protected, scores had to be settled, medals had to be awarded. Liggett, as was his habit, remained silent. Whittlesey later committed suicide. However, the story never lost its momentum. The officers and men of the 307th and 308th Regiments of the 154th Brigade of the 77th "Liberty" Division of the A.E.F., the "Lost Battalion," like "The Battling Bastards of Bastogne," became part of the American military pantheon.

Daniel R. Beaver, Society for Military History

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