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Stories

Sister Meets Brother in Battle of the Bulge

 

Sister Meets Brother in Battle of the Bulge 
 
I received a letter dated December 26, 1944, from my 18-year-old kid brother, Matt, saying, "I'm on this side of the pond.  It would be nice if we could visit each other, but I doubt if we'll be that lucky."  I did not know whether Matt meant we just could not expect to have such a privilege, with the war raging at a fever pitch, or whether he meant, what with his being an infantry rifleman, "something might happen to him."
 
I know now he meant it in the privilege sense.  But way back then, I was determined to find a way to visit him, and I said so to others at the hospital.  It was unusually bold for me to try to do something like that!
 
We treated many 84th Division Railsplitters.  When wounded men were brought in, I would always look at their faces to see if it were Matt or Joe, our brother in the 9th Air Force in Belgium.
 

Joe and I visited each other a few times in England while waiting for D-Day.  But circumstances were much different in January 1945, with the Battle of the Bulge raging at fever pitch.

 
Matt arrived at the 84th Division Replacement Depot at Givet, France, on Christmas Day.  Now, a month later, on Sunday, January 28, 1945, I went for a walk in the morning, even though the snow was very deep.  I went to pray for help to find Matt.  I saw two officers walking and I thought they were from Camp Lucky Strike.  I asked them if they knew the location of the 84th Division.  They gave me the approximate location and said I could get specific information at First Army Headquarters in Spa, Belgium.
 
When I told others at the hospital that I learned the location of the 84th Division, they told Colonel Dell F. Dullum the 47th Field Hospital Commandant.  While we were eating lunch, Colonel Dullum stood by the chair, and with a smile on his face he said, "I am giving Millie a jeep and a driver so that she can find and visit her brother."
 
The driver, a corporal about as young as Matt, and I took off in early afternoon.  At Spa, we found First Army Headquarters in a large house guarded by a big, barking dog.  It was frightening.
 
I had to wait quite a while before a tall officer came out.  Then he and another officer asked me which unit I was with, and other information about myself.  Then they gave me directions to the 84th Infantry Division.
 
We drove off through the deep snow.Sometimes the snow was so deep and the road so curving, it was difficult to see the road.  We had to be wary about any stray land mines that might have been alongside the road.  Our jeep was enclosed, but we had the window flaps open to see our way more clearly.  It was very cold, this was Europe's worst winter in 40 years.
 
People now couldn't imagine what it was like then.  There were no friendly looking roadside inns with twinkline lights beckoning travellers in for hot coffee and food.  Often the road was hilly and narrow and the snow real deep.
 
God bless that young corporal!I wish I could remember his name so I could thank him now.  He did a wonderful job of driving through the Ardennes Forest.  The Battle of the Bulge had upset things for the past six weeks, but now it mostly was over.
 

Finally we drove up to the C.P. of the Third Battalion, 333rd Infantry Regiment, in the village of Nonceveux, Belgium.  I spoke to an officer who told me, "You are the first woman ever come to the battalion."  I had to identify myself and show my AGO pass with my picture on it.  The officer asked me several questions about my parents, brothers and sisters.  She also asked the several questions about Iowa, where my family lived.  They had to be certain that I was not a spy.  I remember sitting in that warm room heated by a little pot-bellied stove, answering those questions.  Then the officer telephoned the Company "I" C.P.

 
Several minutes later, Matt walked in.  He had been in the evening chow line when he was called to the Company "I" C.P.  He was flabbergasted when he was told that I was at the Third Battalion C.P.  The battalion was out of the front line for a badly needed rest.
 

After we hugged and kissed each other, we visited in a room for about half an hour.  We talked mostly about our family and what we'd been doing.  This was the first time we had seen each other since I was home on leave early in 1943.

 

We both felt it was kind of unreal for us to be together so many thousands of miles from home, and in such strange circumstances.  Matt was very tired and dirty, and he apologized for being so dirty.  I have a vivid picture-forever imprinted in my mind - - Matt - - very tired, wearing his helmet, rifle, mess gear, and struggling with laryngitis.  He said he was one of a few survivors of his platoon, which was wiped out early in January by a German machine-gunner.  Every so often, a face peered in the window, apparently to make sure things were O.K.

 

I gave Matt toilet articles, new socks, candy bars and some Scotch, though I doubted if he would drink it.  Then we embraced and kissed and said good-bye, and I returned to Verviers.

 

We had enjoyed an experience given to very few in the Second World War.  Matt and Joe visited in Germany after V-E Day.  We all returned home.  We have much for which to be thankful.

 
Postscript by Matt: With the toilet articles I cleaned up, combed my hair, washed my feet, and put on the new socks.  I shared the Milky Way and Snicker candy bars and gave away the Scotch - - that was easy!
 
Source: Memorable Bulge Incidents = 1994

By Captain Ann T. MILETICH

46th Field Hospital

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium