December 16, 1944 was the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge.
Many times through my life my dad on a cold winter day would look outside the window of our home a say, "you just don't know how glad I am to be in a warm house, and that I don't have to sleep out on the ground." He is thinking of the memories of that event in his life, now 64 years ago today.
December 16 had been a normal day for my dad, he was on a wire crew, running telephone lines. Dad was in the 2ND Infantry Division, 2ND Signal Company, Army.
December 17 would reveal an entirely opposite kind of day. The Officer of the platoon asked dad, and 2 other soldiers, if they would after breakfast drive out in the jeep to find out what was wrong with telephone line number 109. My dad, Slim Wallin, and Jack Nyquist, went in the jeep to Bullingen Belgium, following the line until they came into the north part of town, driving very slowly because the roads were icy. At the last turn, just as they are coming into town is a rail road overpass, just on the other side and set back was a German tank and the 88 gun was pointed at their jeep. Now dad and his men knew that the Germans had been told they had 21 hours supply of fuel, then they must capture American fuel. No words were said among the 3 now Prisoners of War, no words said from the Germans. My dad and his men knew each other so well, that they knew what each other was thinking, they could work all day and say very few words, they were a perfect team. They knew then that the Germans had cut the telephone line. The Germans did not have any guns pointed at my dad and his men, but the 88 was pointed at them. The German seized their weapons and helmets, letting them keep on their wool knit caps that were worn under their helmets. The Germans were only supposed to take weapons, not personal affects, the German took Slim Wallin's dime that he had kept in his pocket since leaving New York City when he had left the states. The German with a smirk put the dime in his own pocket. They were escorted under the overpass to a corner between 2 buildings, a German guard was to watch them, but he was more focused on his shivering from the cold than the 3 American soldiers he was to guard. They were to stay at this location until an interrogator came, but of course no one came. After about 2 hours had passed they were loaded up onto a half track, they did not know if they would be shot, or taken as prisoners. Soon afterward there was an opening in the clouds right over Bullingen, and the sun was shining through. A familiar drone of a P47 plane, a very distinct sound approached, it was discovered that there were 4 of them. The Germans were very afraid and soon lost interest in their newly acquired prisoners. The P47's were nice, and shiny, and pretty; they flew past and banked to the left, they were not going back to England, they were circling back around. The planes were getting further apart, and then one of the planes came in with all 8 of the 50 caliber guns firing. The Germans were running and not slowing down, running over the fence, over the snowbank, and into the woods. The planes were dropping bombs on buildings, cars, tanks, and the fuel storage tanks of the Germans. My dad and his men quickly fled the incoming bombs, and had ran up and over an embankment of snow and into the woods, they knew that it got dark about 4 pm and they needed to find their way back. They were disoriented, and their watch and compass had been taken earlier, as well as their weapons and helmets. They did not know which way was north, they had thought about how moss grows on the north side of trees, but they were not in Texas, and not in Louisiana. They heard a German buzz bomb and it was getting closer, they could not see it for the tree foliage, it is then right over head about 300-400 feet. In about 3-4 miles the engine stopped and then a bang. They knew the bomb was marked for the American line. They each ate a hand full of snow, and off they went in the direction that the buzz bomb had gone in. They ran from 1 set of trees to the next, each taking turns being the leader, they crossed a road, went over a fence, till they came to a frozen stream, they saw that up ahead there was a foot bridge, they took the foot bridge; they were tired, hungry, it had been a very stressful day, it was dusk. Up ahead there was a village, they walked towards it, and in about 2 minutes they were challenged by an American guard, everyone was afraid. The American guard thought it was very strange that there were 3 soldiers, with no helmets, and no weapons. The guard yelled halt again, and he asked what the password was. My dad and his men had left early that morning without yet hearing what the password was. The guard then asked, "who is the mayor of New York City?" My dad was from a small town in central Texas. My dad yelled out,"I don't know who the mayor is in New York City, nor the mayor of any other town in the United States, but I do know who the football coach of the University of Texas is." This was a good enough answer. The guard showed my dad and his weary men where the chow line was and they ate a grateful meal.
Slim Wallin said later that 1 of these days he would see that German again in a POW line and that he better have his dime.