Battle of the Bulge … Winter.

This kind of weather has the History Junkie thinking of the Battle of the Bulge.  The cold.  The snow. Hell, HJ even woke up this weekend to thick dense fog.

Following the D-Day landing at Normandy, Adolf Hitler witnessed his German forces being systematically pushed toward the homeland.  In December, he struck back, with the counteroffensive for the ages.  It came to be known as the Battle of the Bulge.

But perhaps even more than the enemy they faced, Battle of the Bulge veterans remember that deadliest of winters, December 1944 into January 1945.  “We couldn’t build fires,” Ernie Leatherman of the 2nd Armored Division said.  “You lived just like a dog out in a snowstorm.  It was tough.  … It was one of the hardest times of my life.”

Ed Persons - 101st Airborne

“There were no fires,” Ed Persons, who served with the 101st Airborne Division, agreed.  “I still freeze to death in the wintertime.  … The one time, I was in a foxhole with a buddy.  We got cut-off and tried to get up and get out, but neither of us could walk.  It was that cold!  We lost so many guys to frostbite and trench foot.  So damn cold!

“We just didn’t have any winter clothes.  We’d take our shirts off and wrap newspaper around our upper bodies, then put our shirts back on.  Newspaper was a very good insulator.”

“As for proper clothing, we just didn’t have it, or not nearly enough of it,” 90th Infantry Division trooper, Hobert Winebrenner, explained.  “The army dropped the ball and GIs paid the price.  While on line, I remember shivering uncontrollably, hour after hour, day after day.

Hobert Winebrenner - 90th ID

“Our boots didn’t get the job done either.  … Continually buried in the snow, our feet were always wet.  I’d never seen so many black toes in all my life.  Frostbite and trench foot sent more GIs from the field than enemy bullets.

“There were instances when we actually cut up portions of our blankets and tied them with twine around our feet.  We wrapped paper, cardboard, whatever we could get our hands on, around our upper torsos as insulation.

“…Dysentery ran rampant.  In varying degrees, every man suffered from a cold or pneumonia.  We weren’t eating.  We weren’t sleeping.  Our minds and bodies were shutting down.  But still, we carried on.  I witnessed GIs stay on line, when they belonged in a hospital.  I saw men refuse to take their boots off because they knew they’d never get them back on again.

“The Bulge wasn’t about the American Flag or even God above.  It was about that guy beside you–that sorry shivering soldier, and those in the next foxhole, and so on, and so forth, down the line.  For me, they stuck it out.  For them, I refused to quit.  Bonds formed at the Bulge will never be broken.”

American casualties at the Battle of the Bulge topped 80,000 men.

11 Responses to “Battle of the Bulge … Winter”

  1. I just wanted to thank the operators of this website for the information and thank any of the WW ii veterans of the Bulge and other battles for helping us remain the land of the free. My Uncle was badly wounded at the Battle of the Bulge and never really recovered. My Dad was in the 90th division but I believe he was in aa hospital recovering from wounds and was not at the battle of the Bulge. I would be interested in hearing from any of you((wacobay@yahoo.com) who were in the 90th division as I am doing some writing on my Dad’s experience.

  2. Mannie Liscum says:

    I was just telling my oldest child (15) as we were walking home from playing in the snow yesterday about how men lived in holes in the ground in NW Europe in weather colder and snowier than we can experiencing in MO right now. And that they could never get warm, plus they we being shot at!!! Getting a little chill in your fingers and toes while standing around in the snow watching your kids play in the snow can really remind you how much some many gave to deliver freedom back to the world.

  3. mikemccoy says:

    Mannie,

    So true. When I used to visit Hobert Winebrenner in the wintertime, he’d look out his back kitchen window upon snow-covered fields and he’d say it always took him back to the Bulge, literally living in shallow-dug holes in the snow and cold. Like you, I love playing in it an hour at a time with the kids, but I just can’t imagine living out in it for a month straight.

  4. Joel Harrell says:

    I was only 9 at the time of the fighting in the Ardennes, but I do remember the news stories about it at that time. I could not appreciate then, the Hell that our fighting men were going through. I got a better idea from the movie “Battleground” that came out about 1950. Thank God for all those who fought there and elsewhere in that terrible war.

  5. mikemccoy says:

    Joel,

    Well said. I haven’t seen “Battleground”. I’ll have to check it out.

    • Joel Harrell says:

      Hello Mike,
      If you don’t find a copy of the movie “Battleground”, I have a VHS copy I made when the movie was on t.v. several years ago.

      • mikemccoy says:

        Joel,

        Thanks for the offer. Let me look into it first. Not sure I even have a functioning VCR anymore.

  6. Joel Harrell says:

    Very good. By the way, we have clear skies and 55 here in College Station, Texas today. I would have a tough time up North.

    • mikemccoy says:

      Joel,

      We got another five inches of fresh snow this morning, along with 25 mph winds. Thankfully the sun has come out and the thaw is on. At least until the next storm.

      • Joel Harrell says:

        Mike,

        “Battleground” was on Turner Classic Movies late yesterday afternoon. Black and white, but as good as the first time I saw it. Perhaps it will get a replay soon. I saw that you graduated from college in 1991. My son graduated from Texas A&M in 1991 as well. Best wishes.

  7. mikemccoy says:

    Joel,

    Missed it. I’ll try to look for it on the Internet.

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