I'll never forget Christmas, 1944. We'd planned for a football game, and entertainment, and a big turkey dinner at the Rheims rest area. The 101st Airborne was resting after our jump at Nijmegen, Holland. But instead, on Christmas morning, we were staked high on a hill overlooking the Germans in Foy, Belgium. We were the northeast outpost of ourtroops cut off in Bastogne, three mile to our rear.
We'd been there since the 19th of december, the day after we left the rest center. I remember we'd got out of our trucks south of Bastogne, walked through the outskirts of the town and on out into the country. We could see we'd already been hit hard. There was lots of our equipment destroyed along the roads.
At Foy, we found that the hills and the valley and village all looked sad to us. We advanced into the deserted town but took our position on the commanding hill overlooking the town. We were there on December 20th when we received word to hold our position at all costs, and we were there on the 22nd when we heard that all of our troops around Bastogne were cut off.
We were stunned by the news. I'll never forget the empty feeling. Some fellows thought sure we were goners. Our ammo, our medical supplies, our food were already short. And on top of all this, the Germans occupied Foy right in front of our helpless eyes. Needless to say, we were plenty glad our holding position still had direct contact with Bastogne.
All that has been written and said about the seige of Bastogne has never quite seemed to me to tell the whole story. It wasn't all fighting and there wasn't anything spectacular about most of it. We were hungry much of the time until Christmas. And we were always cold. Frost bite claimed it’s toll.
The most painful part of it all was the waiting, always being on the alert, being so very exhausted but never being able to take more than a catnap. We knew there were lots of lives at stake on our outpost, and a nap wasn’t worth it. German patrols always seem to be around, and kept reminding we had to stay awake.
It was this waiting that nearly got to us. But we weren't waiting for Chrimas. We hardly thought. about it. I guess we were waiting for something to overcome the boredom, somefhing to give us relief. Then Bastogne got supplies from the air, and we heard the rumor that there might be turkey for us in time for Christmas. That was some sort of relief at least.
Christmas morning came. The enemy had attacked our positions in force the day before and got the worst of us. We waited on Christmas day for the Germans to repeat their dawn attack and were ready. But dawn passed, and then morning and then noon. No attack. I tried to pencil a letter home but with no gloves it was too cold. My fingers nearly froze. I snuggled up to all the warmth I could find in my foxhole, and tried to think about the promised turkey instead of home.
Christmas passed without incidents and I was glad. But I was also of sad for some reason about the Christmas turkey never reaching us that day. Instead we ate C-rations. But the rumors about the turkey didn't die. After the breakthrough, when we were on our way, we heard it was still waiting for us. We guessed it was on it’s way up to the front.
The week after Christmas was a fierce and bloody one, and a lot men in my squad never got their Christmas turkey at all. For us who did make it through, the turkey finally came.
Donald King on furlough, the picture was taken in the backyard of his parent's home in Washington, Illinois.
Below, a poem Donald received from Major Winters:
He was getting old and paunchy
And his hair was falling fast
And he sat around the Legion
Telling stories of the past
Of a war that he once fought in
And the deeds that he had done
In his exploits with his buddies
They were heroes, every one
And 'tho sometimes to his neighbors
His tales became a joke
All his buddies listened quietly
For they knew where of he spoke
But we'll hear his tales no longer
For ol' Bob has passed away
And the world's a little poorer
For a Soldier died today
He won't be mourned by many
Just his children and his wife
For he lived an ordinary
Very quite sort of life
He held a job and raised a family
Going quietly on his way
And the world won't note his passing
Tho a Soldier died today
When politicians leave this earth
Their bodies lie in state
While thousands note their passing
And proclaim that they were great
Papers tell of their life stories
From the time that they were young
But the passing of a Soldier
Goes unnoticed, and unsung
Is the greatest contribution
To the welfare of our land
Some jerk who breaks his promise
And cons his fellow man?
Or the ordinary fellow
Who in times of war and strife
Goes off to serve his country
And offers up his life?
The politician's stipend
And the style in which he lives
Are often disproportionate
To the service that he gives
While the ordinary Soldier
Who! offered up his all
Is paid off WiitA a medal
And perhaps a pension, small
It's so easy to forget them
For it is so many times
That our Bobs and Jim's and Johnny's
Went to battle, but we know
It is not the politicians
With their compromise and ploys
Who won for us the freedom
That our country now enjoys
Should you find yourself in danger
With your enemies at hand
Would you really want some cop-out
With his ever waffling stand?
Or would you want a Soldier
His home, his country, his kin
Just a common Soldier
Who would fight until the end
He was just a common Soldier
And his ranks are growing thin
But his presence should remind us
We may need his like again
For when countries are in conflict
We find the! Soldier's part
Is to clean up all the troubles
That the politicians start
If we cannot do him honor
While he's here to hear the praise
Then at least let's give him homage
At the ending of his days
Perhaps just a simply headline In the paper that might say:
"OUR COUNTRY IS IN MOURNING,
A SOLDIER DIED TODAY.".