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US Army

Life in the Frozen Tundra

Life in the Frozen Tundra
Much is written about the hardships that the G.I. went through during the “Bulge” and rightly so.  The citizens of that region also endured severe hardships.  My wire crew was billeted in a small farmhouse around Tillet, Belgium.  The Battalion Headquarters were down the lane from us where the fire direction center was also housed.  The house was completely stripped even a crucifix which had left an impression on the wall, except for a table in the kitchen and a heavy cast iron stove and a cabinet.  The man and his wife seemed to exist on rutabagas and potatoes, which were buried in a huge mound of dirt that was just outside of the house.  We shared “K” rations and ten-in-one rations with them.  As with most G.I. we went foraging out into the barn, which was attached to the house.  The krauts had killed all of the cows that were still in their stalls.  The only survivors were a couple of goats and some chickens.
We didn’t have the heart to scrounge the eggs as we left these folks needed them worse than we did.  We even tried to use a winch to pull the cows out of the barn but to no avail since the door and the dead cows were obstructed by beams that supported the born.  It was a mess.  The crew kept to one small room and we had our own “liberated” stove and coal.
One night I was awakened by First Sergeant Baily and was told that some of the lines were out.  I then awakened my driver Aldo Buzzaro and he and I went out to trace the break.  It was a crisp cold bitter night.  I soon found the break.  Some tanks and halftracks had chewed the wires up to look like smithereens.  Rather than splicing the break, we laid new lines and after checking to see that you could talk on them we then proceeded to use the “idiot stick” and sling the lines up into the trees as we should have done in the first place.  The Germans at the same time were shelling the area. 
The shells would burst in the air and as the shrapnel fell it sounded like a hail storm as they hit the frozen tree limbs.  All of a sudden it sounded like a shell burst right over our heads.  Buzz jumped out left side of the truck as I exited the right side.  I hit the ditch but there was something frozen in the icy ground and it ripped through my clothing and into my flesh.  I was bleeding and we sought an aid station.  Finding one, the medic washed the wound and sprinkled in some sulfa and used a compress bandage on it.  The wound was rather small and looked like a pair of lips.  As we were leaving, the medic gave me a small piece of paper and told me to give it to my company (battery) clerk.  When I looked more closely to the paper, I discovered it was for a Purple Heart.  Since my wound was not in the true sense a battle wound, I threw the paper away.  I never regretted that. 
Such was life in the frozen tundra. 
Source: The Bulge Bugle February 2011
By Cpl Kenneth R. YOCKEY

"HQ" Battery


336th Field Artillery Battalion


87th Infantry Division


Battle of the Bulge,