PFC Reed was assigned to the 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment during the war. The following is from "Thunder From Heaven" Vol. 47 #2 March 2000.
I Was There at the Battle of the Bulge
With the 17th Airborne in England in December 1944, a PFC and into one month of my 19th year, I was training hard and thinking of Christmas. Catholics were thinking of Solemn High Midnight Mass and everyone was thinking of turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Patton seemed to have things pretty much in hand on the continent and my feeling and that of most was “Go, Georgie, Go.”
All of this changed drastically on Dec 16. Hitler unleashed his Ardennes offensive and we were alerted. Because of really bad weather we were unable to move from our staging area until Christmas Eve. We flew to Reims in France and instead of a Solemn High Midnight Mass we went to a simple Mass – carrying rifles – and were offered a general absolution. On Christmas Day there was no turkey with all the trimmings, just beans and rice. I mean just beans and rice, not even salt.
From Reims we were trucked to Verdun, France, where our mission was to guard the bridges over the Meuse River. The bridges were one of Hitler’s prime objectives. He never reached them. When the division was finally consolidated we moved to the front lines in the vicinity of Bastogne.
The 17th took a beating in the early stages, falling right into the paths of two panzer divisions. it was rifles, grenades, and bazookas against tanks. We were under heavy artiller fire from 88s. I was on a machine gun team with my buddy, John. We called each other from our foxholes, “Are you all right?”
The artillery fire was that intense. We later remedied the calling back and forth by digging a double foxhole. This was OK except that I drank a lot of coffee. Sooner rather than later I had to relieve myself. “John, I’ve got to get up.” First time dirt falls on John’s face but no comment from John. Second time, more dirt but still no comment. The third time, Bible-toting Christian from West Virginia that he was, he could no longer contain himself: “Well, s..., Reed.”
I remember the Bulge especially the snow, hip deep and so very, very cold. I remember the day that Georgie came by and his jeep slid into a ditch. While we pushed his jeep out of the snow, the general stood by and chewed out one of the troopers for not wearing overshoes. Whether this is the same jeep that is in the Quartermaster Museum at Fort Lee I do not know. However, in the humble opinion of at least one PFC, Georgie was a great general.
I remember the Bulge and the night we were the lead company in a night attack. Untracked snow glistened under a full moon. As we came over the brow of a gill a German machine gun opened up. Tracer bullets were flying overhead and the commanding officer called for our machine gun to answer the fire. John set it up and we insterted the belt. John cocked the gun and pulled the trigger. Instead of the crackle of machine gun fire there was only a lonely ‘click.’ The mechanism was frozen. I recalled reading of a trooper in Alaska who had had the same problem and solved it by urinating on the gun. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I rose to my knees and did an ‘Alaskan.’ At just that moment, overhead came a V-1 rocket, tailing orange and chugging like a John Deere tractor at plowing time. And on the cold night air came the voice of our CO, “there goes one of those g—d—d buzz bombs.’ It was a sight to behold: moon, snow, tracer bullets, a buzz bomb and a quiet machine gun dripping urine.
I remember the Bulge and Patton’s orders to have black soldiers man the traffic control points because there would be no black German infiltrators. Patton’s orders were, ‘If you see a white soldier on a point, shoot the SOB.’ A man who shared this experience was a co-worker at Fort Lee. Joe was my friend and though black, his skin was lighter than most black men. He also drew duty on the point. However after one night of avoiding fire from friendly forces he went back to his CO and told him, ‘You send your thoroughbreds out there.’ It was the last time he drew that assignment!
The 17th continued until the Germans were pushed back beyond where they were on Dec. 16. We were pulled back to France, refitted and filled the blank spaces in our Table of Organization. Now we were to prepare for the largest airborne operation in history, Operation Varsity, the crossing of the Rhine and on into the heart of Germany.
By the end of the war the 17th Airborne Division had suffered almost 40 percent casualties.