Burning Sky


Every once in a while the sunset takes your breath away. We had a night like that not too long ago (maybe 2 weeks). As we went out the door to take the dog on her nightly rounds, the sun was nearly gone and the sky was aflame. It helps that we live by a small lake and the reflection on the lake was also breath-taking, but you won’t see that in today’s photo. (I’ll share some more of those pictures in the next couple of days.)

As the sun and color continued to drain and fade from the sky, the lighting changed rapidly and dramatically. Depending on where you focused and metered the exposure, quite different results were obtained.

I shot quite a few photos and then thought I was done, so I hurried to catch up with my wife and dog. As I did, I took one more glance toward the fading glory and saw what you see in today’s photo. I whipped the lens cover off, composed the shot, and fired. Sometimes the best shots are not contemplated, but come about as pleasant surprises. I guess this just goes to prove that you don’t always have to walk for miles in the pre-dawn darkness to get an image you like. I liked the contrast between the darkening sky and the silhouettes of the trees along the  edge of the lake – but most of all I liked that this image will remind me of that magical sunset for a long time!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1944, with the Anglo-Americans closing in on Germany from the west and the Soviets approaching from the east, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler ordered a massive attack against the western Allies by three German armies.

The German counterattack out of the densely wooded Ardennes region of Belgium took the Allies entirely by surprise, and the experienced German troops wrought havoc on the American line, creating a triangular “bulge” 60 miles deep and 50 miles wide along the Allied front. Conditions of fog and mist prevented the unleashing of Allied air superiority, and for several days Hitler’s desperate gamble seemed to be paying off. However, unlike the French in 1940, the embattled Americans kept up a fierce resistance even after their lines of communication had been broken, buying time for a three-point counteroffensive led by British General Bernard Montgomery and American generals Omar Bradley and George Patton.

Fighting was particularly fierce at the town of Bastogne, where the 101st Airborne Division and part of the 10th Armored Division were encircled by German forces within the bulge. On December 22, the German commander besieging the town demanded that the Americans surrender or face annihilation. U.S. Major General Anthony McAuliffe prepared a typed reply that read simply:

To the German Commander:


From the American Commander

The Americans who delivered the message explained to the perplexed Germans that the one-word reply was translatable as “Go to hell!” Heavy fighting continued at Bastogne, but the 101st held on.

On December 23, the skies finally cleared over the battle areas, and the Allied air forces inflicted heavy damage on German tanks and transport, which were jammed solidly along the main roads. On December 26, Bastogne was relieved by elements of General Patton’s 3rd Army. A major Allied counteroffensive began at the end of December, and by January 21 the Germans had been pushed back to their original line.

Germany’s last major offensive of the war had cost them 120,000 men, 1,600 planes, and 700 tanks. The Allies suffered some 80,000 killed, wounded, or missing in action, with all but 5,000 of these casualties being American. It was the heaviest single battle toll in U.S. history.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: During its construction, the Great Wall was called “the longest cemetery on earth” because so many people died building it. Reportedly, it cost the lives of more than one million people.


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