Christmas 1944, Germany
On Christmas eve, 1944, our squad walked single file, under the cover of darkness, being careful not to step off the path through the snow, forward to a captured pill box on the Siegfried Line in Germany. Actually the pill box faced France, toward the rear, so we went around the rear, knocked on the steel door and we let in by the squad on duty.
We posted look outs, and settled into the concrete interior, lit by candles. When the doors were opened we had to cover the candles so no light shone. The concrete interior was warmed by our bodies and a small stove burning charcoal bricks. The squad we relieved then left, and followed the trail back to the French farm house from which we had come.
For the rest of the night and the next day Christmas, we took turns standing lookout in the snow, facing East, watching and listening, and reporting by telephone anything that indicated enemy activity. I do not remember any, but I remember reporting several "buzz bombs", V1 flying bombs. We gave the directions from which they had come, so that supposedly intelligence could follow the trail back and determine their source.
Nothing happened on that watch, but later a sniper caught one our lookouts unaware and a bullet creased his scalp. He sat down kerplunk, and when the medics were treating him, he said in amazement, "The bastards are using live ammunition." Training at Camp Kilmer with blanks was over. Reality had set in.
On Christmas night, another squad moved forward and knocked on our door, and we gladly let them in, and prepared to move out. We took the same narrow path back to the farm house where the company was housed.
And there, we had Christmas dinner. With trimmings. I remember enjoying a turkey leg, drumstick. How the Army managed to fix a Christmas dinner with roast turkey, and mashed potatoes and gravy, so far from home I cannot imagine, but they did. Christmas dinner in a mess kit, and coffee from a canteen cup, is unusual, but welcome. If the mashed potatoes were dehydrated potatoes, at least the turkey was real, and reminded us of home.