December 16, 2005 - Manchester man recalls
Battle of the Bulge
MANCHESTER, Ohio -- Despite the more than six
decades that have passed since World War II, the Battle of the Bulge is
fresh in the mind of Aloysius J. Menke of Manchester.
The Battle of the Bulge, often called the greatest land battle ever fought
by U.S. forces, left 19,000 American soldiers dead and more than 23,000
The area of the German-Belgian border known as the Ardennes Forest was
considered to be a quiet area where the 589th Field
Artillery Battalion, an attachment of the 106th Infantry Division,
was spread thin over an area normally protected by five times the number
of troops at hand, said Menke.
"We were relieving a unit that was being moved closer to Holland," Menke
A deep blanket of snow concealed the first wave of attackers on Dec. 16,
1944; four days later Menke was a prisoner of war headed to a prison camp
Now 85 years old, Menke remembers seeing the white snowsuits of the German
soldiers, nearly invisible against the two to three feet of snow
throughout the forest.
Menke was captain of the
"A" Battery of the 589th FAB at the time.
"Units would fight, fall back, walk some more then fall back again," said
Menke. "The German tanks cut through us like cheese."
In the four days following the beginning of the battle, Menke and his men
traveled from Bith to Auw where they became surrounded by German tanks and
were forced to surrender.
"We were marched to Prum where we were put into railroad box cars and
taken to Hammelburg, Germany to a place called
Officers Laug 13B, the same camp the son-in-law of Gen. (George)
Patton, Maj. John K. Waters, was being held at," said Menke.
On March 25, 1945, Patton sent a battalion of rescuers to the camp,
tearing down the fencing with a tank to the cheers of the prisoners.
Ironically, Waters had been shot during a negotiation with what Menke
called fledgling SS officers and was unable to leave the camp with his
rescuers. The freed prisoners were given the option of staying at the camp
or making their own way to a safer location. Menke opted to leave.
"For eight days we would
sleep in hiding during the day and walk at night until we reached the
lines of the 7th Army," said Menke. "They transported us to Darmstadt. We
arrived on April 7."
Asked why Patton had not transported the POWs or provided them with
weapons, Menke recalled Patton as an exceptional general.
"He had his quirks. We were able to pick up some weapons along the way.
They (the rescue unit) had to abandon some tanks along the way and were
low on ammunition." said Menke.
Menke credits the recent military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq with
increasing the interest in historic battles.
"Before they hardly ever mentioned more than D-Day or Pearl Harbor in
relation to the war; it is nice to see the renewed interest in the other
battles. There are things to be learned from all of them," said Menke.
Menke left the military in February, 1946. He simply came home.
"Back then, we just came home to our families; no big fanfare like they do
now," he said.
Retired since 1978 from a career as a grocery salesman for Proctor &
Gamble, today Menke enjoys time with his wife and family on the property
they own overlooking the Ohio River.
"It is an extraordinary view from three miles away," said Menke.
Independent - Maysville,KY,USA