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US Army

Story of a Foot Soldier

 

Story of a Foot Soldier
 
On December 12, 1944, the 87th Infantry Division replaced the 26th Division on the French border near Germany just before dark.  As a platoon leader I took my men two at a time and placed them in foxholes vacated by the men of one of the platoons of the 26th Division.  After completing this job I decided to go back around the platoon area to be sure my men were okay. 
 
Darkness had settled in and as I moved about the scattered foxholes, I stepped into a hole full of ice water.  What a dumb thing to do!  I sat down on a rock, took off my boot and pulled on a dry sock from under my shirt.  I had just gotten the dry sock on when I heard a heard a noise.  I picked up my rifle, stood up and m oved to one side and then the other side.  I couldn’t see a thing. It had never been so dark.  I decided I was hearing things, so I moved back to where I thought my boot was.  Although I couldn’t see a thing I moved around a small area expecting to find my boot.  The boot had disappeared.  I could have been shot by one of my own men.  I found another rock, sat down and waited for daylight.  It was a long, cold night. 
 
On December 14, 1944, the 87th attacked the Germans for the first time.  This was exactly one year after I graduated from OCS.  We received heavy fire and some men were wounded.  I lost two men from New York who had been close friends most of their lives.  Fragments from the same shell got both of them although they were not close together.  The next day we continued the attack from France into Germany, moving forward every day. 
 
On December 18th we received orders to hold our positions.  Although we did not understand the extent of the problem, we heard that the Germans had broken through our lines in the vicinity of Bastogne, Belgium.  This became the Battle of the Bulge or officially the Battle of the Ardennes. 
 
On December 23rd, 1944 the 87th Division started a move to the rear of 350 miles by truck to Belgium.  The back of those open trucks was freezing cold.  Three hundred fifty miles is a little more than the distance across the State of Tennessee from Chattanooga to Memphis.  And it was not a freeway.  we did not have fur lined boots nor fur lined jackets to protect us from our worst enemy—the weather—24 hours every day. 
 
On January 7, 1945, we were fighting in thick woods and deep snow Company “K”, my company, was in foxholes in the woods and we were pinned down there for a week.  If we moved, the Germans would shoot at us.  They were in the same woods.  We were pinching the side of the German bulge, so it was important for us to hold our position.  We could take off our hoots and massage our feet but we could not walk around. 
 
After six or seven days we got orders by radio to move to a nearby town for food and rest.  The Germans had given up their positions and had withdrawn.  About midnight our company of about 160 men walked out of the woods toward the town.  The ground was covered with snow and a full moon made the whole area as bright as day.  We were walking single file completely exposed and up ahead sat a German tank — was it empty?  Or full of Germans?  We had no idea.  It was eerie—just the rustle of equipment or the crunch of our feet in the snow might alert someone.  Fortunately we did not stir up any Germans. 
 
After we got into the town and got some food and sleep, we were inspected by the medics.  Over half of “K” Company was evacuated to hospitals with frostbite or frozen feet.  Frozen feet and hands are serious.  You can lose toes or fingers I was gone five or six weeks so I missed a lot of the heavy fighting—the crossing of the Mosel River and the crossing of the Rhine River.  My presence here today may be due to my being in the hospital.
 
Source: The Bulge Bugle February 2007

By 1st Lt Thomas F STIMSON

 

"K" Company,

347th Infantry Regiment

87th Infantry Division

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium