Bastogne, Sousa and the Howling Commandos
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.
Who is Peggy’s husband?
Here’s what we know:
“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.
Bastogne is the only battle that fits this bill.
Ed: Tagging spoilers and a shoutout to @katiekeysburg and @captain–kitten for being the first I stumbled across with the Daniel-Bastogne link (i know others made it too!) and another credit to @pegqycarters and @sheriffchiselchin for the gifs (Can take down if preferred.)