College of Arts and Sciences
Doctor of Philosophy in History (PhD)
Allen C. York
fighting for the American way of life, Battle of the Bulge, 28th Infantry Division, World War II, WWII
Zapotoczny, Walter S. Jr, "“We Fought for the Right Reasons and God Was on Our Side”: Combat, Faith, and Perseverance during the 28th Infantry Division's Engagement at the Battle of the Bulge" (2022). Doctoral Dissertations and Projects. 3999.
In December 1944, Hitler’s Germany was besieged on every front. Germany was working on super weapons and needed to buy some time to fight off the Red Army and the Allies. Until his super weapons could turn the tide, Hitler opted for a major counteroffensive in the west to split the Allies. Hitler would launch his last military reserves in a desperate gamble aimed at driving to the port of Antwerp through Luxembourg and Belgium. Such a blow, Hitler believed, would wreck the Allied Coalition. One of the divisions facing the main German offensive was the American 28th Infantry Division, occupying a twenty five mile front that extended along the Belgium and Luxembourg borders with Germany. The actions by the soldiers of that division combined to slow and finally stall the German offensive, robbing it of its momentum and, most of all, the precious time upon which the operation relied for success. This dissertation examines the reasons why the soldiers of the 28th Infantry Division fought so fiercely, in some cases to the last man, to delay the German advance. This research explores first-hand accounts left by the men who fought, the efforts of the U.S. government to inspire men to fight for the American way of life, and the chaplains who attended to their religious needs. It identifies how significant the delaying actions of the 28th Division were to the Allied success in the Battle of the Bulge, how faith factored into the nexus of ideas that inspired the perseverance of the soldiers and identifies the forces beyond camaraderie and cohesion that influenced soldiers to resist the German offensive in the Ardennes. For the men of the 28th Division, fighting for the American way of life meant that they were fighting to preserve freedom to worship, freedom from oppression, and freedom of movement.