Segment 6

Annotation

On 16 December 1944, the Germans started the biggest battle of offensive fighting in the world's history, the Battle of the Bulge. 41 days, from 16 December to 21January. There were more than 90,000 casualties in 21 days. That was the Americans, British, Australians, and Candians. The fighting started in Belgium in the Ardennes and ended up with some 91,000 casualties. The Germans lost many thousands too. But the Germans didn't have the equipment, supplies, and gasoline that the Americans had. Had the Germans had the capability to get supplies like the Americans were from the beaches, that they would have been nearly impossible to stop. He feels that they had the best equipment in the world, but they ran out of what they needed. They couldn't win the battle with just manpower. Baldwin was told that the Germans were held and came within 2 miles of the largest gasoline depot that the Americans had in Europe. There was something like a million gallons of gasoline camouflaged along the edge of a forest. Baldwin wonders if they would have gotten that, how many more lives would have been lost? How much longer would the fighting have taken? Would they have run Americans back to the beach? The Americans were in a tough spot, but thankfully the Germans didn't do that. The Germans didn't find the gasoline depot. The 106th Infantry Division had come up to the line, along with the 28th Division and the 99th Division. The 106th and 99th were new divisions and the 28th Division was basically new after receiving numerous replacements during the Battle of the Hurtgen Forest. They started relieving the 1st and 2nd Infantry Divisons and the other "old" divisions that had been fighting since D-Day. He isn't sure if the Germans knew that or not, but wonders if that is why they hit those weaker divisions 1st. When the fighting was over in some of those new divisions, there was basically no one left. Maybe a few hundreds out of 22,000 men. Jack remembered 1 night during the fighting at Elsenborn Ridge being assigned with Art [Annotator's Note: Art Kierstead], a young man from South Portland, Maine that finished high school and went through training and came into the unit, they were told to go on litter bearer duty for a night. They were given a helmet with a Red Cross and a Red Cross armband and then they started out. Baldwin suggested they get into the edge of the woods since they didn't have a rifle. They did so and eventually got out of the woods and crossed a road. Eventually, they heard someone yelling, "Help me! Help me! Help me!" Baldwin told Art that something wasn't right. At the time the 106th Infantry Division, the 99th Infantry Division and the 2nd Infantry Division were all basically mixed together. Across from their position were Germans. Knowing this, Baldwin's gut told him that the person yelling was a German that was trying to draw them out and locate their position. Later on, they had heard a tank coming down the road. Just before that, they had been in an old house where they hid in the barn with some old cows. They could hear Germans upstairs walking around and as they passed a door, you could see their hobnail boots. Baldwin and Art hid in the barn and found a sack of carrots. They filled their pockets because they ate carrots and turnips since the locals grew a lot of them. In fact, that's what they fed their cattle. A few of the Germans came into the barn and were talking. They were some 15 to 20 feet away from Baldwin and Art, but since neither of the men had a rifle then, they let them go. Had they had rifles, they could have killed the Germans. Come to find out later, some of the Germans were lost too and didn't even know where they were. But he and Art left the barn when they had the opportunity and got out of the area and reached a road. That's when the tank started coming down the road and it came to a ridge. Art and Baldwin saw a gate and stopped at it about the time the tank reached the ridge. They watched the barrel of the tank come over the ridge and they dove into a ditch. You didn't even want to breathe loud. The tank was trying to draw fire. The tank then turned around and drove back. They got out of the area as quickly as they could. They ran into an MP and were led to a barn where they could get some rest. He told them to just kick somebody and they'd move over and you could lay down on some hay, pull your helmet down over your face and you would sleep a few hours. They slept about 2 or 3 hours and then someone nudged them and told them that the 2nd Infantry Division was down the road at a crossroads. He and Art gathered their gear and headed down the road to link back up with the division. They asked around and found out where the Cannon Company was located and joined back up with them. When they got back to the Cannon Company, he and Art tried to find the 2nd Platoon. They were told that everything was all messed up and everyone is just helping 1 another out. Apparently, while he and Art were away the 2nd Platoon was in part of a house and the gun section was killed. Art and Baldwin were supposed to be with them. Baldwin saw it as a blessing from God that they weren't in there. The men were told to get in these houses and get out of the weather to get warm, something that they didn't usually do. The Germans shelled them. The German shells were very much like the American shells. Jack explained that he could put a timer on the shell and have it go off in 10 seconds or whatever time you wanted. You would do this in order to fire a tree burst and have the shell explode early sending tree limbs as shrapnel down on the enemy. The men told Baldwin that when the shell came through the roof of the house, it exploded and killed the men inside. He and Art were supposed to have been in there. So, now they had a new gun section. All of this happened at Elsenborn. After that, they finally got back together and got organized. Things were so mixed up with several of the divisions, but at this point the 99th, 106th and 2nd Infantry Divisions were able to seperate themselves from 1 another and spread out along the line.

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