Every once in a while, amidst the endless dross on social media, something special shines through. In this case, it’s a piece of World War II history, as well as a piece of gun history.
Daniel MacMurray posted a series of pics on his Facebook page along with a description of a 1911 pistol he recently was allowed to handle and photograph.
MacMurray says he shared the photos and story behind the gun with some historical groups before posting them to social media. “You had hell in your hands,” said one person who saw the photos. What could illicit such a response? The pistols was carried by a soldier who was, undoubtedly, killed by shrapnel at the Siege of Bastogne, a seven-day battle lasting from December 20 to December 27, 1944. It was part of the larger and more famous Battle of the Bulge.
“Today I was able to hold and photograph something that absolutely stopped me in my tracks.
“One person I shared this with said ‘you had hell in your hands.’
“He was right. I hope the hero who died with this at his side went quickly. This is so representative of what the heroes of WWII went through…Not only in the Pacific theatre, but the German front also.
“This was Bastogne in 1944. It’s in a friend’s private collection and it took some doing to be able to photograph it. I was shaking when I handed it back.
“I took these photos today.. A gentleman I know was kind enough to allow me that privilege.
“Often times we get so caught up in the gun we forget the sacrifices.This one really brings it home.
“It is believed that the this damage is from artillery fire.This weapon was very likely holstered at the time, and the soldier was facing the explosion. I can’t begin to tell you how powerful of a sentiment this raised in my heart to hold this.”
“I shared this in a few historical groups I belong to, so some of you have already seen this, but it’s just too powerful of an artifact not to share with the rest of you. Today I held hell in my hands.”
Since posting, his photos of this poignant pistol have been making the rounds on social media, and were even picked up by controversialtimes.com.
Here’s what set up the siege of Bastogne: the goal of the German offensive forces was the harbor at Antwerp. The only way they could reach it before Allied forces could regroup and organize an air assault was to use mechanized forces to seize the roadways through eastern Belgium. All seven main roads in the densely wooded Ardennes highlands converged near the small Belgian town of Bastogne. What resulted was a hellish battle many remember from the depiction in Part 6 the HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers.”
For a fairly accurate and detailed account of the battle, check out its Wikipedia page.
And here’s a great three-part video journal of a visit to areas of battle depicted in the BOB episode.
American forces suffered severe casualties during the battle. The 101st Airborne Division from December 19 to January 6 had 341 killed, 1,691 wounded, and 516 missing. The 10th Armored Division’s CCB incurred approximately 500 casualties.
The day after Christmas, which saw a major attack, elements of Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army punched through to Bastogne from the southwest, eventually reaching the lines of the 326th Engineers, allowing the wounded to finally be evacuated to the rear.