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US Army

A Soldier Remembers

 

A Soldier Remembers

 

(The following article was written by Ray Huckaby and this article first appeared in "The Advertiser-Gleam," (Newspaper in Guntersville, Alabama USA) date unknown) It was reprinted in "The Bulge Bugle" (February 2008).

 
About December 18, some 400 of us GI's had crossed the channel from England as a double package of replacements.  We traveled on up across France on a small train headed for the front lines to be used in infantry units to replace men killed, wounded, or captured.  We arrived at a small replacement depot at Neufchateau, Belgium, about the 23rd of December, a week after the Germans began their offensive.  We rested there overnight and were loaded on trucks the following day and carried to Metz, France, where the 35th Infantry Division had been brought up from the Saar Basin. 
 
This was part of a movement that General Patton had told General Eisenhower and General Bradley that he could move 48,000 men in 48 hours if they gave him the word.  They did and he started the movement that day, and our 35th Division was one of the group.  We arrived at Metz, France, on Christmas Eve.  The whole 400 of us had been brought along under the charge of a 1st Lieutenant Proof, who was a fine enlisted man's officer.  The only person that I knew there was Joe Ben Levins.  I had become acquainted with him in England.  He was from Albertville, Alabama.  Our names were too far apart to land in the same company, so I was assigned to “G” Company and Joe Ben was in “F” Company.  I was placed in T/Sergeant Thomas P. Drumheller's platoon and he placed me in S/Sergeant Lewis' squad.  At that time we had no platoon officers at all in the company, only a second lieutenant for Company Commander and one for executive officer. 
 
On this Christmas Eve we knew that we had only a short time to get acquainted before we would move out to the front.  Sergeant Lewis told me that since I had three stripes and he had no assistant squad leader, he would assign me to that place.  As Sergeant Lewis prepared the new ones of us for front line combat, we were told that we would not have duffel bags anymore.   He told us to put on all the clothing that we could fit into.  Every item that we could not wear we were to pitch out in the middle of the floor for someone else to fit into if they needed them.  From then on we could have nothing in our pockets or billfold that had any kind of home address.  We would not be allowed to mention any town or landmark that we passed by for at least 14 days and we could not keep any type of journal, or diary as long as we were at war.  All letters that we wrote would be left unsealed and turned in to the mail clerk.  Anything not allowed would be cut out and sent on by company headquarters.  I had been in service for 1-1/2 years by that time and had learned not to ask too many questions.  But some of the replacements wanted to know whether there was some way a man could get out of this outfit. 
 
Sergeant Lewis, along with another squad leader, told them yes.  Lewis told them that we would move out to the front lines in the next 2 days and the three ways were: killed, wounded, or captured.  That sent cold chills down our spines followed by rapid heart beats and a quick flush of feeling.  Lewis added that if we didn't keep highly alert and watch what was going on, we would go one of those ways in a hurry.  A short while later T/Sergeant Drumheller came in to make sure that all possible was done to prepare those of us who were new men.  He noticed that I was still wearing my GI work shoes with tan canvas leggings from the camp in Texas.  He told me that I would have to have something better than that because the weather was fast growing worse. 
 
He sent downstairs to supply Sergeant Casey and asked whether he had a pair of combat boots.  Casey told him no, and said he could not get anymore. However, he did have 2 pairs of rubber boots in a small size that I might wear over my GI shoes.  Drumheller brought a pair to me and they were a perfect fit. They buckled up on the outside up almost to my knees.  That was what brought me through the Ardennes battle with no serious freezing to my feet.That afternoon, Christmas Eve, we were told that we would not move out the next day, which was Christmas.  The trucks in convoy numbers would not be ready until early morning on the 26th and we would have Christmas dinner there in Metz.  There was a jubilant feeling but also subdued because a 24-hour delay doesn't really mean much to condemned human beings, and that is about what front line infantry dogface soldiers are headed for when you move-out for that delay. 
 
We had no light in the room so two scavengers left to see what they could find. In a short while they returned with 2 tall wine bottles of gasoline with an old discarded sock twisted down inside for a wick.  Those were fired up and gave enough light to see around the room even though they gave off tiny floaters in the air caused by gasoline burning from a wick.  The following morning we all had black rings at our nostrils, but that made no difference because we were not going to any Christmas Party anyway. 
 
December 25, 1944, was a pretty peaceful Christmas Day with final readiness checked to move out the next day.  None of us had any mittens or hoods for our field jackets in the zero weather, so we used razor blades to cut some wool blankets in 12 to 15 inch strips to use like shawls over our heads and around our necks.  We loosened the headband in our helmet liners to set them down over the wraps we had made.  Christmas Day went pretty well and everyone was checked to make sure that we had about 160 rounds of ammo and a hand grenade on each pack strap in front.  They fed us all turkey and dressing, which was made by a good southern cook named Cross from up in Tennessee.  That afternoon we were told to bed down early and that we would move out at 4:00 the following morning after being awakened at 3:00 for our last hot meal until no one knew when. 
 
We started to board 6x6 trucks and found out that someone higher up had gotten a wild idea that we might get strafed, so they ordered all the canvas removed from over the trucks.  This left us open to the wind at a temperature of 5 degrees below.  As all GI’s know, troops travel 50 minutes and take a 10-minute break to relieve themselves.  By the end of the 50 minutes some men were so cold and stiff the driver and assistant driver had to help them off the truck beds.  Being a scrawny 120 lbs., I managed to get down by myself and spent the 20 minute break trotting around the truck trying to get warm.  When we mounted up again, I picked the largest man on board to get down by so he would shield me from most of the cold wind.  By the time we had traveled several hours, some of the GI's were so cold and stiff they didn't even try to get down on the ground and a few just urinated right in their clothing which was at least 4 layers thick.  It is amazing how the human mind will ready out to the outer edges of imagination to try to find anything to survive with when you are on the outer edge of hypothermia for a long time as we were during the Battle of the Bulge. 
 
We moved north to the vicinity of Warnach, Luxembourg, which was about 10 miles south of Bastogne, Belgium, and stopped to rest overnight.  The following day we moved on foot northward to an area near Sainlez, Belgium, in preparation to move on northward as things became more stable along a line of the Bastogne-Arlon highway.  We no more than halted when we were ordered to move to positions a couple of kilometers south of the Village of Lutrebois, which was the key point for the 3rd Army as well as the German army to hold Bastogne or lose it on the south side.  We marched to a crossroad on the Bastogne-Arlon Highway, then turned eastward to a junction on the road from Lutrebois and Villers-la-Bonne Eau, Harlange. We began to set up a skirmish line of foxholes along the east side of that road. 
 
There was a slight valley that ran from Bastogne southward about 1000 yards wide and Lutrebois sat right in the bottom of it about 3 or 4 kilometers south of Bastogne.  As we moved down the road a German "burp gun" fired a burst and it must have turned in our direction and sounded pretty loud.  We all scattered like chickens in a hen house when a fox comes in.  Sergeant Lewis slipped and fell on the hard road on one knee that almost kept him down.We all came together in a few minutes and continued on and moved off just below the roadway.  They spaced us out in 2-man teams to start our foxholes close enough that no Germans could slip between them.  Sergeant Lewis told me to dig in with him because this was my first combat and he wanted to show me as well and as fast as he could.  As we were digging our little home away from home, we heard a German mortar shell come hissing in.  Both of us ducked down together while the shell hit on top of the road bank slightly above us and exploded.  Lewis told me to go up and see what had happened.  As I looked up over the top, our lieutenant was standing there looking down at one of the company runners who had been standing right in front of him when the shell landed.  The runner's body had shielded the lieutenant completely.  That was the first person that I saw killed in combat.  It shocked me deeply as I realized that this was truly "It." 
 
“H” Company brought in a heavy water-cooled machine gun and set up about 40 feet to our left alongside of the heavy pine forest for a good field of fire.  Night soon fell. It became so dark in those pine tree lands that most everything stopped except an artillery shell once in a while.  The wind would come up and snow would blow horizontal all along during the night and the temperature gradually dropped a little lower each day and night. 
 
When morning came next day—December 28, a ration patrol came up with “K” rations for each man to have one dinner ration, one supper ration and one breakfast ration.  Water had been brought up the day before, but the water froze and burst the cans before it could be poured up.  That was the last liquid that we saw until the morning of January 10.  We continuously ate snow, which was building up all the time, little by little, with bursts of blizzard winds.  A little later on in the morning, we began to hear activity down in front to the east, and that began to build more as we saw Germans dart by the 2 light gaps in the trees about 100 yards from us.  Sergeant Lewis had his head up as a lookout.  We had all covered our helmets with white handkerchiefs to keep from being seen against the snow.  He mumbled that he was going to teach those Germans a lesson.  He set his aim on one gap and watched and I heard him mumble that one was going the wrong way.  A few minutes later Lewis fired and I heard him mumble. “Well, I got him that time.” 
 
Sure enough in a couple of minutes we heard the Germans calling for a medic and things began to come alive as every gun had a finger placed on its trigger.  In about 5 to 10 minutes the Germans blew several whistles and forward they came.  But they had very little chance to overrun us with no tanks to help them in the heavy Ardennes Forest.  In less than 10 minutes their whistles began to sound and firing started to slack off.  It was always the same—massive firing would suddenly stop, then a short burst would come and everything would stop.  In about 5 minutes we would hear them shouting for medics for their wounded buddies. 
 
About 10 minutes later the Germans threw in a heavy mass of artillery, mortar, and rocket fire that shook our teeth nearly out just to let us know that we still had not won the battle.  We had a few wounded to be evacuated from shellfire, but our casualties were very light and the remainder of the day was fairly quiet.  The main thing was to bring up more small-arms ammo to get ready for the next head-on fight that would come sooner or later.  Just before dark 3 soldiers appeared out of nowhere while Sergeant Lewis was down in our little “home” and I was on watch.  Only one of the soldiers ever spoke and all 3 carried carbine rifles.  I was new in combat and I did not realize that this was strange.  No one had warned us to look for infiltrators.  One of them asked, “Where is our machine gun?” and I said, “Right over there.”  They moved off to my left and I heard no more from them as dark was fast descending on the area.  Sergeant Lewis and I alternated up and down all night about every hour or so, but hypothermia was setting in.  When that happens your muscles will quiver steadily so that even if you doze, your body will continue to shiver on and on.  You become afraid after awhile to let yourself go sound asleep for fear that your heart and metabolism will slow just a little bit more and you will never awaken.  That happened to a few men.  The only way that the shaking stops is for a firefight to come on.  Then your heart pumps so much adrenaline that your body heats up enough to stop shaking. 
 
The following morning things were stable for a while but bitter cold as we tried to open and eat our breakfast K ration.  It was not more than an hour or two until we heard the Germans start moving down in front of us.  We started getting ready for more firefights.  Shortly we heard German whistles start blowing and all hell broke loose along our solid skirmish line.  The Germans soon lost out again and the firing lulled and then stopped. 
 
Sergeant Lewis and I started talking about the situation and realized that our heavy “H” Company machine gun had not opened up during that firefight.  After the Germans evacuated their wounded, everything got quiet and Sergeant Lewis told me to ease over and see what had taken place.  I found out that both men at our machine gun were dead.  One of them had been shot in the head; more like an assassination had taken place.  I looked to see if one or the other had an Army-issue little Swiss watch.  Neither of them had one but there was a set of GI binoculars that we sorely needed, because supplies like that for us were almost totally exhausted for front line troops.  I returned to Sergeant Lewis and we reasoned that the 3 soldiers we had seen the day before were more than likely German infiltrators. 
 
By this time our own army’s skirmish line had many empty fox holes and another regiment was moving in on our south flank, so they gave us orders to shift a little bit northward and close the gaps.  Sergeant Lewis could not stand because that injured knee was swelled to twice the normal size.  I went up the road bank behind and saw Sergeant Drumheller to get a “Charlie Horse,” as they called a team of medic stretcher-bearers.  The word, “Charlie Horse,” was used because the Germans had radio monitoring on us 24 hours a day and taps on our phone lines at every chance, as we also did to theirs.  When Sergeant Lewis left, that left me as leader of our 4 or 5-man squad. 
 
We shifted a short distance and used the foxholes that were already there, but you usually had to improve them some.  After eating our dinner K-ration, it was obvious that this night was going to be even colder than the night before.  Company headquarters back in the rear obtained a large stack of blankets, so they loaded them on a Jeep trailer and decided to risk a dash through the forest right up near us.  But they happened to dump them and ran right into one of the fire lines running east and west that the Germans had clear observation on.  The Jeep got away but the Germans waited for them to crowd around so they would get several each.  They laid in a quick barrage that slaughtered a big group of Americans at one time.Word was late moving up to us on the end of our skirmish line.  I decided to follow the foxholes down and get extra blankets for us, but the evening light had started to dim and I was careful as I moved from hole to hole.
 
As I arrived at the blanket pile, it was pretty dim.  I reached into the pile but I caught an almost frozen hand of a GI whose arm was sticking out.  I realized that the pile was covered with dead and the blankets were blood soaked.  I was so startled that I turned and returned as quickly as I could and told my buddy that we would have to make out as best we could.  We survived that night, but we had a new problem.  That was bowel movement.  We had solved the problem of urination with our K ration cans.  We had so little water to pass that our cans would suffice.  But with so little concentrated food, we had not had a bowel movement for several days.  Now the time had come.  I took off my helmet from the helmet liner and worked by clothes apart for access and proceeded, but the results were 6 “goat pills” about the size of marbles.  That is how concentrated those K rations were.  They produce almost nothing in waste, when those and snow is all you have.  The soldier-to-soldier assaults slowed for a couple of days and staying alive in the cold was the main problem for us.  But for the 3rd Battalion, only a few hundred yards away, fighting was fierce for control of Lutrebois. 
 
The 3rd Battalion strength had gotten so low that Headquarters attached our “E” Company which had been in reserve, to 3rd Battalion for enough strength to continue on.  Finally the company runners brought up a box of washed socks along with K rations and ammo.  We were able to carefully work clean socks on one foot at a time, and hope the firing did not catch us with a shoe off. 
 
During the next couple of days when the nights were so bitter cold, my buddy and I alternated staying awake during the night and I began to realize that this thing was bigger than me and myself both and that I needed some help if I was to survive.  I had a good Daddy and Mother and I was always close to my Daddy when I needed help or advice.  I was 3,000 miles away from home, but I had gone to church all my life and I knew where to find help.  My Daddy always taught me to never pray a selfish prayer if I expected it to be answered.  My Mother and Daddy had lost 2 grandfathers in the Civil War and my Daddy had served in the Army in World War I.  My Mother had lost her only brother in World War I.  I was their only son, with a sister serving in the Army Air Corps. 
 
I said, “Lord, spare my life and let me return home alive, no matter what condition, one arm, one leg, or whatever gone, because my Mother and Daddy do not need to suffer any more heartbreak or sorrow from war.”  I knew that it takes 2 parts to make an argument, a contract, or a covenant to be true and good.  I thought further and I said, “Lord, I shall walk straight and upright the very best that I possibly can and live among my fellow man in peace and quiet if you will grant me this request.”  I prayed that over many times in the next couple of days, and a quiet calm came over me.  That is not to say that I was not scared half to death most of the time, like all the rest of us on the line.  But I was never too scared to do my duty, as it was needed through the remainder of combat. 
 
On December 31st higher headquarters decided that our two companies would attack the ridge to the East and at the same time 3rd Battalion would make a final attack on Lutrebois.  This ridge had to be taken in order for 3rd Battalion to take and finally hold the village, which was the main point in stopping the Germans from finishing their massive surrounding of Bastogne itself on the South side.  Right after 1:00 p.m. on New Year’s Day, we all started to move eastward through snow more than knee deep.  The 3rd Battalion started into the west end of Lutrebois. 
 
As “G” Company and “F” Company moved in a skirmish line across the slight valley below Lutrebois, firing broke loose with everything that we and the Germans had.  I was moving along the north end of our line but there was a slight bulge or rise on our end as we started up a gradual slope, unlike the south end of the line.  There was a woodland extension downward at the south end but no bulge in the grade we were moving up.  About that time I heard a German heavy machine gun turn loose.  I looked and saw many men dropping and most of the others were moving southward toward the woodlands for cover from the machine gun.  In a few minutes things began to quiet down, but things were wide open down in the village.   As I came up over the rise, our company radioman, with a pack radio, came along side me almost within a hand’s breadth and asked if I had seen the lieutenant.  Just as I answered that I had not seen anybody like that, the machine gunner fired 5 or 6 rounds.  The bullets went right up the radioman’s body and carried him straight backward.  I dived downward in a split second.  Just as I hit the deep snow, the machine gunner let loose with a short burst of no more than 2 or 3 rounds.  I caught 2 of those in my big heavy pack that was sticking up above the snow. 
 
As I lay there in knee-deep snow, I remembered that to my right, bodies were scattered from there to the woods below.  I had to decide in a hurry which was more valuable to me, my pack or my life because there was no way that I could out run that machine gunner with a large pack on my back.  It only took a moment, which seemed like an hour, to decide my life was more important.  I never hooked my pack to my cartridge belt, so I would still have my belt with a canteen, first aid packet, binoculars, and entrenching tool (you wouldn’t believe that much would hang on a 29-inch waist, but it did). 
 
I loosened my pack on my right shoulder, cradled old “Betsy,” my M-1 rifle, rolled over and extracted my left arm from the pack strap and came up with my feet already running to my right to the woods where the remainder of the two companies were crowded in.  As I ran I expected the machine gun to let loose any second, but he never did so I presumed that he didn’t think he could hit me as small as I was.  I tumbled forward into the edge of the woods.  Men from both “F” and “G” Companies were crowded there together and nobody seemed in charge.  I was afraid the Germans would come racing back and over run us like cattle.I looked around and saw a GI with corporal stripes on his overcoat sleeve.  Most of us had removed all insignia and rank from our uniforms.  I moved over and asked him what was going on.  He told me that a machine gun was up a short distance to the left in that corner of the woods.  I told him that we needed to do something quick or the Germans would counterattack and over run us. 
 
I asked if he had ammo and he answered yes.  I told him that as many of us as were there, we could pin the gunner down and take him.  He agreed. So 5 or 6 of us stood up and each one started firing at a slow, steady pace and moved toward the gun.  As we neared, the two Germans were sunk down as far as they could get.  One man just beside me kicked the first man’s helmet off.  As the German looked up he said, “Don’t shoot, Comrades,” in German.  About that time the GI fired right in his face and blew most of his face all away.  In that split second I stepped astride of the other German so no one would kill him.  I thought of how many times I had prayed in the past few nights to God to spare my life and I could not harm this man.  I nudged his helmet off and motioned for him to rise as he begged for his life.  I motioned for him to climb on up on the level ground and he did.  I almost passed out when he stood up because of his size.  He was a good 6 feet 2 inches, blonde headed and blue eyed. 
 
I motioned for him to place his hands behind his head so he did.  I caught hold of the strap across the back of his overcoat.  I pushed forward and we started moving along just inside the first row of trees.  Every minute or so I would fire a round from my M-1 with the muzzle just about one foot extended in front of him and he would jump about a foot high and call out in German, “Don’t shoot, Comrades.”  About the third shot my M-1 rang out with that familiar sound of “whang” and I knew that I had fired the 8th round and my M-1 was empty.  I was afraid not to immobilize him so I shoved forward on him and he went down like a dead tree.  In a flash that would make Matt Dillon ashamed, I drew a clip of ammo from my belt and slammed it in the receiver of old “Betsy” and I was ready to keep moving.  It really scared the German, who must have thought that I was about to kill him.  I motioned for him to get up and place his hands behind his head and we started moving again. 
 
The remainder of both companies had about caught up and in a few minutes Sergeant Drumheller came up and started some organizing until definite plans could be made.  We first spread out in a long perimeter until Lieutenant Ploof of “F” Company could be located with their radioman.  Our own radioman had been killed out on the hillside beside me.  Until then battalion thought that we had to pull back, so they gave orders to stay and hold that ridge at all costs.  Lieutenant Ploof informed them that it might be impossible because we had nothing but M-1’s and carbines to defend the ridge with.  Lieutenant Ploof also informed battalion that there was a German Tiger tank right down below us in the east end of Lutrebois.  They told him that division was ready to call in 105mm and 155mm artillery if he would act as observer for them.  They said that they would send in one shell over us and he could tell artillery how far to adjust it one way or the other.  They said that two batteries would be on standby all night, anytime, to fire three rounds for effect to protect us. 
 
In the meantime we had started digging in—in a long oval perimeter because we were cut off on all sides.  About the 3rd or 4th shell they sent hit a tree top right over company headquarters and a large piece of shrapnel hit Sergeant Drumheller in the stomach.  He was badly wounded and we had no way to evacuate him until possibly the next day.  He was evacuated the following day but he was so near frozen that he died at battalion aid.  All night long our artillery kept that Tiger tank in trouble but they never could get a direct hit on it. 
 
A patrol with rations managed to get to us that night with enough K rations for each of us to have two instead of three for the following day.  I was placed on the east side of the oval facing the Germans with another GI and we started digging as fast and as deep as we could before dark would catch us uncovered with bitter cold coming in fast.  Our gunners kept the German Tiger tank busy off and on all night.  But it was pulled in close to a heavy stonewall and artillery could never get a direct hit on it.  Just at daybreak some of the crew had been in a cellar by it, so they scrambled out and onto the tank as it began to pull away.  As it moved up below us it swung the big, long 88mm cannon around and we thought our day had come.  But they didn’t want us to fire at them as they came by below and disappeared to the east. 
 
The morning was bitter cold and out on that ridge was much worse than it had been down in the valley, where we had the other ridge to our backs.  They told us that day (January 2) that Sergeant Drumheller, who had been hit by shrapnel, begged for them to do something for him.  Then he would say he knew that they could not help him, but that his wife and little girl back in Virginia were going to be lonely without him.  That is the kind of situation that will pull your heart out and you never forget as long as you live.  His remains lie sleeping in a grave at Hamms National Cemetery, Luxembourg. 
 
Things were fairly quiet the remainder of January 2 because it appeared the Germans were scared and we were glad of it, or vice-versa.  There was a road just east of our perimeter that came up from Lutrebois and turned south just over the ridge that ran about 100 years in front of us.  The Germans had access to it from the village of Lutremange.  That was how they had supplied Lutrebois and the ridge that we occupied, but we couldn’t shut it off.  The Germans continued to hold out in the east end of Lutrebois, running a tank in and out every day, so all we could do was hold on to what we had. 
 
The following day (January 3) opened pretty quiet and Lieutenant Ploof decided to check each of his foxholes.  As he moved along down low from hole to hole, a single shot came from a lookout the Germans had placed close in front of their line of foxholes.  It sent a single bullet through one lung but did not puncture anything else.  So they evacuated him shortly and saved his life.  That left us with only our second lieutenant in charge of the whole perimeter. 
 
The following day (January 3) opened pretty quiet and Lieutenant Ploof decided to check each of his foxholes.  As he moved along down low from hole to hole, a single shot came from a lookout the Germans had placed close in front of their line of foxholes.  It sent a single bullet through one lung but did not puncture anything else.  So they evacuated him shortly and saved his life.  That left us with only our second lieutenant in charge of the whole perimeter. 
 
The following day (January 3) opened pretty quiet and Lieutenant Ploof decided to check each of his foxholes.  As he moved along down low from hole to hole, a single shot came from a lookout the Germans had placed close in front of their line of foxholes.  It sent a single bullet through one lung but did not puncture anything else.  So they evacuated him shortly and saved his life.  That left us with only our second lieutenant in charge of the whole perimeter. 
 
After a few second which seemed more like minutes, he whirled around and leaned away and started to run.  But a rifle fired to my right and the German fell forward away from me, shot through the head.  I looked around and saw a buddy in the next foxhole drop his M-1 back down.  He told me that he saw the German just before he arrived at my foxhole and knew that I had not seen him.  I waited about 10 minutes to make sure that no one was with him.  I crawled over to his side to see if he had any kind of intelligence items on him, but he did not.  He was a messenger though, because he had a broken bicycle chain in one of his overcoat pockets and his hands were oily. 
 
On the morning of January 7 it was decided to see if we could push the Germans back to the road about 200 feet behind them.  About as soon as we started, everything broke loose.  My buddy and I moved a little bit further than the rest and saw two Germans in an outpost hole who were preoccupied by the firing off to one side.  My buddy had one hand grenade.  He pulled the pin and threw it right in the hole on them and they could not get up in time.  Both of them were killed right there.When everything settled we eased up to the hole.  There was a telephone in the hole and a field wire leading away toward the road.  About the time we finished examining things, the word was passed along to pull back to our original holes and stay put.  We stayed alert for an hour or so to make sure that the Germans would not counterattack but everything settled down. 
 
The morning of January 8, the weather opened up a little bit more pleasant. It was about 4 or 5 below zero but the air was still and not so bitter with wind.  My buddy, named Hayden, from one of the Rocky Mountain states, decided that we would try to make a chocolate pudding from a D ration bar that had been given to us the day before with our K rations.   I knew we would have to keep the fire low.  I got out my small pocket knife that I had brought from home as well as my MCHS class ring of 1942 that I wore all through WWII and never took it off my hand.  I started shaving up the D bar.  They were made very hard to be eaten over an hour or so period of time.  We had a handful of sugar lumps from several K rations and several hard tack crackers that we had also saved from rations.  I opened back the flap of our shelter half at one end of our home away from home and started a small fire with two of our many K ration bases that had accumulated over a period of days. 
 
We had to use the other canteen cup to start melting snow for water to make up our chocolate pudding.  Each of us worked one at a time while the other one kept watch for Germans.  After about an hour we had melted snow, sugar lumps and chocolate bar and then began to crumble in the hard-tack crackers for the final mixing.  Mind you that neither one of us had washed our hands nor brushed our teeth since December 26 when we left Metz and we had had no warm food during all that time.  I would have to say that this pudding was a gourmet dish fit for a king.  We got out our GI spoons and each one only took a small bit at a time, because we were both afraid that we might take more than our share.  By that time it was showing sundown and time to get ready for another bitter night on that ridge. The night was rather quiet except for a heavy shell here, there or yonder.  I stayed up in the end of our foxhole most of the night because Hayden had come from a heavy coast artillery unit on the Atlantic coast and his hearing was very poor. 
 
January 9 dawned stable but cloudy with no heat from the sun.  Hayden told me that his feet were almost absent of any feeling and that they were swelled tight in his shoes.  He turned around down in the hole and lifted one foot into my lap and it was truly about frozen.  A short time later one of our runners came up with K rations for the day to see whether we needed any ammo.  I told him about Hayden’s condition.  He told us to hang on a little while and that he would report it to our lieutenant at the front line command post. 
 
We never heard any word but I let Hayden lie down on his back most of the day with his feet elevated up in my lap as I sat on the step-up with my overcoat tail covering his feet.  Later on that afternoon one of the runners at the front line command post came by to check on each foxhole.  I told him that Hayden would have to be evacuated that evening or first thing the next morning but no one came back.  About 8:00 that night one of the runners came by, feeling his way along in pitch darkness, and told us that the Germans had pulled back all along the front and for us to pack up our gear.  We were going to pull back down into the village of Lutrebois. 
 
We followed orders but Hayden could hardly stand alone as we packed up to move.  About 20 minutes or so later a small group eased along from foxhole to foxhole and whispered for us to fall in line and for each one of us to hold on to the pack of the man in front of us, because it was so dark that you could not see your hand in front of your face.  I told the lead man of our trouble and to go at a very slow pace.  I then turned to Hayden’s ear and told him to hold my gas mask strap no matter what happened and if he fell I would drag him like a sled in the snow.  We moved out at a very slow pace and Hayden hung on and managed to keep up with some stumbling along.  It took about 20 minutes to arrive down in the center of Lutrebois and over to a large cellar.  It was the lower story of a home and barn combination that had had the upper story completely blown away.  These type buildings were common in Europe as the lower part was for livestock and feed. 
 
The front faced the southeast and GI’s had covered the opening with shelter halves to keep out part of the cold.  They had two 5 gallon buckets with some fire burning so that the temperature was just above the freezing point but it felt like the Waldorf Astoria to us.  They also had two long necked wine bottles with gasoline and an old sock twisted down to the bottom for a wick.  This gave some light even though it was dim with smoke.  Several medics were there and they began to ask each one of us about our condition and I told them I was afraid Hayden would lose both of his feet unless they could perform a miracle.  They told us that there were several cans of water and that we could have some if we wished, but to be careful and drink it at a slow pace or it would come right back up.  We received a little bit, because we had had no liquid water since December 27 and our bodies were badly dehydrated. 
 
There was a lot of straw over along one side that their animals had slept in, and most of us lay down for some rest until daylight.  At daylight on the morning of January 10, they began checking the ones like Hayden to see what they could do for them.  They had to cut the boots that he was wearing to get them off his feet.  As they did, his feet began to swell so much that it was hard to believe.  In a short while they radioed regiment to send an ambulance up, because at least four of them would have to be evacuated at once.  When they arrived, they had to carry five of the 13 away in the ambulance.  That only left eight of us who were front line GI’s in the company. 
 
I walked outside once or twice to look around and I decided to go up on the side of the ridge where I had rolled out of my pack on January 1 and look for my pack.  It had all of my earthly belongings except for my pocketknife and my 1942 MCHS class ring.  As I moved along in the deep snow and neared the upper section, I began to see small mounds scattered all along.  As I moved along I tried to guess about where I was when I rolled out of my pack straps to try to outrun that German machine gunner.  I scraped away snow from one of the humps to a pack below and gave it a hard pull, but on further looking it was on the back of a dead soldier.  Then I realized that each of those mounds was the body of one of our company.  I vowed on the way down that I would never retrace my way over a battlefield that I fought on as long as I lived and I never did.  I have had many chances to return to Europe, but I have never gone. 
 
Of the group that remained in our makeshift shelter, we felt our hands and feet start tingling every time they began to get warm, because they had been so nearly frozen up on the ridge above.  About noon the mess sergeant came again with hot food in mermite cans for our dinner.  He also brought several men that had just returned from the rear hospitals.  Some had light flesh wounds that had healed.  Some had been sick with more than 100-degree fevers.  They looked so odd with clean clothing, haircuts and shaves while we looked like bums because we were so dirty and bedraggled.  I lay around most of the afternoon on the straw and slept because my body was finally getting warm and that brought on a condition for some real rest and sleep.  Late in the afternoon the mess sergeant brought supper chow and a few new replacements who had never been on the front before.  Some of them were truly shocked to see us and our conditions.  That night things were quiet with only a door guard to rotate every hour or two through the night. 
 
January 11 opened up with pretty good weather except for the bitter cold to contend with.  After breakfast chow I and a man who was new to the front decided to look around the village.  His name was James D. Detheridge and he hailed from Indiana.  As we walked around we found a German command car that didn’t have any damage to it.  We were afraid that it might be booby-trapped.  We sent word through our command post to the Ordnance Recovery Unit because we used many of their vehicles, as they used ours.  They found that the fuel had been drained out, probably to pour in one of their tanks in order to save the tank. 
 
Around January 14 the 134th Regiment was attached to the 6th Armored Division to give them more rifle infantry troops.  Most of their armored infantry had been destroyed and tanks have to have infantry troops when they stop and also to clear large areas of woodlands or any other inaccessible terrain.  We rode the tops of tanks until again we got so cold that we could slide off the backs but could not climb off the sides.  That afternoon we were told as we dug in for the night to rest all we could because our mission, the following day would be to skirmish line clear about 1,000 yards of woodlands that had been occupied by the Germans.  After fighting more than two weeks in a 1,000-yard valley of mostly woodlands, I can tell you that I rested but slept very few naps that night. 
 
The next morning we finished chow and boarded the tops of many tanks with a few men on each one to head out to our objective that day.  We were held in reserve though until January 18.  At first we set up a long line of defense positions along a highway southeast of Bourcy. 
 
The order came on January 21 for us to attack southeast but the Germans had picked up stakes and fled toward home.  Our worst problem in clearing the woodlands was the snow that was as much as three feet deep in some places.We had to use first one group in lead and then change every once in a while to another group.  By nightfall we had no access to a road closer than a mile away, so “Weasels” were brought in to supply us.  The “Weasel” was a wide track version of the Jeep that could travel over the snow.  They really proved their worth there. 
 
It had become a blessing to be attached to an armored unit because most of the travel was on tank tops even if we did nearly freeze some times.  Our battalion moved about 5 miles to an area around Hoffet and Weiler in Luxembourg.  We started up the next day and moved about 4 miles to a position about southeast of Basebellain. 
 
On January 23 we were relieved by the 17th Airborne Division to the complete delight of us “dogface” infantrymen.  Our 2nd Battalion reassembled with the 134th Regiment at Hachiville for a short rest.  We moved the next day about 6 or 7 miles to the east to relieve part of the 90th Division on the heights of the river that made the border between Germany and Luxembourg.  One tank slid on the icy roads and tumbled down a 10 foot embankment but all escaped.  Our 2nd Battalion moved in around Grind-hausen with the regimental command post at Boxhorn. 
 
The 1st Battalion had the last bloody assignment—to take the Town of Weiswampach, Luxembourg, across open snow-covered fields.  They had to wait until after dark to enter the town, but cleaned it up during the night and that put the Germans back in their homeland where the Battle of the Bulge started.  The battle had cost our 134th Regiment 1,449 casualties in a little more than 32 days.  For this our regiment won a presidential unit citation.  We were relieved from attachment to the 6th Armored Division on January 31 with a fine commendation from Major General G. W. Grow. 
 
In closing, I hope and I pray that our Lord will watch over and protect our troops now as bountifully and gracefully as he has seen fit to bless me in all of my 79 plus years. 
 
Source: Story received from Mrs Bullock by email dated January 29, 2011

By Ray HUCKABY

Company "G"

134th Infantry Rgiment

35th Infantry Division

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium