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US Army

What a Price to Pay for Freedom

 

What a Price to Pay for Freedom 
 
I was sent to the 90th Infantry Division with about 50 others from the 63rd Division.  I was the Assistant BAR man.  The BAR man was a soldier named Benny.  I do not know his full name.
 
We went to the front line on January 4th, where we took two places without much trouble.  The rest of the time we cleared out the woods – the Ardennes Forest.
 

I saw two trucks loads of American soldiers coming back from the front in blood-soaked mattress covers.  On the way to the front we saw a military cemetery.  There was a canvas fence all around the cemetery so no one could see in.

 
Some days we would travel a half an hour or an hour in the woods before we were shoot at.  However, when the Germans shot at us, it was with machine guns, artillery, rifles, mortars, 88s and the ones that screamed like a woman.
 

Many soldiers were killed and wounded with me during the period January 4 – 11.  I am very glad I had not been with them very long.  I didn’t even know their names.

 

When we were mopping up in the woods one night, I slept in an old barn.  You could look up and see the stars.  It was very cold – about a foot of snow on the ground.  I slept beside a frozen dead horse.  I thought it would be good protection from the bullets.  Another night I slept in a church which had the roof out.Shells had even opened some of the graves.

 
I was kicking in the snow to arm my feet and found a carton of Phillip Morris cigarettes.  They were in waterproof paper.  We al smoked them – we got cigarettes in our K Rations.
 
In the open fields near the woods the dead lay – frozen and half covered with snow.Artillery guns were knocked out and the crews dead.  We saw both Americans and Germans frozen in the snow.  Trucks, tanks, guns, jeeps, knocked out.  They sure had an awfully bad battle here.  What a price to pay for freedom.
 

We saw a man and woman in the woods.  They were about 60 years old.  They were carrying their bedding and many things on their backs.  They told us where the Germans were.

 
On the night of January 10th, we were on a hill in the woods.  I could see smoke coming from the chimney of the houses.  It was very cold.  We dug in, two men to a fox hole.  We had orders to shot anyone that walked, also to shoot anything with an overcoat on.  They had taken our overcoats away a few days before.  At dawn and evening time it was hard to tell an American from a German.  The Germans all wore overcoats.
 

The sun rose and shone brightly with not a cloud in the sky.  We were supposed to be in the city by noon.  The city was being shelled with heavy shells.I never made it to the city of Wiltz.  As we were coming up this small hill I saw an open field with one building.T  wo or three were sent one way and two or three the other.  I was running across the open field and could see bullets hitting the snow beside me.  I zig-zagged running and I was shot in the right leg about seven inches from the knee.  I hit the ground in about a foot of snow and rolled over and over to a hedgerow.

 
The City of Wiltz, Luxembourg (photo N.A.R.A.)
 
I saw Lappa crawling on his stomach and saw the bullet splinter on his M1 rifle.  He was not killed – he later took off my boots to put me on a stretcher.  I laid in the snow for six hours.  After an hour or so I didn’t see anything.  I heard nothing – no shooting.  I was thinking about going back the way I came after dark.  I never forgot the bright sunshine that day.
 
About 4 or 5 o’clock in the afternoon I heard tanks coming.  I saw a tank with the star.  I knew it was American.  Then I saw another one.  The next thing I knew I was flying up in the air and I wondered what everyone would think of me flying so high in the sky.  Then I felt myself coming down.  I had not even left the ground.  This was the feeling when knocked out.  For about one hour I could see nothing.  Then my vision came back.
 

My steel helmet had a three inch split in it.  My wool nightcap was burned and also some of my hair.  I could taste burnt hair and gun powder for days.

 

A soldier from the tank got out and threw hand grenades and cleaned out the cellar.  It had been hit by shells from the tank also.  He put me in the cellar and said he would get a medic.  Other soldiers came into the cellar, plus wounded and also a medic.  The government should give this soldier a medal.  He saved my life and I didn’t even know his name.

 

They got me to a hospital about 12 that night.  We had another GI in the ambulance and a German soldier who had been shot in the stomach.  He was in pain.  We went to Barley Duke Hospital (the German too).  When I got in the hospital the first thing they did was put the Purple Heart on my chest.  I was so cold they put me on a register with many blankets.  After many, many days of hospital care, I met Corporal Ball on the streets of London.  We were happy to see each other – and I didn’t remember to get his home address.

 

I returned to active duty and was discharged July 1, 1946.

 
Source: Bulge Bugle, February 1995

By Edward A. HILTON

"C" Company

357th Infantry Regiment

90th Infantry Division

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium