"Hell In My Hands": Battle of Bastogne Pistol

TFB Staffer
by TFB Staffer

We are all at least passingly familiar with the Battle of the Bulge. A smaller part of that battle was the Siege of Bastogne which took place December 20th to December 27th, 1944. The ultimate goal of Nazi Germany in this particular battle was to reach a harbor in Antwerp, and the Germans hoped to fight through the Allied ranks before they could be reinforced. This was not a small battle by any means but included more than 54,000 Germans laying siege to the small village of Bastogne where approximately 22,800 Allied soldiers were attempting to stand their ground. (It is well worth noting that Bastogne was and is a small village; today their population lingers around 15,000 residents.)

During the battle more than 3,000 Allied soldiers were killed. Despite being horribly outnumbered the Allies got the job done, keeping control of the village until reinforcements arrived in the form of General Patton’s Third Army. More than a few historically significant moments took place during the battle, one of which cannot be ignored when mentioning Bastogne. On December 22, 1944 a German by the name of General von Luttwitz decided it was a good idea to demand a surrender, and directed the following message to the American in charge, Brigadier General Anthony (spelling is von Luttwitz’s):

“To the U.S.A. Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne.

The fortune of war is changing. This time the U.S.A. forces in and near Bastogne have been encircled by strong German armored units. More German armored units have crossed the river Our near Ortheuville, have taken Marche and reached St. Hubert by passing through Hompre-Sibret-Tillet. Libramont is in German hands.

There is only one possibility to save the encircled U.S.A. troops from total annihilation: that is the honourable surrender of the encircled town. In order to think it over a term of two hours will be granted beginning with the presentation of this note.

If this proposal should be rejected one German Artillery Corps and six heavy A. A. Battalions are ready to annihilate the U.S.A. troops in and near Bastogne. The order for firing will be given immediately after this two hours term.

All the serious civilian losses caused by this artillery fire would not correspond with the well-known American humanity.

The German Commander.”

McAuliffe decided to keep his reply short and sweet:

“To the German Commander.


The American Commander”

I’ve always thought the story of Bastogne said a great deal about the fighting spirit of Americans – and the defiant side. Recently pictures began circulating of a Colt 1911 apparently recovered in the aftermath of Bastogne. It would be quite something to know the specific backstory of this gun but the pictures do speak for themselves.

During this holiday season we should all take a moment to be grateful for the sacrifices made by service members. Imagine where we would be today if not for the actions of men like the one who once held this 1911 in battle.

A word from the original poster of the pictures:

“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 friends 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.”

TFB Staffer
TFB Staffer

TFB Staff, bringing you the latest gun news from around the world for a decade.

More by TFB Staffer

Join the conversation
4 of 83 comments
  • R.E. Naess R.E. Naess on Jan 02, 2016

    There is no way the "impact" damage on that slide from schrapnel has been "applied", and absolutely no way any Dremel stone or burr or drill could ever make those marks, simply because the Dremel is rotary and there is no evidence of rotary disturbance to the metal. Having reactivated a number of bullet and schrapnel damaged Japanese LMG receivers, the impact marks look exactly true to the forces applied. The extreme effort and technique to fake this kind of metal damage, if even possible, would be dectectable and thoroughly wasted on such a relic, in my view.

    Bob Naess
    Black River Militaria CII

    • Wzrd1 Wzrd1 on Jan 02, 2016

      @R.E. Naess If the pistol looks like that, we can guess what the man issued it looked like.
      Someone got the telegram no one ever wanted to receive.

  • Oldtrader3 Oldtrader3 on Jan 02, 2016

    Dead American Veterans are not Funny! The German artillery were very skilled at air burst technology. Any of you little boys who had lived through Bastogne, would not think it the least bit funny. My dad served in that battle (Bulge) as a member of Patton's Armored Division, they relieved Bastogne on Christmas Eve!

    • Wzrd1 Wzrd1 on Jan 02, 2016

      @Oldtrader3 I had two uncles meet up during the Bulge, then advance on Bastogne to relieve the 101st. Dad got caught lying about his age and bounced out of the Marine Corps. By the time he was of age and joined the Army, he finished his airborne training and ended up fighting the battle of Fort Dix.

      I'm a retired veteran myself and I agree, there's nothing funny about what artillery does to a human body.