US Army

My Most Memorable Christmas

 

My Most Memorable Christmas

 

The time was December 24, 1944.  The Battle of the Bulge was very much in doubt.  We were located in Luxembourg, north of the capital.  About the 14th or 15th of December, we were poised near Saarburg in France for a big push by Patton’s Third Army to pierce the West Wall.  Alerted on the 16th for a rapid move northward, the 80th Infantry Division moved at night in convoy, to help stem the tide of the Wehrmacht offensive.  As we moved northward, the temperature kept dropping and we experienced the first snow of the winter.  Arriving in Luxembourg City about dusk, lo and behold, the street cars were running and no blackout in effect.  What a strange scenario!  Artillery and machine gun fire was audible in the distance.

 

Proceeding to an area near Merach (??) Luxembourg, we halted for a few days.  The ground was almost too frozen to dig in but the snow deep enough for insulation at night enabling us to get a warm night’s sleep.

 

Somewhere about the 20th December, we moved northeast toward Diekirch and Ettelbruck.  On our way, we encountered our first Nebelwerfers, the “Screaming meemies” – multiple rockets fired at us with an eerie sound that was terrifying.  At the same time, the walking wounded of the 28th Infantry Division were moving to the rear while we were advancing to take up the positions they had held.

 

We passed by a typical guard house, the same type you see in old movies with the guards in their comic opera uniforms.  As we approached the guard house, the Nebelwerfers came raining down and the sentinels disappeared “toute suite” in the direction of the castle of the Grand Duchess of Colmar-Berg.

 

Proceeding to our designated area, we dug in our guns.  Although an infantry company, the Cannon Company had six 105 millimeter howitzers designed to give the infantrymen ahead of us close support.

 

We set up our command post in an abandoned farm house and started to run telephone lines to our gun platoons.  The weather for days had been miserable – poor visibility for our air force.  This probably was the greatest advantage the Wehrmacht had since they moved so rapidly on the terrain they knew so well.  Somehow (maybe a break in the clouds), our position was revealed to a German forward observer and we started to get hostile fire on our headquarters.  Glass and mortar through the windows made it expedient for us to retreat to the potato cellar below the house.

 

Lo and behold, as we peered into the darkness, a mother, father and tiny baby were huddled there, terrified.  We could only communicate with sign language – their native language was a patois of French and German and hard to understand.  We shared our cold rations with them for several days until our kitchen truck could move up to a safe area and provide us with hot chow.

 

Mail finally caught up with us and I had a package from one of my sisters in Cleveland, Ohio.  She had read that the little children in war torn France, Holland, and Belgium would not have any gifts of any kind for Christmas.  She didn’t even know that I was in Luxembourg at the time.

 

Christmas Eve came, cold – no stars, cloudy weather.  Despite legends otherwise, the guns were still audible, both sides.  I finally opened the package and it was an assortment of small, cheap trinkets.  I believe my sister hoped I would distribute them at some orphanage.

 

By candlelight, I started giving little gifts, one at a time, to the little boy – “Edie” – the name I best remember.  At each gift, the mother and father would cry and thank me with gestures.  Was this a reenactment of that “Holy Night”  in Bethlehem many years ago?

 

I know how the Wise Men of old must have felt since this tiny babe also lay in a bed of hay, smiling at the while.  Perhaps, the angels were smiling from on high.I like to think so!

 

Before falling asleep, we said our silent prayers – “Peace on Earth, Goodwill towards Men.”

 
Source: Bulge Bugle December 1992

S/Sgt Albert D. DIAN

Cannon Company

318th Infantry Regiment

80th Infantry Division

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium