US Army

Memories of the Bulge

Memories of the Bulge
 Excerpted from "Two Years In The Life
 
On Christmas Eve we moved to the airfield but everything was fogged in, as it also on the continent which was a major cause of the problems there, since there was no air support for the troops in the Bulge area around Bastogne.  We were served Christmas dinner at the airstrip and slept in tents that night. 
 
It was the next day I think, December 26, the sky cleared and we loaded into C47s and flew to a beat up runway near Reims, France where we spread out all over the place for safety, until the 6X6 came and picked us up.  The Germans apparently had a habit of strafing areas with sizeable troop movement.  I remember a particular incident on that truck ride because we had “C” rations during the trip to the Belgian border.  The “C” rations were bad enough to start with, but one of the truck drivers decided to try to warm his on the manifold of his truck engine.  Well, it got too hot and exploded – what a smell – I’ll bet that poor guy spent many hours cleaning that engine compartment.
 
We were dropped off at a tiny French village named Beaumont en Argonne, near the Belgian border, where we took shelter in some bombed out buildings without any roofs and then it snowed all night, but at least it kept us out of the Wind. 
 
We didn’t know what was going on at the front at that time, but every night about dusk a “Kraut” reconnaissance plane would go over, flying real low – we called him Bed-Check Charlie.  He was no doubt checking out troop movement and strength.  Also in the town was a small contingency of French Maquis) (Mah Kees).  These were remnants of the Free French that our “I” & “R” was working with.  These poor guys didn’t have much to work with on their own, but they seemed to make the best of it and were a real thorn in the Germans side.  They also had a very short life span if they were captured, as the “Krauts” just lined them up and executed them.
 
On next move was into Belgium and the Bulge area toward Bastogne, and so frenzied it denies recall, other than individual incidents.  As we moved up we passed burned out trucks, tanks, artillery pieces and all sorts of other destroyed equipment, buildings and dead bodies.  This was our first clue that we may be in for a rough time.  We were attached to Patton’s Third Army and deployed near Houmont, Flamierge and Bastogne.  Patton said we should be in sufficient strength so we shouldn’t meet much resistance and there shouldn’t be any armor to content with.  He was wrong, as “HQ” Company’s first enemy contact was with German tanks, we thought Tigers, (the tanks that is) and they really poured it to us.
 
The roar of that first round from a German 88 is beyond description, a sobering experience, especially when you’re scared to death to start with.  We couldn’t tell where the fire was coming from, but that first round took out our antitank gun just a hundred yards to the right of where our squad was holed up in some shell holes.  The platoon Sergeant kept calling for a bazooka man but couldn’t find him.  Other than the bazooka we didn’t have anything else to fight tanks with. This left us all in a state of momentary shock, after this first baptism of fire.  Then the tank withdrew.
 
Then our armor moved up and the battle subsided for a time.  It was during this melee that Colonel Pierce came upon some of the other heavy weapons platoon and asked where the rifle company was, and why we, heavy mortars, were up on the line.  We moved back a couple hundred yards and dug in at the edge of some woods.  This is where Duke and John J made use of some of our engineering skills and dug the class “A” foxhole, a double (2 man) with built-in “C” ration, candle and sterno can shelves and anti-tree burst cover leaving just enough room to crawl in and out.
 
Periodically we were harassed by shell fire of which many were tree bursts, thus the need for a cover.  This area is where most of us ended up with some frost bite from those miserable shoepacs.  This is also where the chow truck pulled up to bring us a hot meal, our first in some time and while we were in the chow line the heinies dropped in a couple mortar shells.  One of the guys had his mess kit full in one hand and a canteen cup full of coffee in the other, and when he heard the shell he made a dive head first inti a nearby foxhole, never spilling a drop of anything.  To add to the wonder of it all, there was already a guy in the hole, a langhable outcome to a not so funny situation.  Luckily no one was hit this time.  I don’t remember what happened to the guy in the bottom of the hole.
 
After a few days we started to advance – on foot – mostly through knee deep snow, sometimes by road or trail always on the lookout for mines which were mostly in the roads.  Some of the snow had developed a thick crust of ice which would hold us up occasionally, but then we would break through, making for very difficult walking, carrying our gear.  We were fortunate most of the time to find a barn or shed to sleep in and it was a treat to find a barn with hay to sleep on.  This old farm boy could get a good rest in a hay loft, most of which were attached directly to living quarters.  Guard duty at night was cold, fearful and lonely.  The weather remained extremely cold and the stress soon began to take it toll. 
 
Our diet of mostly ”K” rations probably didn’t enhance our physical and/or mental positions either, but when you are hungry almost (?) anything tastes good. 
 
Source: 17th Airborne Newsletter n°70.  November – December 2018
 
This is young glider trooper, John J. Schumacher in Nice, France after Operation Varsity. (photo from John Schumachers son)
 
By Pfc John J SCHUMACHER

 

 "HQ" Company

 

194th Glider Infantry Regiment

 

17th Airborne Division

 

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge, Belgium