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Grateful For the Small Things

 

 Grateful For the Small Things
 
Although my Christmas Day, 1944, was not unusual in either a good or a bad sense, I still remember most of it vividly.
 
Our unit was moved a day or two earlier from one position on Elsenborn Ridge to another.  I had started to dig a new fighting and sleeping hole, and as I awoke I knew I would have a day of work ahead.  I remember watching, from the heights of the ridge, a pale sun rising over the battered steeple of the church in Krinkelt.  In spite of the circumstances, that sight gave me a feeling of comfort and peace.  I was grateful also that this morning German artillery was silent and that I had survived the fighting of the past week.
 
It was not very cold, the dark brown earth fairly soft, and my digging was progressing well.  Suddenly, as I looked up, I saw two GI’s, tense and with blood-shot eyes, carrying two cans.  One of them thrust a small, almost-cold turkey leg into my hand, the other handed me two slices of white bread and a couple of pieces of hard candy.  This was my Christmas dinner.  As I crouched in my still fairly shallow hole and started to eat the turkey before it turned stone cold, 88-mm shells began falling around us.  Almost choking on that first bite, I realized that the Germans were watching those two poor soldiers and harassing them with artillery fire as they delivered our meals.  The barrage was short.
 
When the shelling stopped I looked up and the men were gone.  A few minutes later I heard shells exploding perhaps 50 yards away; undoubtedly, the German gunners were zeroing in on the two men as they moved from position to position.  It seemed almost criminal to me that the lives of soldiers could be jeopardized for such an almost meaningless gesture, perhaps so that some quartermaster officer could report to his superior that every man in his sector had turkey on Christmas day.(I would have preferred one of my “K” rations anyway.)
 
I remained concerned about protecting myself from artillery, so I worked on my position all day.  A few days later, with the help of a sergeant, I was able to salvage a door from the only nearby building.  I covered the sleeping portion of my hole with it and then piled dirt on top of it.  Shortly thereafter, as I was asleep, a shell struck a corner of the hole, the explosion splitting the door and partially collapsing the cover.  My ears rang for a week, but the cover probably saved me from serious injury or worse.
 
That night, as I saw and heard the signs of battle raging miles to our rear, I again felt a sense of gratitude.At least on this day, Christmas Day, the war had passed us by.
 
Source: The Bulge Bugle, November 1993

By Lionel P. ADDA

Photo: (The Morning Call / June 6, 2010)

 

"D" Company

393th Infantry Regiment

99th Infantry Division

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium