Senator Hassan’s Father Fought in Battle of the Bulge as Member of 76th Infantry Division
WASHINGTON - In case you missed it, Senator Maggie Hassan participated in a bipartisan Congressional delegation to Belgium and Luxembourg to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. Senator Hassan’s father, Robert Wood, fought in the Battle of the Bulge as a member of the 76th Infantry Division. The U.S. Senate also passed a resolution that Senator Hassan cosponsored commemorating the 75th anniversary of this historic battle.
See below for coverage highlights:
By Tim Callery
Sen. Maggie Hassan just returned from a bipartisan delegation that visited Europe to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge.
Hassan paid her respects to the Granite Staters who gave their lives 75 years ago during the Battle of the Bulge, a pivotal moment that helped bring an end to World War II.
“It was an American victory that saved the world from Hitler and fascism and preserved freedom around the globe,” Hassan said.
Hassan joined her Republican and Democratic colleagues from D.C. in Belgium and Luxembourg to stand with U.S. veterans and to honor their efforts and sacrifices during that time.
“It was a way for elected leaders from the United States to say to these veterans, some of whom were there – they’re well into their 90’s now, they were very young at the time -- we just wanted to thank them for saving freedom,” Hassan said.
Hassan has a personal connection to the event.
Her father, Robert Wood, fought in the Battle of the Bulge as a member of the 76th Infantry Division.
Hassan said she was humbled to stand on the battlefields where he and so many American soldiers fought during World War II.
“I hope all Americans take a little time right now to appreciate what these veterans 75 years ago did for all of us,” she said.
By Kevin Landrigan
Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., literally got to walk in her father’s footsteps to mark the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge last weekend.
Hassan’s late father, Robert Wood, served as a U.S. Army infantry sergeant as part of Company C of the 385th Regiment in the 76th Infantry Division.
Historians regard this battle as the back-breaker of Adolf Hitler’s army that would surrender to the Allied Forces only five months later in May 1945.
The fight began on Dec. 16, 1944, and American soldiers, badly outnumbered and short on supplies in the bone-chilling cold, held off German forces for six weeks until reinforcements from Gen. George Patton’s forces could arrive to liberate Belgium and Luxembourg from Nazi control.
There were more than 89,000 American soldier casualties, including 19,000 soldiers killed, 47,500 wounded and 23,000 captured or missing in action.
“He got to the Bulge in January after the first few weeks of the battle had begun,” Hassan said during a telephone interview Tuesday.
“He would talk from time to time about how cold it was and the fact that the Army couldn’t get them the equipment soldiers needed. I remember him telling me he had two left-footed galoshes. I learned over the weekend from soldiers who were there that he was lucky to have galoshes at all to protect your feet from the wet snow.”
Hassan said that as a company clerk and an educated man, much of her father’s service was not in combat but seeing to the caring and feeding of his unit.
“He saw action at various points during and after the Bulge; he was evacuated at one point, got very ill, and then was returned to his unit,” Hassan recalled.
“He didn’t see as much action as many of his comrades and I know he would have wanted the focus to be on their bravery.”
Hassan’s father would go on to lead the University of Massachusetts — Boston public school system and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. He was also President Lyndon Johnson’s Under Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
“In his platoon there were men of a variety of backgrounds. He was 21 by then so he had a year or two of college; some did not have great reading and writing skills so he would help them write letters to their girlfriends and read them comic strips,” Hassan said.
“They all understood this was all very deadly serious warfare and the stakes could not have been higher.”
Hassan joined a bipartisan delegation of eight senators who met with veterans and visited the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial and the Ardennes American Cemetery and Memorial where American soldiers are buried.
“We are at the burial site of Private First Class Dayton D. Atwood who died here on Christmas Day 1944,” Hassan said in a video her office produced.
“Forty brave and courageous men from New Hampshire are buried here. Their bravery and sacrifice, their fight for freedom, reminds us of what it took during World War II to stand up to Hitler and to liberate not only Belgium and not only Europe but the world.”
Hassan’s delegation and a U.S. House group that Speaker Nancy Pelosi led took part in an annual rite marking the liberation of Bastogne, Belgium, a community critical to both sides as it would have given Hitler access to a port in Antwerp.
Every year, townspeople turn out to catch little bags of nuts to symbolize the bold, one word response (“Nuts!”) from then-Army Gen. Anthony McAuliffe when the German high command insisted he surrender because American forces were surrounded.
“As a child of the World War II era, everyone knew ‘nuts’ meant ‘go to hell.’ The Germans were delayed in being able to interpret that message and this only helped our guys to hang on until Patton arrived,” Hassan said.
These ceremonies help younger Americans appreciate the valor of those who came before them, she said.
“We should all take time to understand and remember that when it comes to defending and protecting freedom, Americans are unstoppable,” Hassan said.
“My dad would always say despite all their differences and backgrounds they had this common purpose.”