By Marty Batera
Picture Jason Bertera
Without winter clothing, an Airborne soldier showing the wintry conditions during what was a typical entrenchment in the Ardennes area in December 1944. Photo https://lifeinthearmy.com/2020/02/04/the-battle-of-the-bulge/
Without winter clothing, an Airborne soldier showing the wintry conditions during what was a typical entrenchment in the Ardennes area in December 1944. Photo https://lifeinthearmy.com/2020/02/04/the-battle-of-the-bulge/In Mid-December 1944, in the portion of the battlefront where he was located, there was not much occurring except for falling snow and the steady advancement of Allied Armies; at the time, he was in a snow-covered camp behind the front lines in what all military men thought was a safe non-combat area, to rest and refit when Koch said: “We received urgent orders to pack up and head to Bastogne.” Just a small town like another small town where a great battle in American history was fought, Gettysburg, it found its importance because all the roads pointed there. The Germans had smashed a hole through the American lines it was Hitler’s last gamble on a surprise offensive through the wooded Ardennes Forest; Koch and his comrades, in the freezing cold, were piled in trucks with not much more than what they had on their backs and raced to Bastogne to bolster the town’s defenses as it sat at an important crossroads. He didn’t have to wait long before his unit was fighting several SS Divisions. Koch declared he was lacking in supplies and ammunition, including winter uniforms. Bastogne was surrounded but the advance of the Nazis had been stopped. He was cold and wet; he said it was the coldest he had ever been, with no fire to keep him warm and dry while sitting in his foxhole. This would be his home for the next week. The Allies’ planes controlled the air but unfortunately for Koch and his comrades, the skies were overcast, so the air support was grounded.
Within a few days, the Germans had surrounded the town, and lying siege to it, the Nazi General asked for its surrender, to which Commander General McAuliffe gave his caustic answer with the reply, “NUTS.” The Germans would renew their assault, at which time Koch was wounded being unable to keep warm; frostbite had set in on his feet, turning them black and swollen; the paratroopers were short on soldiers as every man was needed at the front; he would have to crawl back over a mile to the medical area as he could not walk. On Christmas day, the skies were blue as blue could be, planes now dropped supplies from the air to the defenders of Bastogne., while raining down bombs on German positions, and soon General George Patton’s Third Army linked up with the defenders of the encircled town. Within a month, the Germans had been pushed back to their starting position and would never make another major offensive action during the rest of the war.
Picture Jason Bertera