December 16, 1944, a third of our company was stationed near Reims, France. A third were on R&R in England, and a third were in hospitals or gone. I was to go on R&R the 17th of December.
About 7:30 p.m. we were called in by the Company Commander. We were to mount up, we were going into Belgium. A crisis seemed to have happened. We loaded up in open-bodied trucks and with full speed ahead, headed off for a place called the Ardennes. I had just received a package from home with four cartons of cigarettes. Where the hell do you put four cartons with the other stuff we had. Naturally, I somehow lost my gas mask. The container was a very nice place for all those little oddities one takes with one.
It was a miserable cold trip. We passed through towns where already the people were on the move. "The Germans were coming."
I was carrying the new folding bazooka, I had never fired it for effect, and was hoping to do so as soon as we hit our base. I don't know how long we traveled. Orders were that the screaming eagles were to hold Bastogne, we were headed up towards the Northern part of the bulge.
I asked if I could try out the bazooka but was told that we didn't know who was around us. Going through the towns I was struck by the desolation and emptiness, burned out buildings, barns, black holes where shells had hit. The miserable cold. We didn't see anything or anyone for the first few days.
On the 24th we moved up to a hill and dug in. You could hardly break through the ground to dig a fox hole. I remember finally laying down and covering myself with my shelter half. I don't know how long I lay there but it was getting so warm and comfortable. The sergeant woke me up. I was covered with snow. I think that if he had not found me I would have become one of the frozen statues that we saw. I went on a patrol, my first one, with two others. Following the book, we crawled, stopped and heard what sounded like tank engines. We came back and reported. That night we were ordered off the hill by the command of the British 21st Army Group that we were attached to.
On the 24th, we dug into a field, that night our positions were hit by what seemed like an entire German Battalion. Our entire line opened up a continuous fire until we were down to a few clips. At that time I thought it was the proper time to try my bazooka. I aimed it at where our outpost had been. Our guys had come in. I fired it and 'bam' it hit a tree. I was reloading the bazooka when I thought some one had hit me in the face. When my ear started bleeding I realized that I had been hit by shrapnel. The next day we were ordered to move out. It was discovered that my tree burst had broken up a platoon of Germans getting ready to hit our position. Their bodies punctured by wood and shrapnel, the bazooka worked. The field in front of us was filled with the frozen bodies of dead and dying Germans. On the way out they mortared our positions. I heard them coming in. I hit the snow, and heard a thump. I closed my eyes figured Stein you've had it. God must have been watching. I looked to my left a dud mortar was about three feet away from my head.
I think the most bizarre memories were of the frozen dead bodies being tossed into trucks like cord wood. And even today, on a cold December night, I look up at the moon and wonder and thank God, I'm still around to remember.
Oh yes! My four cartons of cigarettes were wet and of no value. I also wonder what if I had gotten to Paris, with those four cartons. They were worth a fortune. But better the cigarettes, than me.
Source: Bulge Bugle, August 1991