Skip to comments.Veterans of Battle of the Bulge gather in Tucson
Posted on 10/08/2009 5:18:58 PM PDT by SandRat
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 10.08.2009 advertisement Six decades after surviving a battle in which many soldiers froze to death, World War II veteran John Swett still dislikes the cold.
This week, he and scores of surviving comrades are basking in Tucson's warmth during the national reunion of Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge.
More than 100 of these 80- and 90-somethings, who were part of the biggest, bloodiest land fight in U.S. history, are in town for a week of sightseeing and remembrance ceremonies.
It's the first time their annual reunion has been held in the Old Pueblo, hosted by the group's Tucson arm.
"I'm hoping to see people I haven't seen in years," said Swett, 84, a southeast-side resident with the local chapter. The former soldier spent more than three months as a German prisoner of war, suffering frostbite and dropping from 180 to 105 pounds in captivity.
As old age claims more of these veterans, the reunions serve as reminders of what they achieved.
"We're going to be dying out pretty quick," said George McGee, 84, president of the Tucson chapter, which has seen membership dwindle from about 75 to 50 in the past five years. "When we're gone, we don't want people to forget what the battle was all about."
The historic showdown between Germany and America and its allies began nine days before Christmas 1944, when Hitler's troops mounted a massive surprise assault in Belgium and Luxembourg.
The Germans, shrouded in white camouflage to blend in with the snow, were aiming to break through the front line and capture the port city of Antwerp, Belgium, a major supply point for U.S. and Allied troops.
The Americans were not outfitted for winter warfare few had heavy coats or snow boots. Nonetheless, they fought fiercely for weeks in frigid temperatures to repel the attack.
"Ohhhh it was cold," said former infantryman Buck Bloomer, 86, a midtown resident, who sustained nerve damage from frostbitten feet.
"Sometimes it got down to zero. It was almost always below freezing," he recalled.
At night, to keep from being killed by cold, soldiers huddled together for warmth. "Three of us usually slept together and switched off the center guy every 10 or 15 minutes," Bloomer said.
Initially, the Germans made some progress, forcing the front line to bulge back toward Antwerp, which gave the battle its name.
A month or so later, the Americans and Allies prevailed but at huge cost.
About 19,000 U.S. personnel were killed some by gunfire, others by the weather and about 62,000 were wounded.
On Wednesday in Tucson, those lost in combat were remembered with a wreath-laying service at the Battle of the Bulge memorial at Presidio Park.
Officials from Belgium and Luxembourg flew to Tucson from their embassies in Washington, D.C., to be on hand for the ceremony.
Bloomer was among those who got choked up at the sight. "I still get tears in my eyes," he said. "It never leaves you."
Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at email@example.com or at 573-4138.
Real heroes. I see the one chap has an A for Airborne.
My granddad passed away about 6 years back. Lost the hearing in one ear when a German 88 MM artillery shell (I believe) exploded nearby.
God Bless those wonderful men...
My great-uncle died during this battle when he was just 19. It is still hard to comprehend the number of casualties of that war. Hundreds or thousands, daily. Just incredible.
God bless all of these American heroes.
When one compares the character and integrity of these men to that of the current administration (fighting to force homosexuality onto our children), it tells us something about how far we have fallen in the past 50 years. Tragic.
My father and three uncles all fought at the Bulge.
My last surviving uncle use to attend the reunions until his death in 2008.
Bless these men, brings tears to my eyes.
GOD BLESS THESE SAVIOURS OF OUR FREEDOM!!!!
If you are talking about the A with a circle around it, I believe that was the patch for the 1st Army not airborne.
When I was 11,My grandfather took me to Europe and we spent alot of time at various areas that were battlefields in and around Bastogne. It was the late 70’s and some of the bomb craters were still visible.
Also, he showed me a hill where he commanded an anti-aircraft gun. He said that the German planes would fly in the valley and his crew would have to shoot down. They knew that they would be killing civilians but it was war and winning was the ticket home. I got a month long history lesson that I never forgot.
THE BEST vacation I ever had was that month in Europe.
“...biggest, bloodiest land fight in U.S. history...”
Not saying Bulge was any kind of tea party, it was a grueling, terrifying hell, but it probably wasn’t as bloody as Gettysburg by a long shot. Correction welcome.
My uncle went through and survived the battle of the bulge and many other campaigns in Europe. A very soft spoken and refined guy, he hardly ever made mention of WWII. As a 2nd Lt.platooon commander, he saw more than his fair share of action. It is only now that I am in my 60’s that I wish I could tell him how much I admired his valor and contribution to this country. Uncle Frank was always more interested in my Viet Nam combat experiences. As I look back on it, I kinda’ think it was his way to deflect my interest and probing in his experiences....and I was always very reluctant to share my experiences. I guess that is what combat does to folks, family or others. Discussion stalmate.
P.S. Even though I now live more than 1,000 miles from where he’s buried, I still have his grave decorated on the Holidays.
That would be Third Army
Those were Armored Division patches.
Thank you, I knew it wasnt airborne. My father had one on his uniform and I know he had never jumped out of an airplane.