Christmas in Metz – 1944

In December of 1944, the 35th Infantry Division was pulled out of the front lines in Habkirchen, Germany, near Northern France and committed to the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. I was a Medic with the 134 regiment, Company D, 2nd. Platoon.

On the way, the 35th.stopped overnight in Metz France. It was the 24th of December and some of us were allowed to go into town for some much needed R&R. However we were still in a battle zone, and the men were required to be fully armed at all times. I was the only one of eight or so, that did not carry a gun. Medics were not allowed to carry a weapon.

The average age of the United States Infantrymen was nineteen years, fresh out of High School, then not old enough to vote.

After an afternoon of exploring, we decided to go to a Christmas Mass. that evening at a small church, near our temporary barracks.

The Mass had just started when we walked into the church. We took our seat in the rear. At the appropriate time we all received communion. All but me carrying fully loaded rifles to the Communion rail. Until then, most of the parishioners did not know we were in church. I’m sure that we must have been a very intimidating presence.

It was snowing when the Mass was over and we left the church. On our way back to the barracks, not far from the church, we started singing Christmas Carols, Silent Night, Come All Ye Faithful and others, of course in English.

Not far behind us, we hadn’t much noticed, was a French Family, Father about forty years of age, his wife, a little younger and two children, a girl about nine years old and a boy about six years old.

As a family they sang the same carols in French. We then sang together, they in French and we in English.

We were then invited to their home. Where we were each offered and accepted a glass of home brewed Schnapps.

We unloaded our pockets of candy and gave it to the children. We gave them the only gift we could. This was probably the first candy that they had seen since the German occupation.

That evening it was truly Christmas. We enjoyed a Christmas Mass, carols, snow and a family to remind us of home. That night we were at peace. The next day we were again in combat.

The 134th Regiment, after a fierce battle with the enemy, in conjunction with the 4th Armored Tank Division, opened and kept open the road to Bastogne. This enabled the defenders to get much needed supplies, ammunition, and reinforcements. For this action the 134th Regiment received the Presidential Unit Citation (General Orders # 62) signed by General Eisenhower.

On January 4th., in the Battle of the Bulge, after a fierce battle and after we ran out of ammunition, we left about one hundred German dead. Most of us in the second platoon, Company D and Company C were killed, or captured and many were wounded. About 40 out of 135 men escaped back to American Lines.

Return to Stories