Battle of the Bulge
Belgium was beastly cold in December of ’44.
Deep snow covered frozen ground as
shattered forests crackled and groaned
under the weight of ice.
We barely felt our feet,
even when we tried to warm them.
Frostbite was a constant threat.
The air was still; there was no wind.
Dense clouds covered the sky
and snowfall lent a misty haze
like falling fog.
We hoped for a quick end to the war
that Hitler had started but we meant to finish.
Since D-Day our army had pushed the Wehrmacht
steadily back toward the Rhine.
No one expected a German attack.
We were mostly untested recruits,
in a thin battle line in the forest.
poorly equipped for such cold weather,
In the distance one morning
we heard the rumble of tanks,
growing louder and closer.
The clanking tank treads told us
they were attacking through the mist.
We had to retreat or be captured or killed.
We stumbled back, dog tired,
hungry and cold to the bone,
stopping only to fire at advancing soldiers
and the huge Tiger tanks that led them.
We heard of massacres at Malmedy
and other places where the Germans
had murdered many American prisoners of war.
We were a little scared but mostly mad.
We vowed to avenge their deaths
by defeating those ruthless Huns.
We trudged on weary feet
over the snow and ice,
determined to hold on and not be captured.
If we needed fresh boots,
we could go to the battalion aid station
and get those left by wounded soldiers.
Some soldiers stayed behind
to blow up bridges and burn gasoline
that the Panzers desperately needed.
No planes could fly in pea soup skies.
We didn’t have air cover we’d had
since the Normandy beaches.
Artillery was hampered by poor visibility.
We hoped for clear days
when our pilots could fly again
and our big guns could be effective.
The tanks and soldiers kept coming.
We retreated to Bastogne,
a town of shattered houses
that might protect us
from bullets and the bitter cold.
There we could concentrate firepower,
maybe stop the German offensive.
The Germans demanded surrender.
Gen’ral McAuliff replied “Nuts,”
which confused both friend and foe.
Their artillery destroyed the town.
We held off the siege for a week,
our supplies dwindling day by day.
When patches of blue showed through clouds,
planes flew to our rescue,
dropping food, ammo and medicines.
German planes attacked our positions,
but Allied fighter planes challenged them
and downed some in dogfights whirling overhead.
Our planes attacked the Wehrmacht and broke the siege.
What a glorious sight are friendly planes
dispersing the army that had trapped us!
Accurate artillery and air cover turned the tide.
Jerry was crippled, never attacked again.
It was still cold but sunny, easier to endure
when we had food, our planes overhead,
artillery softening enemy positions
and we were advancing.
David F. Freeman
Assisted by Allen Evans, who fought in that battle.
He was awarded a Bronze Star and Croix de Guerre.