Bulge Memories


                              T/Sgt. Chris Christensen

                       Co. G 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment

                               82nd Airborne Division


         This story will begin Dec. 16,1944, while not over in the Ardennes where the

         Battle of the Bulge had just begun, but in England. Here some of us troopers who

         had been wounded in Holland (Market Garden) had been evacuated to. On my

         release from the hospital where I had been treated, I would return back to Quorn,

         where part of our rear echelon still were. The main body of the 505P1R had by

         now been relieved after continuous fighting in Holland (63 days). They would now

         be quartered at Suippes, France, in Army Reserve.


         The next day being a Sunday and with the day off, I had ventured out into town to

         visit my favorite pub. Here I hadn’t much more than got settled in when some 505

         officer enters with the instructions that all passes had been canceled and to

         report back to camp. Here we were told to get packed, as we would be moving

         out that evening.


         Later about 50 of us veterans along with about the same number of rear echelon

         service troops would take a train down to Southampton. There we would board a

         LCT (Landing Craft Tank) for our journey across the channel. From there we

         would be trucked down to Suippes. About now we would being hearing some

         rumors about the German break through. On arriving at the camp it was only to

         find the regiment had pulled out a couple of days prior, heading for the Ardennes.

         None of us had any equipment, so the rest of the day and into the night was

         spent being resupplied from the meager supplies available.


         Early the next morning would find us boarding trucks again and heading out to

         rejoin our regiment, Much later in the day we would finally reach our destination

         where we would be split up and would join our companies.


         On reporting in to my company where I was a Squad Leader (S/Sgt) I was finally

         able to find out what was happening. It seemed the Germans had mounted a

         huge offensive along a broad front in this lightly defended area. The 505 would

         be in a defensive position and dug in along the Salm River. G Company had the

         responsibility of guarding the bridge separating Petite and Grand Hallaux. No

         way was this small wooden bridge to fall intact into the enemies hands. Of course

         these two villages were also our responsibility also if possible. The entire

         regiment would be stretched out very thin. Mostly where it was thought the

         enemy might be crossing were we able to guard.


         The deployment of the company would be, one platoon across the river in Grand

         Halleux with an outpost further up the hill, in the outskirts of town on the road

         leading toward Wanne. The other two platoons would be dug in on the Petite side

         of the river. As a safeguard, some of the 307 Engineers had placed charges to

         blow the bridge. On taking over my squad, I would find it dug in a line running

         parallel and about 50 yards above the railroad leaving town. Further back up the

         hill would be the mortar squad and off to the left would be an machine gun

         section from the 3rd Battalion Hdq. Co. Also attached to the company would be a

         TD (tank destroyer) set up to fire down the road and over into Grand Halleux if

         the enemy got this far.


         The Salm River, although narrow and shallow was a natural barrier for bath tanks

         and vehicular traffic with its steep banks and questionable ground being solid

         enough to support the weight. Furthermore, most roads somewhere would be

         going through dense forests, so to move the Germans would have to control the



         For the next couple of days things were relatively quiet. You could hear the big

         guns in the distance and at night the muzzle flashes. These you could see were

         moving ever closer to your position, also when you began hearing small arms

         fire, you knew Jerry wasn’t to far off.


         A little after dark on the night of Dec 23-24 we begin to take a few small caliber

         mortar shells into our position. This is telling me a couple of things. He knows

         where we are dug in and that infantry is close by and get ready as an attack is

         about to happen.


         Shortly afterward this shelling would let up and there can be heard rifle fire in the

         vicinity of where our outpost is. When only Jerry’s weapons can be heard, you

         knew the outpost had been overrun.


         Earlier in the day I have reminded my squad about our troops across the river

         over in Grand Halleux, so don’t fire until I give the signal. About now it is hard to

         withhold your firing as Jerry has made a charge into town as you can tell by the

         intense firing and them screaming to the top of their lungs as they advanced.

         They were out to take this bridge at all costs. While all this was going on we

         were still holding our fire until by prearranged plans the platoon in Grand Halleux

         would pull back across the river. When the bridge was blown, it was the signal to

         open up. The ones who hadn’t made it back by now probably wouldn’t be

         coming. When we finally opened up, I think everything started firing at the same

         time. I had never seen anything before or after that could equal such a

         concentrated wall of fire that we laid down on them that evening. There was fire

         coming from support groups I wasn’t even aware we had. After awhile the firing

         stopped almost as quickly as it had started. At this time there was a hush that

         fell over the valley that was real eerie. There wasn’t a sound from either side for

         a few moments. When the silence was broken you could hear them screaming in

         pain, begging for help, moaning, pleading, some I even remember cussing us in

         English. We must have massacred them. I can’t believe Jerry would make such

         stupid mistakes as he has made tonight. Over the years, I have given this a lot

        of thought and the only solution I have come up with was, he thought he was

         facing some green troops and this would scare them into breaking and running.


         Shortly after the fighting had stopped, I was given orders to move my squad out

         of my present position and set up a defensive line between the railroad track and

         the river running parallel in between. I had the men dig in about 50 foot apart

         and I stayed in the center with my assistant down on the far end. We hadn’t

         much more than got dug in when our artillery starts shelling. Luckily this doesn’t

         last too long as I am not too sure we aren’t getting as much as Jerry. Anyway,

         things quieted down for the rest of the night. You can still hear them on the other

         side of the river tending to their wounded and carting them out. A lot of vehicular

         traffic also. In this present position, it feels like you can darn near reach out and

         touch them. To make things more eerie, there is now a fog beginning to settle in.

         I can’t see much, but sound sure travels. All night I am thinking about this

         exposed position and the trouble we will be in come daylight, but I am sure we

         will be pulled out before then. As things start to get a little lighter, I begin to get

         concerned. The Jerry’s on the hill at Grand Halleux are going to be looking right

         down our throat. If not picking us off, he could at least keep us pinned down.

         The fog is beginning to lift and I realize it is now or never. I send word, passing it

         down the line from man to man for them to stay down. I am going to try and

         break out and get help. My hope is Jerry will get caught napping. My luck runs

         out just about two thirds the way from where there is some cover. One guy

         opens up on me, but his aim is off and I am able to jump in a hole with one of my

         men who is dug in there. I stay here in this position as long as I dare and I try to

         make it the rest of the way. Either luck was with me or he was a bad shot,

         because I made it to cover without getting hit.


         Alex Jones in the next hole sees me make it out, so he tries the same stunt. He

         doesn’t go ten steps before he is hit and is down. I crawl back as close as my

         cover allows and call out to him. Getting no response, I do not know if he is alive

         or dead. About this time I look over to the railroad embankment and I see one of

         our medics “Chris Perry” standing on top holding a Red Cross Flag. One man

         starts firing at him, but his aim is off and the bullets kick up dust at Chris’s feet.

         He stands perfectly still and the guy quits firing. Chris then walks down off the

         embankment and over to Jones. He rolls him over and patches him up. He then

         precedes to get Jones to his feet and helps him off the field into the house where

         the platoon C.P. is. I can’t believe the Germans letting him get away with this. I

         suppose we let them get their wounded out last night, so maybe they were

         returning the favor. About this time I made it up to the C.P. Col. Kaiser, the

         battalion commander is on his way. He no more than comes in when he sees

         and understands my predicament. He will call in some smoke. I was told to go

         back and alert the men what to expect and to get ready. I hadn’t much more

         then gotten back when I could hear the shells coming. It was a perfect drop.

         Anyway, that was the night of the 23rd and morning of the 24th “Christmas Eve.”

        After the last ordeal, we would move back to our original positions. Nobody had

         slept last evening, so most were catching a few winks. All day there had been

         rumors circulating that we are pulling back that night. This I do not pay much

         attention to. Anyway, this one proves true. The company is to pull out very

         quietly at midnight so as not to alert Jerry and move to a new position. In fact the

         entire regiment is pulling back. It seems the whole front in our area is over

         extended. A short time later I get called down to the C.P. and am given some

         special instructions. After dark I am to move my squad back to the position we

         had just gotten out of this AM. Furthermore, when the company moves out at

         midnight, we are to stay until 5 o’clock the next morning, acting as the rearguard

         for the company. I was also briefed on where we were to meet the next day. On

         returning to my squad, I got them all together and explained everything I knew,

         putting special emphasis on where the company would be and how to get there

         in case we become separated.


         That evening about 8 o’clock or so, we resumed our positions down by the river

         for what we knew was going to be a long night. On schedule at midnight you

         could hear the company pulling out. I immediately changed things around. One

         man I pulled out of line and placed on the street in front of the house where the

         platoon C.P. was. I didn’t want any surprises coming from that direction. I

         moved out in back of the C.P. From here I thought I could control things better. I

         knew in my mind if we got hit down here that I would pull them back to our old

         positions. There I thought we could hold them off for awhile at least. Down here

         we wouldn’t last five minutes.


         The company had been gone only an hour or so when I started hearing heavy

         firing from the direction they would be traveling. From the sound of things this

         did not sound like an isolated pocket of the enemy either. This went on for

         awhile and then finally faded out. There was also big guns firing, which seems

         from every direction. My position remained quiet though until about 3:AM when

         one of my men came up and told me he had just heard Jerry crossing the river

         just below him. On further questioning, he said it was only a small group, so I

         knew it could only be a reconnaissance patrol. This I knew wouldn’t give us any

         trouble unless they turned around and came back into the town from the other

         end and found it empty. I knew Jerry would then move in and occupy it. I hoped

         they would wait until after daylight, as we would be long gone. The rest of the

         night proved uneventful. Promptly at 5 AM we vacated our positions and started

         out. I had already briefed the men to stay well spread out and we would be

         moving at a brisk pace, also we would stay on the road. Up until now I don’t

         remember any snow, but the weather is getting colder. It must have rained or

         hailed sometime during the night, because the road in places was icy. Along this

         route I felt at anytime we would be ambushed, but we lucked out. It was sure a

         welcome relief when I pulled into the new position where the company was now

         dug in. I reported to my C.0. Capt. lsaacs and the first thing he said when he

         saw me was “I didn’t expect to see you again.” The Germans the battalion had

         encountered last night he thought I would run into this morning. “Pleasant



         In this new position we were dug in on the forward slope of a high hill. One of the

         things that stands out in my mind were the Buzz Bombs. I had seen them

         before, but never this many or so low. At times it seems they are barely clearing

         the top of the hill. Around this time my platoon sergeant and very good friend,

         Andy Piriak was killed. He and I went back a long way. Like myself, he was one

         of the original group. There are very few of us left in the 505 anymore. After

         Andy’s death, I would take over his job as Platoon Sergeant.


         Up until about now the weather hasn’t been all that bad, but things are beginning

         to make a turn for the worst. It would be later said that this was the worst winter

         the Ardennes had seen in 40 years. Most days the temperature hovered around

         freezing and at night dropping to zero and below F. At times the snow was so

         deep that both 4 wheel drive and track vehicles had trouble maneuvering. The

         weather coupled with the enemy made it a very unpleasant place to be,

         especially for the infantry who were exposed to it 24 hours a day. Our army is

         made up of about 6 to 8% infantry, but This small percentage of men suffers

         about 70-80% of all casualties.


         Before preceding further, I will attempt to familiarize you with the T.O. “Table of

         Organization” of a parachute regiment. A, B, C companies, 1st Battalion. D, E, F companies,

         2nd Battalion. G, H, I companies 3rd Battalion. These will all be light rifle companies. Also each battalion

         will have a Headquarters company. There will also be a Regimental, Headquarters company and a

         Service Company. The T.O. of these 142 men companies will be, 3 platoons plus

         Company Headquarters. Three squads make up a platoon. I was in the 3rd platoon of G Company.


         On January 3rd the entire front will go over on the offensive, erasing The Bulge.

         Occasionally I will refer to The book “Ready” for dates and locations.


         Again the weather will play a big part in this attack. With the heavy snow already

         on the ground and what is expected, we are told to leave behind our musette

         bags, plus our overcoats. This is to facilitate faster movement. These were to be

         brought up to us that evening.


         Our battalion line of attack was I Co on the left, H Co on the right and Company

         G will be in reserve. G-2 “Regimental Intelligence” has reported that we will be

         facing light opposition. “Volksgrendier troops.” In front of I Company is the small

         village of Fosse. They will get the honor of taking it. S-2 also reports that it is

         lightly held by less than a platoon.


         Prior to taking off, our artillery lays down a barrage, but a lot of this falls short and

         drops in on our troops. I Company has one or two men killed plus some

         wounded. I don’t remember if H or G Companies received any casualties from

         this S.N.A.F.U. or not.


        After this shaky start and the artillery lifting it’s fire, we get started again,

         incidentally this is a bad luck day for I Company. They no more than move out of

         the woods in their attack on Fosse, when they realize they have walked into a

         hornets nest. A solid wall of fire greets them. In a very short time all their

         officers have been killed or wounded, plus two thirds of the men are casualties.

         It soon becomes apparent that this area is more heavily defended then originally

         reported. Also Jerry is firmly entrenched in these stone houses with ample

         mortar and artillery support from the rear. Again our artillery gives this area a

         thorough pounding. We then push through and overrun their positions. It was

         later determined that Jerry had a reinforced company dug in here. So much for

         intelligence reports.


         Leaving I Co. to defend Posse, both G and H Company move out to reach our

         first phase line for the day. This is tough going, wading through the snow and

         Jerry reluctant to give up any ground. Anyway we finally reach our objective after

         dark and are told to dig in. Our sleeping bags and other things we had dropped

         off that A.M. would not be brought up. Right then you knew you were in for a

         miserable night. To keep from freezing we would dig a hole large enough to

         accommodate two or three men. We would then line the bottom with brush that

         we would cut off of fir trees. This would help keep the cold from the frozen earth

         penetrating through your body. We would then get in together to share each

         others body heat. We would then have some evergreen branches which we

         would pull up over us. During all this digging in, cutting the branches, etc, you

         had worked up a sweat. You can imagine how this felt after you started to cool

         off. This freezing sleepless night may best be described as a “Night of Hell.”


         To sum up this first day, I will refer to the book “Ready” Quote: The final official

         count of prisoners taken by the regiment that day was 382 and the softly falling

         snow was hiding from sight a probable equivalent number of German dead. It

         also states, in taking these positions, the 505 was destined to suffer more

         casualties on this one day than in any other single day in its combat history.


         January 4th dawned much the same as the previous day. Overcast, cold and you

         knew more snow was on the way. Without any prior warning we are told to get

         ready we are moving out. Any other time this would have started some griping,

         but today this was a welcome relief. Maybe you could get thawed out. Like

         myself, I knew most of the men had spent a freezing sleepless night. Frost bitten

         feet was your main concern. Some of the men were already limping and

         complaining about their feet feeling numb. We were not dressed for this kind of



         Getting back to the fighting, the opposition is much lighter today. We now have

         Jerry on the run and we will continue to keep pressure on him until we reach our

         final phase line. We don’t want to give him a chance to regroup and dig in.


         On the first day of the offensive, the 1st and 3rd battalions encountered the stiffest

         opposition. On the second day, the 2nd battalion got their turn. They ran into

         much the same trouble the other two battalions had encountered the day before


         This day we reached our second phase line early and was told to dig in. This

         was as far as we would be going today. We were getting too far ahead of the

         units on our flanks. As it was still daylight, we were able to light off small twig

         fires to melt some snow for water to make some coffee and eat a K ration. Water

         in our canteens was frozen solid. When we dropped off our equipment we were

         told to bring along two K rations. One I ate yesterday on the move and now the

         last one. I don’t have to worry about overeating. The real slap in the face was

         when we were told our equipment would not be brought up again today. You

         knew you were in for another freezing and sleepless night.


         January 5th started off much the same as the previous day. Everyone grumbling

         about how cold and stiff they are. Sometime during the night a jeep made it

         through and brought us up some much needed ammo and K rations.


         The weather to me is a bigger factor than the enemy. The latter you can cope

         with, but wading through the snow sure takes something out of you. You don’t

         go very far before you are beat. Now we are down to about half strength, but are

         still lugging all our weapons and ammo which we would be carrying if we were

         still at full strength. We still are packing a lot of fire power. The resistance is

         slacking off.


         Again this day we reach our phase line early, which gave us a chance to dig in

         and get something to eat before dark. The engineers have finally bulldozed a

         trail through the woods and our overcoats, sleeping bag and packs were brought

         up. I don’t think the men could have survived another night without them. The

         G.l. sleeping bag is not the best, but it is better than nothing.


         The next few days until we reached our final objective at the Satin River were

         much the same as before. The German resistance was much tighter. Still a lot

         of artillery and the enemy who were found were in widely scattered pockets.


         The final official count of prisoners of war taken for the period of January 3rd-10th

         inclusive was 987 and it was estimated they had at least as many dead and

         wounded. About 50j% of our regiment were casualties. Half of these were

         enemy inflicted and the rest were non-combat losses. Frostbite for the most

         part. If we had the proper footwear and clothing, a lot of this would have been



         On January 11th we were relieved by the 75th Division and trucked over to Theux,

         Belgium for a much needed rest Here for the first time in the history of the

         regiment, we were to be billeted in civilian homes. I was given two houses for my

         platoon. We were a bit crowded as there were only one or two rooms in each

         house that would be heated. In the kitchen, you could depend on a big wood

         burning cook stove. Our house also had a potbelly stove in the dining room.

         Incidentally, there were no complaints at all about the crowded conditions. We

         just spread our sleeping bags out on the floor and sacked out with a contented

         smile on our faces. After what we had just left, this was heaven. Also the cooks

         had set up a mess in a schoolhouse. We were to be fed three meals a day. The

         last hot meal I had was back in England on Dec 17th Also I think I had slept

         inside twice since then.


         On the morning of January 26th, I received orders to have my platoon outside, formed

         up and ready to move out that afternoon. We would be leaving for good. At the

         designated time I was loading the men on the trucks that were waiting to haul us

         out, when I happened to see the wife standing on the sidewalk. Before I got on

         myself, I went over to thank her and say goodbye. She burst out in tears, also

         she was desperately trying to tell me something. I always was sorry that I could

         not understand what she was saying. Regretfully I never got back to Theux

         again. Incidentally I have never met any nicer people anywhere.


         Our next mission was in the heavily forested Omer Wald section. The location

         was N.W. of St Vith and was virtually a trackless snowbound area, being

         practically impassable for most vehicular traffic. Here we were to clean out this

         area and push through to the German border. Moving through here was

         unbelievably slow. Not so much the enemy as the terrain and the deep snow.


         Since moving into Theux, until now I think the temperature during the day was

         warming up. You would think this would be a welcome relief, but it was just the

         opposite. The snow on the surface would begin to melt and walking through it,

         your pants from the crotch down would become soaking wet. Couple this with

         the sweat you would work up wading through the snow, it was anything but

         pleasant. You can imagine what this would be like when the sun went down and

         things started to freeze again. It made for another miserable night.


         The platoon strength was steady dwindling. I don’t think I had over about 10 or

         12 able bodied men left, so all duties regardless of rank we were sharing. The

         worst position was the point, he would be the one breaking the trail. Under these

         conditions, this was very exhausting plus very dangerous. If the enemy, while

         retreating wanted to slow your advance down, this was the man he would pick

         off. Anyway, I took the first shift our front. We are moving down this firebreak

         and I am about a hundred yards or so out in front when I come to this

         intersection. As I was approaching very cautiously, I glance to my right and there

         is this German sitting There. A more gruesome sight you can’t imagine. He is

         sitting with both arms extended, but missing his head. Along side of him was a

         blacken area where a shell had exploded. I figured this shell had taken his head

         off. Then he fell to the ground and rigormortls set in and brought him to that

         position. I remember I did not stay around to investigate.


        The next day we were in a night attack and my platoon would be rear guard. It

         was a full moon and with it shining on the snow, it was as bright as day. We

         were following a trail just inside the tree line, when I see a group of soldiers

         coming down the trail. I couldn’t make out if they were G.l.’s or Krauts, so I

         stopped and waited. Sure enough it was a Jerry patrol of about a dozen men. At

         point blank range we opened up on them. It is safe to say we never had to

         contend with them again.


         Another night we are moving along this trail in single file and this time we are out

         in front. There were about 10 or 12 men behind the leader following in the same

         path when comes this loud explosion. You knew somebody had stepped on a

         mine. This brings everyone to a halt as it is highly unlikely Jerry would have

         planted just one mine. Most likely we were standing in the middle of a mine field.

         You also knew that this field would have to been sewed before the snow began

         falling. Furthermore, I feel what saved us was the snow acting as a cushion.

         These Schu mines you would have to step directly on before they would

         detonate. We preceded gingerly on through without anymore mishaps. The man

         who stepped on the mine had his foot blown off. He survived this ordeal and now

         resides in Richmond, Va. We keep in touch.


         The next morning we take off again advancing down through this clearing.

         Directly in front of us is this giant size, well concealed camouflaged concrete

         pillbox. You knew you had reached the German border and was now entering

         the dreaded Seigfried Line. These pillboxes we found to be heavily manned and

         had fire lanes cut where one pillbox supported the next. Before the day was out

         our company was credited with knocking out 4 or 5 of these. This was not done

         without paying a price, as we are now down to about one third strength. At this

         time you can see that the German soldier is putting up a much weaker resistance

         than he had just a few weeks prior. No reason he should have surrendered even

         the first pillbox. There we took about 50 prisoners who were well protected and

         armed. At this time we were well under strength and out of ammo. I had one clip

         left (8 rounds.) The heaviest thing we were carrying was the bazooka and this

         wouldn’t even chip the paint. This is not the German soldier we had been

         fighting since we landed in Sicily back in July 43. For the most part we found him

         to be a tough opponent.


         The next day, February 4~, we would be relieved. Officially this costly campaign was

         to have ended on January 28th”. This would be the largest battle the American Army

         had ever fought in. When Hitler kicked off this large scale offensive on a 60 mile

         front, we had only three infantry divisions and one armored division to protect this front.

         Before it ended there would eventually be 600,000 men involved. We would

         suffer about 81,000 casualties of whom 19,000 were killed. The Germans were

         to have employed close to 500,000 men and lost at least 100,000 killed,

         wounded or captured.


         There has been much resentment during and after the war from many G.l’s about

         only one division getting all the credit for winning this campaign. I will not dwell

         on it as Al Langdon in “Ready” has best described it. Quote: Much publicity was

         given then (and since) to the 101st Airborne Division’s gallant stand at Bastogne

         and deservedly so, but it reached the stage where Bastogne became the symbol

         of the defeat of the Germans in the “Battle of the Bulge.” A surrounded unit is

         always a newsworthy object and newspaper editors eager to find any kind of

         good news in the midst of numerous set-backs, seized upon Bastogne and thus it

         got most if not all the headlines and the symbolism. However, the facts speak for



         Bastogne was neither astride the main route of the projected advance of the

         German armies to Antwerp, nor the key to the defeat of the Germans in the

         Ardennes. When General Manteuffel failed to capture it easily, he bypassed it

         and continued onto the west as ordered. The big battles for Bastogne occurred

         after December 26th, by which time Patton’s Third Army had reached it, and only

         because Hitler wanted it taken as a prestige object in the face of his numerous

         set-backs elsewhere. By that time he and his generals had given up all hope of

         reaching Antwerp.


         The thing that defeated the Germans more than anything else, was the

         unyielding defense put up by American Divisions on the northern shoulder.

         When General Dietrich’s Sixth Panzer Army, which had the primary mission of

         reaching Antwerp was stopped cold, it so upset the German armies timetable

         that thereafter the attack was doomed to failure. Certainly the 82nd Airborne

         Division can take its fair share of the glory for stemming that advance, but it was

         only one of eight American divisions involved initially, and others soon joined the

         battle. It was a joint effort and a magnificent feat of Americans and American

         arms that defeated the Germans in the Ardennes and not one lone division in

         one small city.




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