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Battle of the Bulge | Article

Interview: Bulge Veterans

National Archives

When producer Tom Lennon interviewed Bulge veterans for his American Experience documentary in the mid-1990s, he found many people who carried vivid memories of their wartime experiences. "Every time it snows or something, I'll think about those days during the Bulge," veteran Bart Hagerman told Lennon. "It brings back memories of the friends that I lost and the desperate feeling that we had in those days... it'll always be with me, I guess."

Veteran Bob Conroy said, "These memories are there a lot more vividly, even after 50 years, than probably what I did yesterday. I can tell you how deep the snow was. I can tell you the color of the snow and the blood the next morning. I know what equipment I had on. I know the words that we said. They stay with you."

Below, read accounts from both veterans and citizens.

Was in this battle from the begining, but luck ran out on Jan 17, 1945, it was cold, lots of snow and then "BOOM," both legs below knee were gone. Now 85 yrs old and doing well, but will never forget that winter.
Frank Mazzarisi
St Petersburg, FL

Our Infantry training regiment at Camp Robinson, Arkansas, was about halfway through its 17-week training cycle in late December, 1944, when we fell out for roll call one morning and half the men weren't there. We found out later that members of Companies A and B had been shipped to what became known as the Battle of the Bulge (presumably during the night). I was in D Company and we and C Company remained. We finished training and, because the European war was winding down by then, we all were sent to the Pacific theater, where I stayed for another 18 months, but fortunately missed combat.
Highland Park, IL

My father was captured in the Bulge Dec, 16. 1944 — the same day I was born. He was missing in action for about two years.

When he finally was freed by an invasion of the camp, he was less than 100 lbs. We had his funeral Dec. 21, 2002 with full honors. 21 guns, his flag and all. I never talked with him about the details of his bad times, but one was he and another GI would go out at night and steal pototoes and heat them on the stove so they would not starve — which they nerarly did. He did not live a normal life and spent time in Augusta Ga., Charleston. S.C., and Columbia, S.C. VA Hospitals. But I would not have wanted a better dad than mine! I want to do more reseach on his life in the Army. I miss him.
Walter B. Weatherly. jr
Greenville, SC

My grandfather fought in the bulge. I was very young when he died, about 7. I am not sure what the actual name of the division is — there is a lion on the patch. Maybe the 127th? I never had any idea until recently in my life, as to what my grandfather did while he was over there. I myself was stationed in western Germany as a tanker while serving. My grandfather was a P.O.W. in Stalag Luft IV B. The memory of my grandfather is very dear to me. Any men out there that can add to my knowledge about my grandfather would be forever appreciated in this endeavor.
Jeremy Charles Richardson
Houston, TX

My grandfather, who is still alive and kicking today, was in the 17th airborne at the Battle of the Bulge. For many years he would not talk about what he had seen there. I know he must have seen much death because he still, to this day, has war souvenirs that he removed from dead Nazi soldiers. Some of the few things he has told me corresponded very closely to some of the interviews that were conducted on your program "Battle of the Bulge" — such as taking friendly artillery fire. He also had to do many other desperate things to survive the war, like removing and wearing special winter clothing off of dead Nazi soldiers. He also mentioned the fact that he was unhappy with his originally issued rifle (I think was a M1 Carbine), and through the attrition of dead American soldiers he eventually wound up with a Thompson .45-caliber automatic machine gun and a Browning 12-gauge shot gun. I think my grandfather was suffering, in silence, for many years the shock and amazement of surviving the Battle of the Bulge.
Las Vegas, NV

My father's older brother John "Jack" Robinson was involved in the first four days of the Battle of the Bulge. Jack Robinson was a sniper in the 422 Brigade of the 106th Fighting Lions Division. His unit was under an extremely heavy artillery assault at 5:30 am December 16, 1944. His brigade was the 422nd which was located between the 14th Calvary to the north and the 423rd Brigade located to the south. The Germans exploited the region occupied by the 14th Calvary which was the Loesmann Gap. The net effect of the German pincer moves isolated the 422nd and 423rd Brigades on the mountain called Ein Schieffelor Snow Mountain. His brigade attempted to counter-attack and escape the encircling move, but were not properly equipped and ran out of ammunition -- in particular, bazooka ammo. They had several skirmishes with the Germans but were forced to surrender about 4:30 pm December 19, 1944 when all ammunition was gone. (15,000 to 20,000) men of the 422nd were taken prisoner and began a long, twelve-day walk to German prisoner camps. John Robinson died of starvation and exposure on March 15, 1945. Based on those who survived the death prisons the survivors reported the prisoners got about 300 calories of bread per day. This German stavation diet was the demise of my father's brother. Please realize the Battle of the Bulge continued until these prisoners were liberated in May of 1945. My uncle's body did not return to the United States until August of 1950 due to Stalinist blackmail tactics.
Stephen D. Robinson (Would have been a nephew of John "Jack" Robinson)
Largo, FL

My dad, who passed away in 1990, was with the 28th Infantry. He fired one of those cannon-like guns. Dad spoke little of his time there (Dec.1944 through the duration). He really never cared to get the 3 Bronze Stars which I found out he was awarded. He told me enough to know that he had faced some very hard times in war, and I was always proud of him. I am 50 now. I have his uniform. I miss my dad now, and your show brings him close to mind. God Bless the people who were all around him there and when he came home. God Bless America. I feel very fortunate to live in this country where I have been surrounded by many unsung heros.
Vernon Swygert
Stockbridge, GA

Infantryman survivor. 84th Inf. Div. 333 rd. Company I (mine clearing) with the Division since La. training — thru to the Elbe. In tears — from the film this evening — things I forgot and now reminded. Even my children never knew -- I could not tell.
Irwin L. Firschein

On Dec. 19th, 1944 I was a Hitler Youth member. My mother & I had travelled a few weeks earlier to her hometown of Wiltz in northern Luxembourg. We got caught in the Battle of the Bulge while we where there. We were staying with a friend in town during that time. On Dec 19th, my schoolfriend Felix and I watched a column of German tanks descending into town from the Erpeldange Road, attempting to cross the Wiltz River Bridge. The bridge was defended by a platoon of GIs with 2 machine guns & a mortar. During the fight, 2 GIs were wounded & one was killed. One of the wounded was named Odis White as he was quartered in our friend's house. Before the Germans occupied the town, Pvt. White was brought into the house for treatment and then taken to Bastogne on a halftrack. The rest of the GIs left town shortly afterwards. By some strange co-incidence, last year 2001, on the computer, I met Pvt. White's son who lives in Texas. His father had died 2 years previously and had never told him how he was wounded. Well, I told him the whole story and the newspaper confirmed this. To tell it all, would take too many pages but, what a strange world? Now if you ask, yes, I was born in Germany and came to the US in 1995.
Wilhelm Gehlen
Johnson City, TN

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