Belgium / Story

The Dropping Zone




One of the many challenges facing the Americans encircled at Bastogne, was how to get supplies. From 23 to 28 December 1944, they were able to count on help from above. Hundreds of Douglas C-47 Skytrains and dozens of gliders were tasked with the mission of supplying Bastogne by air.

For the operation to succeed, it required improved weather conditions, plus an area on the ground had to be marked out and protected to allow aircraft to drop their contents in the right place.

The U.S. 101st Airborne Division and Pathfinders were able to mark out a dropping zone, close to its positions, which extended from the village of Senonchamps in the south, to the villages of Hemroulle and Savy in the north.

As soon as the sky cleared on 23 December, American transport aircraft began dropping tonnes of materials of all kinds at this location. The parachute containers carried food, ammunition of all kinds, winter clothing and communication equipment, as well as medical supplies needed to treat the many wounded in and around Bastogne.

The operation was extremely challenging for the pilots, who had to avoid the enemy anti-aircraft fire and locate the exact drop zone. To help secure the area, squadrons of American fighters targeted the German troops around Bastogne for days. Despite the defences in place, several American aircraft were seriously damaged during the operation, and some crashed before reaching their target.

Nevertheless, the operation was a success. The American soldiers encircled there were able to hold out until 26 December, when the joining of both Brigadier-General Anthony McAuliffe's and Lietenant-General George Patton’s troops took place.

The ‘Christmas miracle,’ as it was commonly called, must however be considered in contrast with the bombing of Bastogne by the Luftwaffe (German Air Force), which caused several civilian casualties. 

Bastogne, 6600