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US Army

I was at Odeigne on January 1945

I was at Odeigne on January 1945
Toward the end of the Battle of the Bulge, we were told to prepare to move out with the Forward Command Post to a new location.  We arrived late in the evening about dusk dark.  Colonel Paul A. Disney pulled up by a white two story house.  Across the street from the house was a row of houses and buildings.  In front of the house were a small grave yard and a large church sitting cross ways of the house.

Odeigne’s Church

About 15 minutes after I arrived, I noticed an elderly man walking back and forth between the church and grave yard.  I walked through the grave yard to meet him and there was 17 dead, wrapped in a blanket laying in a row on the ground.

17 civilians killed by, pistol, machine guns, grenade or shell during

the Battle of Odeigne (between 24 December to 11 January 45) (Photo C. Rost)

Using sign language, I understood German soldiers had taken them out of the houses from across the street and shot them for being friendly to the United States.
When the German Army started the Battle of the Bulge, they threw away the last page of the book of rules; he no longer sought to placate the few within his country who might object to the Nazi concept of war.  He dropped all shame and pretense and the war he fought was organized murder.  Prisoners of war were murdered in large groups; civilians who had sheltered American Troops often met the same fate.  So, in retrospect, I understand what the elderly man at the church was relaying to me.  That was over 50 years ago and it is as plain in my mind today as it was then. 
At this point of my story, most of the combat tanks and vehicles had one radio receiver and one radio transmitter.  In some of the vehicles operating with other attached combat units assigned to us, it was necessary to have two radio receivers and one transmitter.  In moving from one area to another, we kept the radio antenna’s tied down to prevent them from being damaged. 
Fifteen minutes after returning to my tank a runner told me that Colonel Disney wanted to see me.  When I went into the house, he showed me a map lying on the table, of where we were and where he had sent the message center half-track, 5 miles up the road into a wooded area (Ardennes Forest).  Colonel Disney said “We have lost radio contact with the half-track, take your tank, and call me every mile on the mile until you arrive at the half-track”.  I returned to my tank, united the antennas and started on our way.  At this point, I realized my friends in the half-track were frightened half to death to travel 5 miles alone into the woods, which were the front lines, and maintain radio contact all night.  I called Colonel Disney back on his jeep radio every mile on the mile.  When I arrived at the 5 miles mark, there was the message center half-track.  They were pulled about 30 feet to the left of the road into the woods.  With both antenna’s tied down, I might add.It was then I realized why the Colonel lost radio contact with them. (Antenna’s tied down) 
When I told him the half-track was to my left in the woods, he said, “Stay where you are, receive all messages and relay them to headquarters.”  I didn’t realize until just now that the half-track 30 feet from me was headquarters that the messages were being relayed to.  About 30 minutes later Colonel Disney’s jeep drove around my tank into the wood behind the half-track, set up his tent, and spent the night.  I intercepted messages from 6 P.M. to 6 A.M.  Every unit in your command and road blocks call in every hour on the hour in case something happens.  So I had the radio microphone in my hand all night long. 
About midnight, someone knocked on the side of my tank.  I cracked my hatch and said, “What do you want?”  It was a couple of infantry soldiers.  They said, “Hey, Mr. tank man, we are about to freeze to death.  How about starting up you heater?”  I said, “They make too much noise, SORRY!”  After they left, I did start my auxiliary (power plant) to keep my batteries charged up.  That morning after 6 A.M., I got out our one burner gas stove, heated up our canned breakfast, and we ate sitting in the tank.  A littler after 8 A.M., a large tank coming from the rear with their turret hatches open leading a column of vehicles passed me.  The 6th vehicle behind the tank left a space and motioned for me to fall in line. 
After going 150 yards, there was a hell of an explosion.  The turret blew up and landed on the left side of the road, in the edge of the woods.  One officer and 4 crew members were killed.Everybody closed their hatches thinking a mortar shell had dropped in the hatch of the lead tank with their ammunition covers open.  We heard 6 more small explosions, but we knew it was not mortar shells.  A lot of men started to dismount with our small arms weapons and see what was going on.  When a group of us arrived in front of the burning tank, a German soldier threw the broken tree branches off the top of his foxhole and came walking to us with his hands behind his head. 
In front of his foxhole, in the snow were 7 empty Panzer Faust or Bazooka’s.  Of all the vehicles he could have fired at, he shot all 7 rounds in the same tank.  When he walked onto the road, all at once about 15 small arm guns started shooting at the same time.  He fell and his body was moved by bullets in a trail of blood back to the edge of the road towards the direction from which he had come from. 


After the incident, in my mind I thought, I wonder if this could have been one of the German soldiers who killed the civilians I saw laying by the church?  If he was involved, he did not live to tell about it.  The column continued on its way and about 1½ miles further down the road we came to the end of the woods. 
After I was released from my duty on the radio, I stood on the rear deck of my tank.  My head throbbed so bad I thought it would crack open.  From 4 o’clock till 6 o’clock 2 different units stopped calling in.  Two days later I found out 2 of our tanks were on separate road blocks.  Message center sent a vehicle to check on them.  When they arrived at the first tank the crew was dead from carbon monoxide gas caused by running their power plant the same as I did.  They raced to the other tank, removed the crew and revived them in the fresh air. 
Source: letter received from Charles Rost dated March 1, 1999
Sgt Charles H. ROST

HQ Company


67th Armored Regiment


2nd Armored Division


Battle of the Bulge,