Part 2: 'We spent our days and nights in a foxhole in the cold'
War stories in their own words
Battle of the Bulge veteran Donald W. Burdick, of Forks Township, is seated in the living room of his Forks Township home (Harry Fisher/The Morning Call / December 10, 2008)
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.