Paratroopers of the 80th AA Battalion

This page is dedicated to 2nd Lt. Bill Fuller

The following is his account of an eventful evening during the Battle of the Bulge

Commissioned in "ack-ack" in December, 1943, "shanghied" into the Infantry in March, 1944, overseas orders in September, 1944, recruited by the 82nd Airborne "All American" Division in England, parachute training and then to France where I was given command of a platoon of "good olí southern boys" who had seen plenty of action in Africa, Sicily, Italy, Normandy, and Holland. Needless to say, this became a learning time for me, as a 21 year old Second Louey, and by their standards, still wet behind the ears. Now that you all have the "lead-in," letís get on with my first night in combat.

At 0130 hrs, December 18, 1944, we were alerted for a move to Belgium. This was to become "The Battle of the Bulge." Upon arriving after dark in the town of Werbomont, I was ordered to take my platoon of 4 squads, each manning a .50 caliber air-cooled machine gun on ground mounts, (similar to a heavy weapons platoon), and to set-up defensive positions on a dirt road, overlooking a large valley to the east. It was a very dark night with heavy fog. The fog banks were being lit-up by the constant firing of many tanks, ours and theirs, rumbling around down there in the valley. How they knew what or at whom they were firing I havenít the foggiest. Turning off the paved road onto the dirt road which I was quite certain was our assigned area, we were soon stopped by an infantryman (paratrooper) who after the required passwords, etc., informed me that to proceed was into "no-mans land." I told him that I had my orders, so we drove on. About 300 yards further, traveling with "catís-eye" blackout lights on our vehicles, we were stopped by another infantryman (paratrooper) who was wide-eyed and informed me that we had just come through "no-mans land." I told him of my previous conversation ten minutes earlier, and realized that our proposed machine gun positions were to be set-up between these two infantry units. We back Ėtracked, unloaded our guns and equipment and I instructed my platoon sergeant (Staff Sgt Ananias Lay) to hold up on digging-in until I returned to battalion HQ to confirm that this was our true assigned position.

After confirming that we were in the right place, my driver and I headed back to my platoon. Unfortunately, we missed the turn for the dirt road. Keep in mind, in was darker than H___, and fog so thick you could cut it and we could only use the jeeps black-out lights. Finally, realizing that we had overshot our turn, we stopped to consider our options. Then we heard the unmistakable sound of an approaching tank. There wasnít room on this narrow paved road for both vehicles, so I told my driver to back off the road into the brush so as to let the tank go on through. Much to our amazement, as the tank went past, painted in white on its' side was a German cross. The two of us, armed only with a pistol and a carbine, a radio and lost, there was nothing to do but wait until it had disappeared in the fog. I briefly considered radioing HQ, but how could I explain where we were and where the tank was? Not wishing to follow the apparently lost tank, we continued in the other direction. Finally, hopelessly disoriented, took shelter in a barn near the road, curled up in some strewn hay and fell asleep. Upon awakening a few hours later, to my amazement we had shared our "sleeping quarters" with approximately 20 other friendly (thank God) troopers, also, presumed lost. The fog having cleared somewhat with the breaking daylight, we back-tracked , found the dirt road and rejoined my platoon. To this day, I donít know whether my platoon sergeant ever believed our story.

(Lt. Colonel Fuller earned three battle campaign stars in WWII, four battle campaign stars in Korea (Ď51-í52), and after 23 years active service retired at Homestead AFB, FL as the Exec Officer of the NIKE Hercules Air Defense Missile Group.)

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