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October 2020
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US Army

My introduction to the beginning of the "Battle of the Bulge."

My introduction to the beginning

of the "Battle of the Bulge."

At about 4:30 in the morning of December 16, 1944, Sergeant McGinnis and I with two gunners headed for our machine gun emplacements to relieve our two gun crews who were established in shallow, camouflaged dugouts facing a portion of the Siegfried Line somewhere in the vicinity of where the borders of Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany intersect.

 
It had been snowing rather steadily for the last several days; and we, therefore, had to rely on certain landmarks to find our two watercooled heavies.  We went from our company bivouac area where we had sheltered ourselves in small [hand]-made caves to a road which ran part way parallel to the front line.  We had long become conscious of not following the road too far as German automatic weapons had caught us the first attempt down to the road's end.  We travelled the road only to where a thick hedgerow began, and then climbing up to a slight ridge behind the matted bush we followed it until we came to the large cave of an anti-tank crew.  It was at this point we would execute a sharp, 90 degree turn to the right, aiming directly at our front lines.  Following this route over a rolling hill took us to our machine gun section.
 

On this particular cold and snowing morning, I noticed with some concern that no one was standing guard at the anti-tank gun position.  I looked down into the cave entrance and there was a sentry sound asleep.  Behind him were members of the anti-tank gun crew, boots off and dead to the world.

 
I turned to Sgt. McGinnis and asked if we should wake the sentry.

"You know if you do, he is going to get f.... mad."  I silently agreed, and so the four of us turned the usual 90 degrees and headed up the long slope to get to our guns.

 

We had gone about 50 yards when we all noticed about 10 shadowy figures coming slowly straight towards us in a semi-circle, their heads and shoulders bowed down with the weight they seemed to be carrying.  We had come to relieve our guns also weighted down, but not so much with implements of war.  As usual we were to spend a day and part of a night lodged in the close confinement of a small dugout and had taken with us items to help with the boredom.  I had two pocket books stuffed in my back pockets.  Between my great coat and my field jacket I had stuffed 8 wax-covered K rations.  My rifle was slung across my back so that my hands were free to carry food for cooking during the day.  In my left hand was a canteen cup filled with butter plus knife, fork and spoon. My three companions were similarly laden.  The two gunners had no rifles to sling since they were armed with 45 cal. pistols. Sergeant McGinnis had the smaller M-1 Carbine; I had the big M-1 which I refused to surrender when I was promoted to machine gun sergeant.

 
We all stopped without command when we saw the shadowy figures approaching.  They stopped too. Our collective minds would not allow us to accept what was all too true. T his was the very beginning of a huge battle which later was to be called, "The Bulge." I spoke first to McGinnis, "Who are these jokers?"

"They must be "K" Company's carrying party," he suggested hopefully. (As front-line G.I.'s will remember, carrying parties brought hot food to front line foxholes if positions were stabilized enough.)

 
"I think they are a bit lost if they are looking for K Company," I responded.

Then, suddenly, ten more hunched over men added to this menacing horseshoe on the right, then ten more on the left, and the whole semi-circle began to slowly advance toward us.  Like some sequence in a comedy movie we slowly turned around and began to go back. The semi-circle quickened its pace; we quickened ours. "Hell," I finally shouted, "Let's get the ..... out of here!"  McGinnis and I ran down the slope to warn the anti-tankers; our two gunners took off to the left to get around the hedgerow and warn the company. Probably because I was the most frightened, I reached the anti-tankers first, jumped into the cave entrance and shook up the sentry telling him that the Germans were coming fast.

 

I then crawled up to the mound the anti-tankers had made when they excavated their cave.  McGinnis had already unslung his carbine and was firing.  I unslung my M-1, flipped forward the safety and began to take aim when I noticed to my horror the silhouette of a German "potato masher" lying on the far edge of the mound. Instinctively yelling, "Grenade!"  I dived.  I think the blast killed McGinnis; it stunned me a bit, knocking my helmet off.  I jammed my helmet back on my head and as a group of Jerries charged in I wiggled through the hedgerow to my rear using the helmet as a battering ram.  When I reached the other side of the thorny obstruction my machine-gunners gloves were in shreds and every button on my great coat had been ripped off.

 
This was my ignominious introduction to the beginning of the "Battle of the Bulge."
 
Source: Battle of the Bulge 1995

S/Sgt Murray SHAPIRO

"M" Company

3rd Battalion

112th Infantry Regiment

28th Infantry Division

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium