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US Army

Christmas 1944, Too White, Too Cold

 

Christmas 1944, Too White, Too Cold
 
Since I joined Veteran Battle of the Bulge Association I have read a lot stories from different members on how they spent Christmas of 1944.  For all of us, this holiday was truly celebrated in a different manner than usual.  A white Christmas that was too white and too cold!
 
I, too, shall never forget Christmas of 1944, but for a different reason than stated in the tales I have read in "The Bulge Bugle."  I was with the 20th Armored Infantry Battalion, 10th Armored Division.  We were on RR down in France when General Patton ordered us north to Bastogne.  I would up on an outpost in Noville with orders to stop the German's advance at any cost while defenses at Bastogne were set up.
 
This Team Desobry did for about two and a half days.  On the 20th of December we were told, "That we were no longer needed and could withdraw back to Bastogne.  That is if we could make it!"  We pulled out of the devastated town and headed into the thick fog for Bastogne.  At Foy we were ambushed by German armored forces and received many casualties.
 
I was one of those casualties.  I had been knocked down by a mortar shell and when I got back up, I was hit by burp gun fire.  The bullet tore the field jacket off of my back and three went through my right leg.  Two went through my shin bone and the other through the artery in my calf.  Blood streamed out of my right leg making a big puddle in the grass of the Belgian cow pasture.  I thought I had it but a voice from above said, "You're not dead yet!"  After some difficulties, I finally got a tourniquet to work and the blood stopped flowing.
 
I looked around me and I was all alone, except for the dead, sitting in the fog behind the German lines about a mile outside of Bastogne—that city was also behind the lines.  After what seemed like hours a jeep came down the road.  It turned out to be the major's jeep and driver with a medic from the 101st paratroopers.
 
They had been lost in the fog dodging Germans for over a day.  When they finally got back to Noville it was deserted.  I told them what had happened and directed them the way back to Bastogne.  When I got to our battalion aid station, I passed out.
 
Some time later I came to in some kind of rocking tunnel.  When I tried to get up, the medic, hooking another bottle of plasma over my head, pushed me back and told me I was on a hospital train on my way to a hospital in Paris.  I retained consciousness after that.  I guess all of those blood transfusions and other liquids had done their work.
 
Rolling down the hospital hallway, I noticed Christmas decoration hanging from the ceiling.  A life sized cardboard Santa smiled at me as we turned a corner and entered a ward.  This was the first time I had thought about Christmas since we had made that mad dash from lower France to Bastogne.  I asked a nurse what day it was and she said, "Why it's Christmas Eve!"B  efore I could ask her anything else, the doctor arrived at my bed side to examine my leg.
 
Some where a long the line a cast had been put on it.  I looked down and saw that my toes sticking out of the cast were a awful bluish black.  The doctor gently lifted my cast and the bottom slushed out all over the nice clean sheets.  A terrible smell hit my nose.I had smelled that smell before from the dead.  It was the smell of death.
 
The doctor came over to me with a very solemn face.  I saw he was struggling for words, so I said, "Gangrene?"  He replied, "Yes."  He went on to tell me that it had to be amputated as soon as possible.  He added that he hated to do it on Christmas morning.  He would send the chaplain to talk with me.
 
I told him I would be glad to talk with the chaplain, but I looked at the operation as a gift of life.  I also told him that I had been so close to death twice that I was happy to be alive and in good hands.  I don't know if he understood me or not.  One has to actually be in combat and experience death all around to really understand.
 
The next morning bright and early, I was off to the operating room.  I was trying to take a last look at my leg when the nurse stuck a needle in my arm.  I was out by the count of three so never got that last look.
 
The next thing I knew was a nurse pulling a thermometer out of my mouth.  I was hot and sweating, so I said to her, "I guess it's pretty high".  She answered, "Why no.  It's almost normal!"
 
She examined the bed and discovered that I had seven heavy army blankets on me.  I could not feel them as there was a wire cage keeping them off of my body.  She explained that the way back from operating room crossed an open courtyard.  Paris was having a very cold, white Christmas so thus all of the covers.
 

We both had a good laugh.  Then, she asked me if I would like a drink.  I said I was not thirsty and she said, "Not that kind of drink."  I had two Scotch and waters to celebrate Christmas 1944.  She said the officers in the hospital had saved their liquor ration so the patients could have a holiday toast.  "Merry Christmas"

 
Don Addor advised that his book, Noville Outpost of Bastogne: My Last Batlecan be purchased.
 
 

Source: Battle of the Bulge: February 2010

 

Pfc Donald J. ADDOR

20th Armored

Infantry Battalion

10th Armored Division

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge

Belgium