Friday, December 19, 2014

On this day seventy years ago, December 19,1944 I became a prisoner of war.  Our attempt  to escape encirclement failed and both the 422nd regiment and 433rd regiment of the 106th division were surrounded by the Germans and surrendered by their respective commanders.
The two days we remained at our original positions had cost us the opportunity to escape.  This was due to failure at higher command which was revealed only after the war was over.
A longer account of these events can be found on my website, under the title "The Battle of the Bulge, One Private's Story".

Thursday, December 18, 2014

 Seventy years ago today
On the morning of November 18, 1944 things at last began to happen.  An early arrival of a messenger  told us we were to leave the outpost, leaving our duffel bags,  taking only essentials in our pack and report to company headquarters as soon as possible.
At company headquarters we were given three K rations, ammo and hand grenades to add to our packs.  Here we rejoined the rest of Company B for the first time since arriving at the Ardennes eight days earlier.
Finally we were given the information that the Germans had made gains elsewhere and that we must move fast to keep from being surrounded.
We traveled all day on a muddy track through the forest halting once while some shelling took place in front of us.
We stopped at dark, which at this time of year was about 4:30 p.m., and told to remain quiet with no fires since the Germans were in position  on the other side of the hill and that in the morning we would attack.
I was wearing all the clothes I owned and the one blanket we were allowed in our packs.
We were given no orders to dig in but just lay quiet and sleep if possible.  It was a very cold night for spending out in the open with no shelter.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Dawn on November 17, 1944 showed overcast skies and colder temperatures which made sentry duty especially uncomfortable and trying with the need of staying fully alert during that night.
But at our outpost the seventeenth of December was just a copy of the16th.  One soldier brought us some K rations and a little bit of news.  One of our other platoons had been in a brief fire fight with some Germans and in this short skirmish our executive officer had been shot in the head and killed.  Our orders  were to continue manning  fox holes and report any unusual activity.
As it turned out there was nothing to report.  For me it was just another lonely day in a fox hole originally made for two soldiers.  However the man who was supposed to be with me had been wounded two days before by a shell burst and was now in hospital somewhere.
 The forest never looked more hostile with clouds and fog sometimes at tree top level. 
Of the German offensive we were told nothing. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Seventy years ago on this day the Germans launched their attack in the Ardennes Forest that later became known as the Battle of the Bulge.
In the hours before dawn on December 16, 1944 a nineteen year old soldier was on sentry duty standing beside a tree, very cold and wondering when his relief would arrive.  I was that soldier.
What did arrive was the German canon bombardment that announced the beginning of the largest battle in U.S. Army history.
The silent forest suddenly erupted with noise and my four comrades, who shared this outpost with me, came out of the log covered dugout where they had been sleeping, in a rush.
Actually our outpost was so close to the German lines that none of the shells landed anywhere near, falling far behind us, one killing our battalion commander.
We had been manning this outpost for six days when the cannonade began after relieving members of the 28th division who had been its occupants earlier.
A short account of  what occurred that day and the four following days will appear on this blog.  The odds that nineteen year old sentry could be writing this seventy years later seem too large to contemplate.
Actually at our outpost nothing else happened that day.  We spent the whole day in our log roofed fox holes waiting for an enemy that never came. 
This story will continue tomorrow.