Monday, November 5, 2012

Battle of the Bulge, Part 2: Combat



Honoring soldiers all this week and especially those of my father's war: The second of my three posts on the Battle of the Bulge from the eyes of one who was there.

My father's journal:

The Bulge
We first found out where we were when we entered Luxembourg City. There were people on all the streets waving American flags and cheering us. We were given our barracks bags and told to dig in. Steve and I had just finished digging our hole when the Sergeant came by, told us to get up, ready to move. We were to leave all our extra clothes, blankets and barrack bags there. That was the last I ever saw of mine.

I had on my long underwear,(changed once in two months) 2 pair OD pants and shirt, field jacket, overcoat, two pairs of socks (I also carried an extra pair in my helmet)a pair of boots, and overshoes. This was to be what I wore through snow, cold and hell for the next two months.

By now we learned the Germans were counter attacking. The Battle of the Bulge had begun.

We did not know just how big the attack was. We still had not slept in some time. It was cold. Steve and I slept in a foxhole with our overcoats open and wrapped around one another trying to keep warm.

We stayed in defensive position for several days. We had been part of the greatest movement of troops in modern times. This massive mass movement of troops and equipment was one reason for the German advance to stall. They had not expected resistance so quickly.

We were on the southern edge of the bulge. The weather was overcast, snowing at times. There was up to 18 inches of snow on the ground in places. Most of the time we fought without benefit of artillery. Our planes could not fly due to the bad weather. Our tanks could not stand up to the German Tiger Tank.

We were advised Germans dressed in American uniforms had infiltrated our lines and were capturing road crossings. 

It was a time when you could trust no one.

My Worst Days

Christmas Eve 1944 We went into an attack on Hollar. On the approach to the town we came under mortar fire. They were the so called “screaming meemies” of WWI fame. The last I remember was seeing a large flash. I was knocked out by the concussion. When I came to I was all alone.

Christmas Day 1944  I went to Mass in a Catholic church that was still standing. During the mass shells came into the town. The priest kept right on saying mass and we all felt God would protect us.

A hot meal was sent up to by our kitchen. While we were being served our dinner we came under shell fire. I had my dinner on a plate when I dove into a ditch. I spilled my food into the snow but ate it anyway. That night we slept in a barn.

The Day After Christmas My daughter Barbara’s birthday. We were awakened about 2:00 a.m. Ate a K-ration breakfast. I sat on a dead hog. I was in dread of this day. I did not want to be killed on my daughter’s birthday. After breakfast I was sent out to scout ahead.

It was around 3:00 a.m. and very dark. I went down the road, crossed the brook away from the bridge, and went into the woods. I had gone about a hundred feet when I heard someone blowing their nose. About thirty feet in front of me were two Germans in a foxhole. I could see them silhouetted against the sky.

I turned and made it back over the bank where I told Lieutenant Jacks what I had seen. He moved the platoon to the bank and said he would fire his pistol at daybreak. We would then go into the woods using marching fire.

I told my buddy Steve (I Have forgotten his last name if I ever knew) where the Germans were I had seen. I said I would go toward them. He said he would come with me. He also said he had a funny feeling about this attack. When Lieutenant fired we started into the woods. Bullets were flying everywhere. We had walked into a full company of Germans well dug in.

Steve and I were nearing the foxhole when I sensed Steve had stopped shooting. He was about three feet from me. I glanced sideways at him just a bullet hit him in the forehead. I remember seeing his helmet fly off. He was in the process of loading a clip into his rifle.

The attack had stopped about as soon as it had started. I was very shook up. I was very upset over Steve’s death. I never got over it. We were quite close. Slept together in holes. He was my squad leader. I never made any more friends while in combat. The hurt is too great when you see someone you like killed in front of your eyes.

From Hollar we marched about twelve hours in snow up to our knees. We came to a city. There we went into houses and got bed sheets that we covered ourselves with. I believe they saved my life on more than one occasion.

We got to a one-street town. I was in the rear passing an open doorway when I heard someone call, “Halt!” We ran across the street behind a small building. Then we heard a hissing. They had thrown a grenade. The concussion knocked me against the building.

We were in full view but they never saw us. There was snow on the ground and we were still covered with our white sheets.

                                                             ************

My father, like so many wounded of his generation, never spoke much about his experiences, nor did he receive help for his emotional trauma. However, today, there are many resources and organizations available, all of which depend on others for support. The following link lists many organizations that support those who are deployed, and those who have been wounded.
http://soldiersangels.org/support-groups.html  

If anyone has a loved one in the military, I recommend this book of devotions:


Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home When Your Soldier Leaves For Battle


Thank you for listening to this soldier’s story. Last up: Crossing the Sauer and Speechless

Father, keep us mindful that the beauty we enjoy, the bounty we feast on, the peace we walk in, and the freedom we take for granted, are gifts. Often gifts from another’s sacrifice. 

We thank you, and them.



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