On December 16, 1944, at 0530, German Panzer units crossed the front lines in the Ardennes, beginning the epic last offensive for Hitler and, in response, the Allied counteroffensive known as the Battle of the Bulge.
On that frigid, snowy morning, 1LT Lyle Bouck, platoon leader of the 394th Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon in the 99th Division and 21 men under his control held off the tip of the spear of the initial German advance, a battalion of over 600 men.
During a 20-hour-long fight, Bouck’s positions were overrun by the Germans four times. More than once, LT. Bouck asked to retreat for his platoon's safety but was denied. His platoon fought and stood their ground.
After fighting all day Lyle Bouck was captured and placed in Café Stolzen before being sent to a prisoner camp along with his men. As the clock struck midnight, Bouck remembered that he had just turned 21.
While waiting in the café, SS Lt. Col. Jochen Peiper, a notoriously ruthless German commander, entered the café upset over the delay in the German advance. Peiper called on a battalion and then company commander to advance immediately, yet both replied that there was a very large, well-armed American battalion in the woods and that the road was mined, so they wished to wait until dawn. Little did they know, that it was only Bouck’s platoon that had created such devastation.
Before being captured, Bouck’s platoon had inflicted over 400 casualties and, most importantly, disrupted the entire German Sixth Panzer Army’s attack long enough for Americans in the rear to begin counter-attack measures. His actions that day ensured the eventual defeat of the German final advance in World War II.
The men captured survived imprisonment as prisoners of war. Thirty-seven years later, Lt. Lyle Bouck and his platoon were recognized as the most decorated platoon of WWII.
For Parents looking to instill patriotism, courage, and an understanding of America’s goodness and importance in defeating evil, the story of Lt Bouck and the 394th I&R platoon is recounted in the book "The Longest Winter" written by Alex Kershaw. For a synopsis of the action read this: The Heroic Stand of an Intelligence Platoon (fas.org)
Lyle Bouck died in 2016. His son resides in Wheaton and last year gave me seeds from a pine tree sapling that he brought back over from the battlefield in Belgium where his father fought.
This story of young courage stands alone. But, it also stands as a contrast to the top brass in our current military, and, as I wrote about last week, the many men the same age as Bouck who are unfit for military service. That figure is 77%. It is a national travesty and security concern. We are raising generations of kids unable and unwilling to protect this nation and our enemies know we are unprepared for a large-scale battle in this regard.
Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Kevin Wallsten wrote about this issue in a WSJ op-ed titled
Why Doesn’t Gen Z Want to Be All It Can Be? The subtitle is “Young Americans are skeptical of the military. That’s a reason to worry about national security.”
Here is a pertinent excerpt:
“The Reagan National Defense survey results across time show that confidence in the military among senior citizens has barely moved since 2018, inching downward from 97% to 90%. By contrast, confidence in the armed forces among 18- to 29-year-olds has cratered, from 87% in 2018 to 64% in 2023.
This rapidly diminishing faith in the military threatens to undermine support for defense spending, as young people are now twice as likely as those over 65 to oppose increases in such spending. This is a growing problem for a military struggling to address an unprecedented recruitment crisis.