70 years later, Veterans share their stories from the Battle of the Bulge



 

Early on the misty winter morning of 16 December 1944, over 200,000 German troops and nearly 1,000 tanks launched Adolf Hitler’s last bid to reverse the ebb in his fortunes that had begun when Allied troops landed in France on D-day. Seeking to drive to the English Channel coast and split the Allied armies as they had done in May 1940, the Germans struck in the Ardennes Forest, a seventy-five-mile stretch of the front characterized by dense woods and few roads, held by four inexperienced and battle-worn American divisions stationed there for rest and seasoning….

The U.S. Army Center for Military History

On that cold December morning, U.S. and Allied forces in Europe found themselves under attack from the German army.  The German counteroffensive was designed to divide the Allied forces, giving Hitler an advantage in the war.  The Ardennes campaign came to be known in the U.S. as The Battle of the Bulge.

(L to R) Alfred Shebab, Mike Levin, John Schaffner and Douglas Dillard pause for photo at the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge memorial at Fort Meade, Maryland.  The four Veterans discussed their experiences in Europe during World War II for VA's "Living History: Battle of the Bulge" feature, which premieres in January 2015.

(L to R) Alfred Shebab, Mike Levin, John Schaffner and Douglas Dillard pause for photo at the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge memorial at Fort Meade, Maryland. The four Veterans discussed their experiences in Europe during World War II for VA’s “Living History: Battle of the Bulge” feature, which premieres in January 2015.

Seventy years later, in November 2014, VA’s digital media team sat down with four Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge to talk about their experiences in the Ardennes Forest, their military careers, and their thoughts on being a part of what many call “the greatest generation.” They include:

  • DOUGLAS DILLARD was born September 14, 1925, and grew up in Atlanta, Ga., during the Great Depression. He was 16 when he volunteered to join the U.S. Army on July 3, 1942. After training, he was sent to Company A of the 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion. Douglas makes his first combat jump on August 15, 1944, in the South of France.
  • ALFRED SHEHAB was born in 1919 and grew up in Cape May, N.J. The son of Lebanese immigrants tried to join the free French Army when WWII broke out in Europe, but was stopped by his father. He later joined the U.S. Army in New York and graduated from OCS at Fort Knox in August, 1942. He was assigned to the 37th Armored Regiment, 4th Armored Division.
  • MIKE LEVIN was born in Nebraska, and lived in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Vermont before joining the Army in 1942.  He served as a lieutenant and artillery forward observer in the 7th Armored Division at the Battle of the Bulge.
  • JOHN SCHAFFNER was born in Baltimore, Md., and was drafted right after high school at the age of 18. He served in the 106th Infantry Division beginning in March 1943 until it was reorganized in March 1945. The 106th saw some of the fiercest fighting of the Battle of the Bulge, with two of its three regiments being overrun and surrounded during the first three days of fighting.

On this 70th anniversary of the beginning of the battle, we honor the service of these Veterans and all those who fought by sharing this preview of VA’s “Living History: Battle of the Bulge.” The full-length interview will premiere in January 2015.

To learn more about the Battle of the Bulge, its living Veterans and preserving the history and memory of the battle, visit the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge website.

Author

Megan Moloney

— Megan served at VA from May 2013 to July 2018. She is the daughter, granddaughter and spouse of Army and Navy Veterans who served in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Comments

  1. Geoge Covington    

    My father, Lewis Covington, was at the Battle of the Bulge and Remagen. He would never talk of his experiences except to say “it was cold.” He was 19 at the time.

  2. Andy C.    

    That’s a very good point, may God bless the men of the 333rd!! There is finally a memorial for those patriots!!!

  3. Ron Reed    

    My father was with the 82nd Airborne, 505th PIR during the Battle of the Bulge. I don’t know much about his experiences because he never wanted to talk about it much at all. We lost him 2009 at age 85. Thanks so much for this blog, it gives me an idea of what he went through.

  4. Gunter G. Gillot jR    

    There is not several ways to say thank you for our freedom.

  5. Harold Session    

    Fantastic project save one problem. Did anyone bother to contact any members from the 969th or 333rd field artillery units which were two of the units that were also trapped in the area. I mention this because these were both African-American units. As a matter of fact, 11 soldiers from the 333rd met the same fate as those soldiers that were executed in Malmedy at a place called Wereth. Their story too is important.

    1. Danny    

      Mr. Session, you have mentioned them, and I’m glad you did! Like the people indigenous to this land now called the United States, African Americans have contributed much to the preservation of the freedom we enjoy as Americans. the one thing I would like to say, but not taking away from your pride in your ethnicity, is that when it comes time to jump in a foxhole, there is no color, there is no religious separation, there is only the brother beside you helping to defend you and to defend this great country we all love.I would like to believe that this was true even during the battles mentioned in the above article.

  6. Paul White    

    My Uncle, Ralph Stephen Poloian, was a PFC serving in the 101st Airborne, 127th Glider Infantry. He was at Bastogne, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge. According to his commander’s day report he was seriously wounded in action on December 23rd 1944 and died of his wounds on December 24th 1944. I always think of him at Christmas time.

  7. Louise Grivetti    

    My father Louis G. Grivetti was with 424 Co.K 106th Inf Div. He was captured on Dec 19th. He was in a boxcar during the bombing of Dresden and spent his time at Slaughter House 5. He spent 22 years in the Army and I am a proud BRAT! He was very active in forming KY’s American EX-POW chapter and served as Commander for many years. He passed away in 2009. He was my hero!

    My favorite story is when they were working their way back to the American lines they held him over the truck motor so he could keep pouring water into the radiator. He said he was a skinny kid then. I am very proud to have the auto-biography he wrote.

  8. walter rencehausen,sr    

    I was There too. Miserably Cold,not the proper clothes for that kind of weather. I’m Surprised some of us are still around. After that some in my Outfit were taken Prisoner, by the “SS” Troopers. we were in a Building at Leipzig, Germany. Our 8th Air Force Bombed the Bldg.late a TRUCE Was Honored. I was Evacuated while I was Unconcious .I couldn’t walk for 6 months. Couldn’t talk for 2 Month’s was in Hospital at Bar Le Duc France, for 109 days. then shipped out to Halloran General Hosp. in New York. Still Trying to Forget everything.
    Thanks, “Walt”

    1. Megan Moloney    

      Mr. Rencehausen,

      Thank you so much for your comment and for sharing part of your story with us. And thank you for your service.

  9. ken kershaw    

    well these brave gentlemen may not consider themselves heros, but this is one former paratrooper who does consider them heros. no offense to the non airborne guys, but the paratroopers of those days set the standards that i and my fellow paras tried to emulate. of course we were never able to match what those guys and all the WW2 vets did. so those guys are a special bunch of heros to me and a whole lot of others. ALL THE WAY!

  10. Colette Compton    

    My Dad was at the Battle of the Bulge and then onto Remagen.
    He’s in the hospital now, defying the odds again as he has done more times than
    we can count.
    His name is Jess Herring and was with the Army Lightening Division.
    He married my Mom, a Belgian War Bride, and they have been together for 67
    years.
    Wish he could have been among this group and interviewed.
    Colette Compton

    1. Bob    

      Your Dad is a hero.

      My father was a D-Day veteran, and I believe that we must do all that we can to record their history.

      Our country owes a huge debt to this generation.

      Regards,

      Bob Mayhew, Jr.
      USAF, Retired

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