JAMES GRANT BARKLIE
Branch of Service: Army
Rank: Private, first class
Service years: 1943-1944
Honors earned: Purple Heart
Glen Rock: Lived in Glen Rock on Rock Road
James Grant Barklie grew up on Rock Road in Glen Rock. He lived there with his parents Alex and Sara and his sister Jean. At 19, in 1943, he graduated from Stevens Institute of Technology prep school and entered the US Army.
From December 16 through January 16, 1944-45, the Allies saw the last major offensive attack by the Germans in the war. The Wehrmacht regrouped after the liberation of Paris and Hitler massed forces along the frontlines across Belgium. Even though the US and their Allies dominated the skies, the buildup of German forces was masked to American detection because of bad weather and the thick Ardennes Forest. Ike did not believe that the attack would take place there because it was one of the worst spots to fight a ground war so, he made it one of the weakest spots in the US line (least amount of men defending that part of the war front). The Ardennes Forest was dense with pine trees- the tar in pine trees was flammable so when you sent artillery through it the tops would break off into fireballs landing on the soldiers below. The trees were so tightly packed it was hard to maneuver tanks through the woods. The German Luftwaffe, even in its extremely weakened state, managed to gather 1,500 bombers. They never, however, launched more than 800 planes in the sky during this battle because of their lack of gas. The Germans used the same tactics of diversion and surprise as we did on D-Day. They sent out false radio contacts and made up fake armies on different parts of the front lines to keep the US off kilter. Just like the poor Joshua Chamberlain’s 20th Maine division on the top of Little Round Top on the 2nd day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Eisenhower put the 2nd infantry division at the Ardennes thinking it would be the quietest sector and those poor boys needed a break from hard fighting, they had been in action since June 7th! Sadly, this was the spot that took the brunt of the German attack. To cause even more confusion Hitler ordered “Operation Grief,” 500 men clothed in captured American and British uniforms, driving captured American vehicles. Most of the Germans chosen for the operation spoke English, some even having lived in the US. Each one understood they could be shot as spies if caught in the fake uniforms. Their job was to infiltrate the American forces and wreak havoc. Once behind Allied frontlines, they changed road signs (which were in Flemish, German and French in that particular part of Belgium), misdirected American troops, blew up supply depots and scared the “bejesus” out of the Yanks. The GIs soon alized they were breached and panic ensued. Everyone began asking particularly American questions: “Who was Mickey Mouse’s girlfriend? Who played center field for the Yankees? Who won last year’s World Series.” A private on guard duty asked General Omar Bradly at one point, “What was the capital of Illinois?” When Bradly responded “Springfield,” the soldier arrested him (the poor geography student thought it was Chicago).
The most ironic way they caught a few of these spies was an Army typo. Some military genius sent to the printer ID cards that had an extra “N” between the “I” and the “D.” Millions were produced…since there were so many blanks ready and it was wartime, the army just used them with the mistakes! Every GI was sent into battle carrying these grammatically incorrect cards. When planning for this spy mission the Germans made fake cards for their fake Americans. In their German efficiency, they spelled everything correctly on their falsified documents. Anyone found with the correctly spelled ID card was executed on the spot.
The rest of the German built-up forces slammed into the US frontlines with terrible strength on December 16, 1944. The Germans threw everything they had in this last-ditch effort to retake lost ground. The US troops reeled back 40 miles towards France in one section, creating a “bulge” in the line. There were a few Parisian citizens who watched the retreat of the Allied forces took down their American flags and put back up their Nazi flags, worried that a complete breach in the line would mean another German occupation. Even before his orders came in, General Patton could interpret what the smart move was in this situation and had his troops moving in a pincer motion to trap the far-out Germans. Bradley simultaneously responded with Patton working well from the northern portion of the Bulge. Meanwhile, General Montgomery was reeling back and getting in the way of Bradley’s troops. Because all seven main roads in the densely wooded Ardennes highlands converged on the town of Bastogne, control of its crossroads was vital to the German attack. The 101st Airborne, still fighting after their drop into Normandy in June, and the 10th Armored (tanks) were told to defend this area “at all costs” (look this saying up to understand what it means to a bunch of soldiers!) The American soldiers were outnumbered 5-1 and lacked cold-weather gear, ammunition, food, medical supplies, and senior leadership. Due to the worst winter weather in memory, the surrounded U.S. forces could not be resupplied by plane drop, nor was tactical air support available due to cloudy weather. The German commander sent a message to the Americans to give up and save the civilians lives who were getting killed in the crossfire of this furious fight (“All the serious civilian losses caused by this artillery fire would not correspond with the well-known American humanity” read the surrender request)…Brigadier General McAuliffe replied with a curt one-word answer: “NUTS,” meaning: no way in hell in 1940s slang. These men were sieged from the 20th to the 27th of December until the beleaguered American forces were relieved by elements of General George Patton's Third Army. The men fighting there called themselves “the Battered Bastards of Bastogne,” feeling like the bastard children the army forgot on Christmas.
James G. Barklie died in action while serving under General Patton in the 3rd Army during the Battle of the Bulge on December 31, 1944 in Bastogne, Belgium as his unit helped liberate General McAuliffe's men.
Born: 1926, Glen Rock, NJ
Died: 1944, Bastonge, Belgium