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THE STORY SO FAR: As the Battle of the Bulge rages, Pfc. Don Burdick and his field artillery observation battalion are among American troops surrounded by the Germans at Bastogne, Belgium.
Second of two parts
On the 22nd of December, the Germans gave an ultimatum. Our commander, Gen. [Anthony] McAuliffe, gave them the historic ''nuts'' reply that we weren't going to surrender.
So then we just kept waiting and holding. It just so happened that we were strong enough and had a strong enough will to say: We'll do what we have to do to stay here.
With nothing getting through, all we had was what we had with us. We didn't have medical supplies or hospital facilities. Most of our wounded were put in buildings in the town. Once in a while, a civilian would sneak in with a bed sheet or some water.
It was cold, oh, it was bitter. We didn't have any change of clothing. We didn't have galoshes for the snow.
We had an overcoat, gloves, a summer-weight jacket and a sweater and hood, a helmet, combat boots. We didn't have any wool socks, just regular cotton socks. You put a couple pair of those on and kept another pair in your pocket. You tried to keep dry.
We were hungry because we hadn't had field rations in days, ever since we'd been on the run. I think we burned more gasoline starting fires to boil water for coffee than they put in the vehicles.
Whatever we had in K rations, we shared. Heat them up with your Zippo lighter, start a little fire with some wood, or else eat them cold if you had to. Everybody had a Zippo; I never smoked, and I had one.
We spent our days and nights in a foxhole in the cold. We had to dig and dig and dig to get through the frost line to the dirt, until you could stand in the hole chest-high. You had a shelter half, which was part of a little tent, and you shared it with the guys and put the shelter halves over you and tried to stay warm.
You talk about togetherness, that was togetherness: your body heat for their body heat.
If there were timbers that got knocked down from shelling, you could put them over your shelter halves so they wouldn't blow away.
You kept an opening so you could see out and hear what was going on. But you couldn't move. If you did, you could be attracting trouble. The Germans probably knew where we were, but we couldn't just get out and jog around to keep the circulation going. We were pretty well pinned down.
We had to stay put. That's what the orders were: Stay alert, stay put. Even though you were freezing to death.
On the 23rd, the sky opened up enough and we heard this whooshing noise and said: What the dickens is that?
It was an unmanned glider with food and supplies on it. And after that, parachutes were coming down, color-coded for food, ammunition and medical supplies.
That was a magnificent sight if there ever was one.
Those fliers had that drop down almost perfect. And those parachutes were the best thing for a blanket. Everybody was fighting for them.
But we still couldn't fight our way out of Bastogne.
On Christmas Day, I was in a foxhole with two other guys. Everybody knew it was Christmas. We were thinking: Can we get some mail out? Of course, we couldn't.
You know the saying, ''There are no atheists in foxholes.'' We did a lot of praying, that's for sure. We hoped and prayed that if we got out of this one, we'd get out of the next one. It just kept going on and on. We hoped we could get the Germans on the run and get out of there.
We hoped and prayed that we could end this thing.
Most of my buddies were about my age, 20. We asked each other questions like: If you get out of this, what are you going to do? We had some fellas that were pre-law. One was a schoolteacher from Quakertown. I wanted to be a doctor.
The day after Christmas, one of [Gen. George] Patton's armored groups got to our line and gave us whatever food they had that they could spare, and some water.
Our thoughts then were that we weren't going to get overrun, that now we were a lot safer.
That was glory day.
Burdick's battalion moved into Germany and, in March 1945, crossed the Rhine River at Koblenz. The next month, his unit joined in the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp near Munich.
Burdick came home to Carbondale, Lackawanna County, and finished his pre-med studies. But he couldn't afford medical school, so his dream of becoming a doctor never materialized. Instead he became a banker and taught high school science in Manville, N.J.
In 1954, he married Betty Robinson, who had been his girlfriend since his time in the service. They have a daughter, Sherry. The couple moved to Forks Township in 1996.
Burdick belongs to the Lehigh Valley Chapter of the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge.
''Maybe we were boys,'' he said of his experience in the war, ''but we grew up in a hurry.''
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