FROM DAYLIGHT on December 23 all guards stood alerted for the first appearance of the C-47s. At 0935 a military policeman on duty at the entrance to the 101st Division command post carried the word to Colonel Kohls that several large planes were circling the area.
A few minutes later, the pathfinders jumped in the area where the 2d Battalion of Colonel Harper's 327th Glider Infantry was deployed. They were quickly rounded up by his men. One minute later, First Lieutenant Gordon O. Rothwell, commanding the pathfinder team, was on the telephone explaining to Colonel Kohls that the supply planes would arrive in about 90 minutes. Kohls told him how to get to the drop zone and where to put the radar set. Again the regimental supply men were alerted. Again Major Butler displayed the panels. At 1150 on the 23d, men all along the front saw the planes coming in; it was the most heartening spectacle of the entire siege. (Plates 31 to 33.)
Men and vehicles were all set for it. The pathfinder radar had given Captain Huffman and Lieutenant Colonel John T. Cooper, Jr. (Commanding Officer, 463d Parachute Field Artillery Battalion) a half-hour advance warning that the planes were coming in and the supply parties reached the field ten minutes before the flight, in time for Huffman to assign zones of retrieving to each unit so that there would be a uniformly quick pick-up. There was very little enemy fire on any part of the field.
Sixteen planes arrived in the first flight, but these were just the beginning. By 1606 of that day, 241 planes had dropped 1446 bundles weighing 144 tons by parachute into the milesquare drop zone. The drop pattern was excellent and there was about a 95 per cent recovery of the dropped material.
Working against the approaching darkness, the supply crews threw whole bundles, parachute and all, into the jeeps and shuttled between the drop zone and their dumps as fast as they could tear over the ground. All supplies were in the unit dumps by
1700, and even before that time ammunition had been rushed directly to the front lines and the battery positions. The artillery was firing part of the resupply ammunition at the enemy before the drop zone had been cleared.
By the time darkness came on, Colonel Kohls had at hand reports from all the unit supply officers telling what quantities of matériel had reached their unit dumps. It took only a brief checking on his part to see that his supply problem was far from being solved. The contents of the bundles were not in balance with the real needs of the troops. They still desperately lacked certain items and they had received others which they did not need or want. A great amount of caliber .50 ammunition had been sent up but this was not much in demand. The new supply of caliber .30 for the M1, and of 76mm. APC and 75mm. ammunition was insufficient. The Division needed litters and penicillin badly and though it had collected all of the available bed clothing from the Belgian community, many of its men were still miserably cold at night and were asking for blankets.
Colonel Kohls talked to VIII Corps again at 0830 the next morning (December 24) and said he wanted these things. He asked for additional quantities of ammunition for the 75mm. pack howitzer and also of 105mm. M3 shell. He asked VIII Corps to investigate the possibility of using gliders in the further resupply. All the early resupply missions had been done by parachute. As they came in the Germans put up a terrific amount of flak. The troops saw a number of C-47s shot down, but these losses had not made other planes take evasive action. Colonel Harper said of the pilots who flew these missions:
"Their courage was tremendous, and I believe that their example did a great deal to encourage my infantry."
While Kohls was talking, the first resupply planes of the day appeared over the drop zone and more bundles continued to rain down on the field until 1530. About 100 tons of matériel were parachuted out of 160 planes during that second day of resupply. Even so, the Division's stocking was not by any means full as Christmas Eve drew on. The shortages weighed more on Colonel Kohls than what had been accomplished. Onlv 445 gallons of
gasoline were on hand. The 26,406 K rations that had been received were only enough to supply the defenders of Bastogne for a little more than a single day. The troops were instructed, for a second time, to forage for any food supplies in their areas and to report them to G-4 so that they could be distributed where they were needed most.
This bad been done from the beginning and a large part of the subsistence of the defense had come from the ruined stores of Bastogne or from the stocks of the farming community. From an abandoned Corps bakery had come flour, lard, salt and a small quantity of coffee. Colonel Kohls got these things out to the troops and during the first days of the siege the favorite menu item along the firing line was flapjacks. The coffee, however, was saved for the hospital. The farmers had fairly good supplies of potatoes, poultry and cattle. These were taken over on requisition, to be paid for later by the United States. In an abandoned Corps warehouse were found another 450 pounds of coffee, 600 pounds of sugar and a large amount of Ovaltine. These things were all hoarded for the wounded. Prowling about Bastogne, the Civil Affairs Officer, Captain Robert S. Smith, found a large store of margarine, jam and flour in a civilian warehouse. This assured flapjacks for several more days. What was equally important, he found 2,000 burlap bags among the groceries and the bags were rushed out to the infantrymen in the foxholes to wrap around their feet where they lacked arctic overshoes.
By Christmas Eve these supplementary stores were pretty well exhausted. Christmas was a K-ration day-for the men who had K rations.