Volume VI [NEWEST TITLE]: The Bulge And Beyond—The Things Our Fathers Saw [2020]

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~RELEASED NOVEMBER 2020~

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EBOOKS CAN BE FOUND HERE.

 

In THE BULGE AND BEYOND, you will be with the soldiers going into the heart of the bloodiest single battle fought by the US Army in American history, the so-called 'Battle of the Bulge'.


You will be with them as they sense the fear of the unknown, the crush of impending doom, the scale of being among the columns of young, tired men slogging into a forest, medieval and dark, with the complete inability to ever get warm again.

19,000 American GIs never saw their mothers again.


— “Hell came in like a freight train. I heard an explosion and went back to where my friend was. His legs were blown off-he bled to death in my arms.”


This is the sixth book in the masterful WWII oral history series, but you can read them in any order.

It's time to listen to them. REMEMBER how a generation of young Americans truly saved the world. 

THE THINGS OUR FATHERS SAW VI:
THE BULGE AND BEYOND
TABLE OF CONTENTS


AUTHOR’S NOTE 9
THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE 17
PART ONE: THE FOREST 
THE REPLACEMENT 23
The Hürtgen Forest 23
Replacement, 4th Infantry Division 26
‘This Is It’ 28
‘Made It Through Four Campaigns’ 32
THE RIFLEMAN 35
Inland 37
Mortain 37
The Cold 40
THE REPLACEMENT RUNNER 43
Great Britain 46
Medals 47
Experience 49
The 28th Infantry Division 50
Paris 51
‘We'll be Home for Christmas’ 52
The Forest 53
‘Say Hello to Hitler!’ 54
Private Eddie Slovik 56
The Replacement System 58
‘They Made Them Go Back’ 59
THE SCOUT 67
College Man to Rifleman 70
The Repo Depot 71
‘Combat Team’ 77
The Minefield 78
‘Don’t Leave Us Here’ 80
Evacuation 82
Rocket Science 86
Payback 87
PART TWO: MALMÉDY 
MEN OF OLD HICKORY 91
The Battle of the Ardennes: Malmédy, Belgium 97
The Attack 98
Axis Sally Reports 100
Malmédy 101
Pfc. Francis S. Currey, MOH 104
‘The 9th U.S. Luftwaffe’ 105
T/Sgt. Paul Bolden, MOH 108
THE SERGEANT 111
Overseas 114
Digging In 118
Replacements 119
The Accident 124
Weapons 125
The Prisoners 127
Across the Rhine 128
PART THREE: GUESTS OF THE REICH 
THE ARTILLERY SPOTTER 133
Canada 135
Field Artillery Spotting 136
The Last Mission 138
The Stalag 143
Liberated by the Russians 145
‘I Just Couldn't Believe What I Saw’ 146
Home 149
‘I Had to Get On’ 152
THE GLIDER PARATROOPER 155
The Glider Crash 158
The Battle of the Bulge 161
The Country Sharpshooter 163
Surrender 164
Alone 167
Slave Labor 168
‘Smart for Self-Preservation’ 169
Collapse 169
Liberation at Bad Orb 170
The Spoon 171
THE SURVIVOR 175
Shipping Out 178
The Suicide 180
‘An Awful Racket’ 181
Tiger Tanks 182
Wounded and Captured 183
Strafed 185
The Estate 187
The Gauleiter 189
On The Move 189
Going Home 193
A Survivor 195
THE ESCAPEE 197
The Hürtgen Forest 199
The Battle of the Bulge 200
‘We Just Cheered’ 202
Captured 203
Wounded 204
Interrogation 207
The First Escape 208
The Second Escape 211
‘We Are Going to Execute Them’ 212
Strafed 213
Slave Labor 214
The Last Escape 215
Home 218
Antisemitism 219
The Saddest Thing 220
BERGA 223
The Whiz Kids 226
‘The First Scout is a Target’ 228
‘Not me, Howard. I'm Jewish!’ 230
Interrogation 233
Bad Orb 235
‘Step Forward’ 236
Berga 238
The Germans’ ‘Final Solution’ 239
Slave Labor 241
The Death March 243
‘My Bittersweet Day’ 249
‘Justice’ 252
‘They Thought We Were All Dead’ 253
THE INTERPRETER 257
Growing Up 258
‘All Safe ‘Til Peace’ 260
‘We’ve Got Company’ 263
Captured 264
The Work Detail 269
The Prisoner Who Lost His Mind 269
Interpreting for the Germans 270
The Work Strike 273
The Captives Become the Lords 275
Free 277
Home 278
My Enemy is My Friend 279
EPILOGUE: “YOUTH” 
ABOUT THIS BOOK/ ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 303
NOTES 305


~AN EXCERPT~

Author’s Note

I had no idea where I was, or why I was fighting, or where I was fightingI had no idea. All I knew was that they'd tell me to go here, and I'd go there. And they'd say shoot, do this, do that. I knew my lieutenant, and I knew my sergeant. I didn't know who the commanders were. You don't know one day to the next. We had the saying that if a bullet’s got your name on it, it's going to get you. And you just never knew; it was just luck and chance.

― Infantryman, 4th Infantry Division

 

As is my nature, and as I suppose is the nature of all writers of history, I started this book with a lot of questions.

How does one write a new book around the Battle of the Bulge, when there are so many good books on the subject out there? How does one even begin to make sense of a battle where over a million soldiers were committed to fight—a battle, like many, where incompetence and ‘uncommon valor’ existed side-by side? How does the author do justice to the memory of the nineteen thousand American GIs who never saw their mothers again? How does one attempt to tell the story of the tens of thousands more who staggered or were carried out of the aftermath with the physical and mental wounds that would afflict them for the rest of their days? Of those men forced into captivity and slave labor?

It’s a daunting task. But like all of my books, I have chosen to thread a narrative by letting the soldiers speak for themselves. If you are looking for an hour-by-hour account on the strategic, operational, tactical, and technical aspects of the Battle of the Bulge, I did not write that book, and you can do better elsewhere. I hope the narrative flow serves up enough of the above to keep the reader engaged in a chronological and contextual ‘big picture’ fashion, keeping in mind that in most cases the common soldier had no idea what was happening around him. I just wanted to talk to the men who were there, and that is what I share with you—their words.

In sorting through the stories as another worldwide crisis unfolds, I am confident that we need them now more than ever before. For as long as I can remember, I wanted to know: how did these young people, thrust into a world of unknown and uncertainty, handle the most cataclysmic event in the history of the world? How did the American soldier—like my late friend, scrawny orphan and replacement GI Francis Currey, MOH—average age just nineteen, cope with being thousands of miles away from family, freezing in the most brutal temperatures in modern European memory, pushing back against a quarter-million-man counterattack through the Ardennes Forest in the bloodiest single battle fought by the United States in World War II? How did the kids like Frank, who admittedly went into the Army “to get the hell out of Hurleyville, New York”—only to be deemed ‘too immature’ to be an officer—stand up against an onslaught of German tanks and infantry in endless days where fighting began long before daylight?

“We were not prepared for it because we were told it wouldn’t happen,” he remarked to an interviewer in later years. “We didn’t even know where we were.” But as the first German tank crossed his path at 4:00 AM on December 21, 1944, his instincts and training kicked in. Seven months later, on July 27, 1945, the Medal of Honor was presented to Currey by the 30th Infantry Division commander, Major General Leland Hobbs, in front of the assembled division. The official citation reads:

“He was an automatic rifleman with the 3rd Platoon defending a strong point near Malmédy, Belgium, on 21 December 1944, when the enemy launched a powerful attack. Overrunning tank destroyers and antitank guns located near the strong point, German tanks advanced to the 3rd Platoon's position, and, after prolonged fighting, forced the withdrawal of this group to a nearby factory. Sgt. Currey found a bazooka in the building and crossed the street to secure rockets, meanwhile enduring intense fire from enemy tanks and hostile infantrymen who had taken up a position at a house a short distance away.

In the face of small-arms, machinegun, and artillery fire, he, with a companion, knocked out a tank with 1 shot. Moving to another position, he observed 3 Germans in the doorway of an enemy-held house. He killed or wounded all 3 with his automatic rifle. He emerged from cover and advanced alone to within 50 yards of the house, intent on wrecking it with rockets. Covered by friendly fire, he stood erect, and fired a shot which knocked down half of 1 wall.

While in this forward position, he observed 5 Americans who had been pinned down for hours by fire from the house and 3 tanks. Realizing that they could not escape until the enemy tank and infantry guns had been silenced, Sgt. Currey crossed the street to a vehicle, where he procured an armful of antitank grenades. These he launched while under heavy enemy fire, driving the tankmen from the vehicles into the house.

He then climbed onto a half-track in full view of the Germans and fired a machinegun at the house. Once again changing his position, he manned another machine gun whose crew had been killed; under his covering fire the 5 soldiers were able to retire to safety. Deprived of tanks and with heavy infantry casualties, the enemy was forced to withdraw.

Through his extensive knowledge of weapons and by his heroic and repeated braving of murderous enemy fire, Sgt. Currey was greatly responsible for inflicting heavy losses in men and material on the enemy, for rescuing 5 comrades, 2 of whom were wounded, and for stemming an attack which threatened to flank his battalion's position.”

Frank’s matter-of-fact comment, years later: “It was just one day in nine months of steady combat.”

*

Some time has passed since I sat with the veterans I interviewed, but my memory of the smiles, the laughs, the emotion, and the tears have not faded, though the day is approaching when no one with firsthand memory of World War II (and then, even people like you and me who may have heard these stories directly) will be alive. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, ‘between Sept. 30, 2019, and Sept. 30, 2020, 245 WWII veterans are expected to be lost each day. These projections were calculated before the COVID-19 pandemic and do not take any deaths related to that disease into account. The last living American veteran from the war is projected to die in 2044.’[i] Most veterans have gone the way of the World War I and Civil War generation without ever having told the tale outside of their own brothers and sisters who experienced it with them. So, thank you for your interest in this book series; it’s the culmination of a mission that for me, as a history teacher and oral historian, turns out to have been lifelong. In reading it, you will have done something important—you will have remembered a person who may be now long dead, a veteran who may have lived out his or her final days wondering if it was all worth it. You will witness with me the extraordinary achievements of the participants and survivors of the most catastrophic period in the annals of history, which brought out the best—and the worst—of mankind. And these people were our everyday neighbors, our teachers and coaches, shopkeepers and carpenters, millworkers and mechanics, nurses and stenographers, lawyers and loggers, draftsmen and doctors, people from every walk of life, high school dropouts and college graduates. They were the World War II generation, and there was a time after the war when we just simply took them for granted.

When I began The Things Our Fathers Saw series, I began in the Pacific Theater and worked my way through the stories of that arena of the war, from Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay. Most of the veterans hailed from an area where I grew up and taught surrounding Glens Falls, New York, a small city that Look Magazine renamed ‘Hometown, USA’ in 1944 and devoted six wartime issues to, illustrating patriotic life on the home front.[2] That book was well received, and a nationwide readership clamored for more veterans’ stories in the vein I wrote in. The second and third volumes highlighted the men who fought in the skies over Europe, and the fourth tackled the war in North Africa and Italy, a campaign so brutal that news of it was downplayed at home. In the fifth book, I set out to have our veterans guide you through their experiences on D-Day and Beyond. And now, in The Bulge And Beyond, we will walk with them as they sense the fear of the unknown, the crush of impending doom, the scale of being amongst the columns of young, tired men slogging into a forest, medieval and dark, with the complete inability to ever get warm again.

 

Matthew Rozell

Washington County, New York

-October 8, 2020-

The first anniversary of Frank Currey’s passing