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US Army

A Memorable Christmas

 

 A Memorable Christmas

 

One of my "memorable" Christmass is one I shall remember for many more years – although it most certainly was not one of any sort of heroic memories.

 

The Division was alerted to cross the Channel via C-47's just prior to Christmas of 1944.  We moved from Camp Swindon area to the "nameless" airfield, where we were billeted in a tent city.  As I recall, we loaded all our gear and sat and waited for the weather to clear to cross the Channel, meanwhile the skies cleared over the Bastogne area, so we quickly unloaded our gear so that they could be reloaded with supplies badly need at Bastogne.  The skies closed so that the flight had to turn back to the Airfield in England.

 

As memory recalls after these many years, this happened a couple more times.  Finally on December 24th, we again loaded the planes with all our gear late in the afternoon and awaited the flight order.  In the plane I was assigned to was our 75mm pack Howitzer with all the tools, ammo, etc., assigned to the gun, and for personnel, there was only the Chief-of-Section, Staff Sergeant Otto Hess and myself.

 

We sat in the plane for some time staring out the windows at the fog, and huddled a little deeper in our overcoats because of the cold.  Then the "dreaded" sound of the motors kicking in, and we were soon slowly rolling down the runway – until one motor sputtered and died.  We could see the pilots doing their "thing" up front, and they finally got it started, and down the runway we went – for a distance until the motor again quit!

 

Again they chocked, pushed, pulled different gauges until it again caught and ran fine – and again for a short distance, and it quit again!  The pilot said, "Didn't want to fly on Christmas Eve anyhow," and pulled it off the runway and radioed the Tower to pick us up and repair the plane.  Staff Sergeant Hess and I looked at each other, as we had no idea where to go, as we assumed the rest of the Units had taken off, leaving us with no place to go.  The Pilot said, "No problem, we have barracks for extra personnel."  So, out of the dark and fog, a Jeep pulls up, and the flight crew and Staff Sergeant Hess and I loaded in and away we went.

 

The Jeep finally stops in front of a large barracks, and the pilot told us to make ourselves at home, and they would pick us up when the plane was ready to fly.  So, we took our rifles and small amount of gear and entered the barracks to find three large pot bellied stoves glowing a lovely cherry red, nice single bunks made up with several blankets on each bunk, and three German POW's, whose sole duty as far as we could find out, was to keep that barrack toasty warm and clean.

 

Boy, talk about feeling like dignitaries!!!!!  Being rather late and dark outside, we made ourselves at home and soon slid into those nice warm beds with all those covers and slept like a couple logs.  Waking the next morning, Christmas day, we dressed and got our mess kits and opened the door to see steady stream of Air Corps personnel heading for the chow hall, and were told to leave our mess kits behind.  Mind you, we were in full battle dress, with extra ammo, grenades taped on, steel helmets, and all the works.  Looking back, we must have been a sight, with all those others in nice pressed O.D's and ties, and us in fatigues.

 

We had left our rifles minus the ammunition at the barracks, but were dressed for combat.A  s we entered the mess hall, we walked past a serving window and the cook asked "How many and how do you want "em"."  Judging from our blank stares, they asked "How many eggs and how do you want them cooked?"  WOW

 

We sheepishly asked for two please sunnyside up, and would you believe that is what we got, (not powdered!) along with sausage, pancakes, coffee and fruit!  After rapidly devouring them, we sidled back to the serving window and asked if we could have seconds.  We got the reply, "Sure, thirds and fourths if you want them."  Again we felt like dignitaries!!

 

Returning to the barracks, we lazed around those wonderful stoves, waiting for word from the pilots.  Hearing nothing, we again heard the Air Corps guys heading for the mess hall, and we happily followed.  Again, no mess kits, but nice large serving trays, and you should have seen the FOOD!I very much doubt if you could have found any nicer food served in the fancier restaurants in large cities.  I am sure we made pigs of ourselves, and we always had a table mostly to ourselves, dressed as we were, with first aid pouch, extra ammo, grenades, etc.. I am sure we were a sight, to say the least.  We dallied as long as possible, returned to the barracks, and back that evening for another meal.

 

In the wee hours the next morning, a runner came around, telling us to be ready soon, as they would pick us up for the flight out.  That morning after Christmas as we flew over the Channel, and for many days after as we ate C-Rations, our minds went back to the Air Corps food, and I sort of made up my mind if I were to come back in another life, I would be sure to make it to the Air Corps!  Ah yes- Memories…………

 
Source: Letter received from Joe Quade, April 22, 2010

By Harold BELL

"A" Battery,

681st Glider Field Artillery

17th Airborne Division

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium