Return of Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Lady with ermine” to Poland after World War II.
Monuments Man Lt. Frank P. Albright, Polish Liaison Officer Maj. Karol Estreicher, Monuments Man Capt. Everett Parker Lesley, and Pfc. Joe D. Espinosa, guard with the 34th Field Artillery Battalion, pose with Leonard da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine upon its return to Poland in April 1946.
The producers and Hayley Atwell have both introduced some doubt in the post-season interviews on whether or not Daniel Sousa definitely is the husband mentioned in Peggy’s documentary on Steve.
While they are calling the shots, and, no, it is not guaranteed that they stay together, based on history and what we know from the show and the Captain America movies, the Siege of Bastogne is the most fitting battle for Steve to have rescued Peggy’s (future) husband from.
“That was a difficult winter. A blizzard had trapped half our battalion behind the German line. Steve…Captain Rogers, he fought his way through a HYDRA blockade that had pinned our allies down for months. He saved over a thousand men, including the man who would…who would become my husband as it turned out.”
So we know that:
The battle was in winter (Could be stretched to include late, blustery autumn. Dec- March)
The battle was preceded by a snowstorm
The battle followed months of essential gridlock between Allied and Axis forces.
The troops Peggy’s husband was with were caught behind enemy lines- AKA encircled.
SSR-associated forces were involved in large enough numbers to constitute a half a battalion (between 200 and 400 troops). At least several hundred other men were also rescued by Steve at the same time.
We can assume that the battle was near HYDRA troops or a HYDRA bottleneck
We also know Peggy’s husband couldn’t have been anyone Steve rescued during his first raid on Hydra facilities to rescue Bucky and the 107th. This is for two reasons.
It was most likely not winter. (Look at the trees! They’re all green, and the weather is warm enough for light jackets.)
The mission only rescued 163 men, according to the Smithsonian in Captain America: The Winter Soldier – well under the 1,000 rescued in the mission that saved Peggy’s husband.
Why couldn’t Peggy’s husband been rescued the winter of 1943-1944? He could have been – but it’s not that likely. Western Allied troops were engaging Axis powers during that winter, but the battles were in Italy. While German troops were certainly present, and the Italian campaign up the Italian Peninsula was caught in a stalemate; there was no specific block that had the Allies “pinned down.” What is more probable is that it was on the French side of the Western Front: after D-Day.
While we don’t have any information yet for how Steve rescued the future Mr. Carter, we do have enough intel to answer the question: Which battle was it?
A (Very Abridged) Background on Bastogne:
After D-Day, Allied troops moved quickly through France, making it nearly to the Eastern border of France by September. While troops made slow and steady gains in Italy and towards in the south of France, from October, November and into December, lines remained more or less locked in place along the Northern edge of the Western front through France, Luxembourg and Belgium.
To beat back the Allies and reclaim vital Axis holdings - the Germans initiated the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes region, encompassing parts of Northern France, Belgium and Luxembourg.
On December 16, the day the Germans started the Battle of the Bulge, a historic snowstorm broke out in the Ardennes. The blizzard and heavy cloud cover not only stopped all Allied air support but also slowed down ground transport for both Axis and Allied forces.
At Bastogne, a town in Belgium along the border with Luxembourg. Due to aggressive German attacks and a lack of support due to the weather and other factors, the Germans completely surrounded Bastogne by December 21- the first official day of winter. The Allied troops fighting in the besieged city were completely encircled – trapped behind enemy lines.
Above: German troops surround Allied holdout at Bastogne. From Wikipedia
Germans telegraphed US Command to ask for a surrender, lest the Allied men and civilians still in the town face complete annihilation. The commander for the US of A responded, quote: “NUTS!”
Parts of Patton’s own division, the Third Army – AKA “Hell on Wheels”– were called in to help push the Germans back and free the Allied troops caught in Bastogne. They succeeded.
(It would also not surprise me if, in addition to “Hell on Wheels”, Patton’s group also cooperated with SSR troops.)
By December 27, men injured during the siege were able to be evacuated to the rear to receive the treatment they needed. By the time the siege ended, over 3,000 men were killed, missing or wounded. Over 1,000 men were injured from the 101st Airborne Division alone.
Other interesting tidbits:
~At Bastogne was the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion (attached to 101st), a combat unit composed entirely of African American men. While racism was a common element within the military during the war, but for many men, the dire conditions at Bastogne broke down some of the normal prejudices they held so that they could survive.
~The 101st Airborne Division also featured a reconnaissance platoon.
~While there were other battles where the Allies were encircled by the Germans, none were in the winter and also coincided with a snowstorm.
The Howling Commandos and the fight against Hydra:
As established in Captain America: The First Avenger, the Howling Commandos were formed to take out HYDRA weapons factories along with other HYDRA targets. Many of these locations are featured in the maps shown at the SSR base in London from which the Commandos operate.
There’s no good map in CA:TFA that definitely shows a HYDRA weapons factory or base precisely in Bastogne itself. However, Steve says there is a HYDRA weapons factory “30-40 miles west of the Maginot Line,” and in the two shots of the map seen at Schmidt’s base they seem to be south of Luxembourg- somewhere around Verdun, Nancy or Metz. (Bastogne is about 30-40 miles to the EAST of the Maginot Line and slightly north of where the markers seem to be.)
HOWEVER there is some Hydra point of interest marked on the map near the borders of Luxembourg, Belgium and Germany – close to Bastogne and WELL within the territory controlled by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge. That pin is one of the only ones remaining as the Commandos move towards one of their final missions together. (More on that in a minute)
Furthermore, most of the other known HYDRA bases shown in the movie are stated to be in Poland, Germany or towards the Eastern front. At all of these locations, any nearby battles would be fought be the USSR. Marrying a Soviet-born soldier would be a MAJOR mark against any intelligence officer - particularly one that is foreign-born herself and seeking to establish a new secret technology and intelligence organization during the Cold War.
There are only a handful of Hydra factories in Western Europe that pepper the maps of Schmidt and the SSR. The only other bases that are confirmed to exist along the Western front are a factory in Italy, and a factory and several flagged bases in *cough*neutral*cough* Switzerland.
The base in Italy was most likely the one where Bucky, the Howling Commandos and the rest of 107th Infantry Regiment were held hostage: The Allies first landed in Europe in Sept. 1943, and secured much of the peninsula by the end of October. Steve was transformed in late June of 1943, and when he got to Europe for the USO tour, leaves were still on the trees. However, there was snow on the ground for the Howling Commandos’ second mission against HYDRA (assuming the montage showed the missions in chronological order). Given this, Steve must have infiltrated the first HYDRA base in the early fall – and Italy is the most likely target. (CA:tFA and CA:TWS also stated that Steve rescued Bucky while stationed outside of Azzano, Italy.)
On the other end of the timeline is the last base targeted: Schmidt’s final hideout. This is stated by Col. Phillips to be in the Alps, which would could include the sites flaged in either the German or Swiss territory above.
The only other place we see left SSRs strategy maps before the second-to-last mission is in Luxembourg/Belgium.
There is also an issue of timing. As shown on Bucky’s memorial at the Smithsonian, Bucky was presumed dead at least before January 1, 1945. While we don’t know for sure that Steve stops attacking HYDRA bases until the final confrontation with Schmidt after Bucky falls, we don’t see the Howling Commandos conduct any more direct assaults on HYDRA bases until Steve goes after Schmidt.
If Bucky’s apparent demise was their last mission together, this leaves the base near the borders of Luxembourg, Belgium and Germany as one of the most likely candidates for the Howling Commandos’ last mission. Based on the weather and historical circumstance, that mission would need to take place in late 1944.
TL;DR: Peggy’s husband was saved by Steve during a battle against the Germans during the Winter of 44-45. The battle was fought after months of stalemate and immediately after an epic snowstorm. The unit Mr. Agent Carter was with was stranded behind enemy lines.
The battle would likely need to take place near a HYDRA base Steve and the Howling Commandos sought to destroy. Bucky (and the bulk of the Howling Commandos’ major missions we’re shown in CA:TFA) is done with these sorts of missions by Dec. 31, 1944.
Western Front. Snowstorm. Surrounded. HYDRA bases. December ‘44.
In 1949, the US Senate investigated judicial proceedings resulting from atrocities during the Battle of the Bulge, listing 12 locations where American prisoners of war and Belgian civilians were allegedly murdered by German troops. The location where 11 African American soldiers of the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion were killed by the German SS after their surrender in Wereth, Belgium was omitted from the report of a Senate subcommittee.
Over the past 70 years, the event known as the Wereth Massacre has been a largely forgotten tragedy from the final phase of World War II. Today, momentum is growing in Congress to give proper recognition to the 11 men who died serving their country. The National WWII Museum, led by President and CEO Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, urges citizens, museums, and other institutions to back the current effort – reflected in House Resolution 141 – to revise the 1949 Senate report and officially recognize the service and ultimate sacrifice of these 11 men.
The 1949 Senate report surveyed a range of atrocities committed in several locations in Belgium beginning on Dec. 16, 1944, and ending nearly a month later.
The atrocities, which included the killing of approximately 350 American prisoners of war ( after their surrender) and 100 Belgian civilians, were “committed by the organization known as Combat Group Peiper, which was essentially the first SS Panzer Regiment commanded by Col. Joachim Peiper,” the report concluded. “On the eastern front, one of the battalions of the Combat Group Peiper … earned the nickname of Blow Torch Battalion after burning two villages and killing all the inhabitants thereof.”
In a letter to West Virginia Congressman David B. McKinley, sponsor of H.R. 141, Mueller said, “Until recent years, many relatives of these murdered soldiers were left to believe that their loved ones simply died in combat. Records show there was evidence of torture and disfigurement among the deceased soldiers, and some observers believe the radial ideology of Nazi SS soldiers could have influenced their brutal treatment of these artillery unit members.”
We will never forget the service of the Americans lost in this episode: Curtis Adams of South Carolina, Willliam Pritchett and George Davis Jr. of Alabama, Nathaniel Moss and George Motten of Texas, Due Turner of Arkansas, James Stewart of West Virginia, Robert Green of Georgia, and three Mississippians, Mager Bradley, Thomas Forte, and James Leatherwood.
Today the Coca-Cola bottle is one of the most recognizable containers in the world, but a century ago nearly all soda bottles looked the same.
To distinguish its product from competitors, the Coca-Cola Company launched a competition in 1915 among glassmakers to design a new bottle that was unique in both look and feel.
The winning design, patented by the Root Glass Company of Terre Haute, had a fluted contour shape that was modeled after the cacao pod, the main ingredient in chocolate. However the original prototype was never manufactured because it was top-heavy and unstable.
The first commercial “Coke” bottles debuted with a wider base and slimmed-down, contoured shape. This silhouette became so unmistakable that in 1961 the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office gave it trademark status.
See the original patent in person at the National Archives in Washington, DC, from June 4 through July 29, 2015, in the West Rotunda Gallery; and from October 29 through December 2, 2015, in the East Rotunda Gallery.
Images: Original Coke Bottle Patent, November 16, 1915. (Records of the Patent and Trademark Office, National Archives)
Men of the 133rd Field Artillery Battalion enjoy Cokes on the front, March 17, 1944. (Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer, National Archives)
Military Police officers toast with their Coca-Colas at a “Retreat Club,” July 21, 1945. (Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer, National Archives)
February 26, 1945. Two days before, the liberation forces discovered a ghastly sight in Intramuros. At Fort Santiago, U.S. Major Frank Middelberg smelled a “strong stench of decaying flesh.” He discovered a steel door, locked in and bolted from outside. Assisted by his men, the major had the wires tied to the door cut, and they smelled a “terrific stench like a blast from inside.” They discovered around 30 decaying bodies—men and women, who suffered from hunger and asphyxiation. Many more rooms were found where corpses were in an advanced state of decay. At the Philippine Department building in Fort Santiago, there were 75 bodies. In a room at the corner of the walls of Arzobispo and Santa Clara streets, around 15 bodies were found. In another large building at Fort Santiago, around 50 bodies were found with bullet holes on them and with their hands tied from the back. All were males. All were massacred.
The surviving Imperial Japanese, in small bands in Ermita and Intramuros, were continuing the fight desperately, as many were fiercely holding their positions in the government center (the Legislative Building, the Finance Building and the Agriculture and Commerce Building). Yesterday, the focus of the liberation forces was the government center. The three buildings were already damaged from shelling days before. The 136th Field Artillery Battalion fired at the buildings incessantly.
At 8:00 am today, the liberation forces slowly moved forward toward the eastern end of Luneta, right smack in the government center. At 9:00 am the American soldiers and Filipino guerrillas smashed into the first floor of the Legislative Building (now the National Museum’s National Art Gallery). The first floor of the north wing and the second floor of the central part of the building was taken but due to the fierceness of the fight, having 2 casualties and 52 wounded, the liberation forces were forced to withdraw. At the Agricultural Building, they were also forced to withdraw. The battle for Manila’s liberation won’t end just yet.
Commemorating the 70th anniversary of the 1945 Battle of Manila, the gruelling battle for the liberation of the city that lasted from February 3 to March 3, 1945.
(1) War torn Agriculture and Commerce Building, Manila, Philippines 1945. From the collection of John Tewell.
(2) Finance Building at the center and Legislative Building on the right, Manila, Philippines 1945. From the collection of John Tewell.
(3) Slaughtered bodies in Fort Santiago Dungeon Cell 1945. From the U.S. Army Photo Archive.
US soldiers, T–5 William E. Thomas and PFC. Joseph Jackson, 333rd Field Artillery Battalion, present a basket of artillery shells, labelled “Easter Eggs for Hitler”. Easter 1945.
(we know that ‘Adolph’ is spelt incorrectly)
At the time of the Siege of Bastogne in late 1944, the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion had been overrun during the early stages of the Battle of the Bulge.
The 969th Artillery Battalion was an African American United States Army unit that saw combat during World War II. Along with survivors of the 333rd Artillery Battalion, it gave fire support to the 101st Airborne Division during the siege of Bastogne. The 969th did not suffer the same harrowing casualties as the 333rd but was in the thick of it nonetheless. As a result of the 333rd’s high casualty rate, those soldiers fought the rest of the war with the 969th even though on paper the members were still designated as the 333rd.
The 969th was equipped primarily with the M1 155 mm howitzer, one of the heaviest artillery pieces in common usage by U.S. forces during World War Two. The gun crews of the 969th were known for singing in cadence as they loaded and fired their guns, and have been praised by many veterans who fought in and around Bastogne for their deadly accuracy and precision.
Pictured are Soldiers of the300th Armored Field Artillery Battalion resting after combat in Korea, during the Korean War. The 300th AFA was a Wyoming Army National Guard unit deployed to the Korean War in February 1951, entered combat in May 1951, and released from active federal service in September 1954.