Battle of the Bulge veterans in Columbia for reunion - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Battle of the Bulge veterans in Columbia for reunion

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As America's population of World War II veterans continues to shrink, respect for their role in history appears to be growing.

Among those heroes are the thousands of troops who brought Hitler's Europe to its end, fighting in the Battle of the Bulge.

Fort Jackson hosted a wreath laying ceremony Monday for commemorating the war effort.

"Everything was going on I mean you were lucky if you got any sleep at night," veteran Gerald White said. "When I arrived it was something fierce. I mean that battle went on for what 40 days. You almost go to pieces with this many people that show up. I can't express it in words."

Sunday, people went to the South Carolina State Museum to meet some of the veterans.

"It brings back a lot of memories, " said WWII Army veteran Loyd Watson.  At 91, Watson can recall much.

"Fortunately I have all my faculties, 'cept for my running gear," he said.

Watson, like others, remembers his army service in Europe in 1944 and the surprise onslaught that would bring that year to an end.

"We were down in the Alsaies area when the bulge started," he said.

"Everybody thought the war was going to be over by Christmas, but it wasn't," said Joe Landry.

The Battle of the Bulge proved to be Germany's last major offensive in World War II.
About a million men would fight for weeks across Belgium, France and Luxembourg. 19,000 American troops were killed fighting a strong enemy through one of Europe's coldest winters.

"On the 16th of December when it started I thought all hell was gonna' break lose,"  said Army combat engineer Frank Jones of Lexington County. "The Germans threw in everything they had. They had over 1,000 tanks. Nobody knew they were coming. They just showed up."

"I was afraid that I might get wounded and would lay out in the snow and freeze before someone could find me. That was my greatest fear," Watson said. "You don't know the big picture. No way you know the big picture."  

Yet while these vets said they didn't know the significance of their service then. They're thankful many Americans now do, especially the very young.

"I have a lot of people come up and say 'Thank you,'" Landry said. "It's kinda' gratifying."

"I hope they listen," Watson said. "I hope they do."

To men like Watson, the tales in time are worth hearing. He's one man who says he'd go through them all over again.

"I'm thankful that I was able to do it."

December is the 70th anniversary of the battle in Europe. The more than 30 veterans who were at the museum Sunday are with the National Convention of the Battle of the Bulge. They're touring several sites in Columbia this week.

The museum is open on Labor Day so you still have a chance to see some of those artifacts.

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