A Veteran's Story

Battle of the Bulge

            In late 1944, Mr. Lock was assigned to a light maintenance company in the 76th Infantry Division and soon headed to England.  Two weeks into his tour in England, his division was shipped to France.  When Mr. Lock departed his transport ship in France, he was given a pack filled with a mess kit, gas mask, and helmet.  He carried a 1916 Enfield rifle made by the English originally for World War I.  Some soldiers were issued a carbine rifle which was a shorter, lighter weapon that no one liked.  Others were given a "grease" gun which was really a .45 caliber sub machine gun that was welded together and considered the worst gun to be issued.  Mr. Lock had no long johns or galoshes for warmth and protection from the cold, only a field jacket to keep warm. He was immediately sent to Luxembourg.  Hitler’s final attempt to defeat the Allies had begun. The Battle of the Bulge lasted approximately five weeks with Germany eventually suffering defeat. 

            During the battle, it was cold all the time, sometimes 25 degrees below zero.  Mr. Lock sewed his field blanket shut to use as a makeshift sleeping bag.  Many men died because they froze to death when they laid down in the snow to sleep or rest.  Mr. Lock got frostbite on one hand. Food consisted of K-rations of pork fat, lemonade powder, biscuit and “hard as a rock” candy bar.  Even if they received regular food, the soldiers could not cook anything because they didn't have the equipment to do so. The soldiers were given cigarettes and toilet paper and salt tablets to take in the morning.  Because drinking water was scarce, they couldn’t drink water during the day.  The biggest obstacle during this battle was the inclement weather which made supply drops and bombings almost impossible at times.  Mr. Lock and the other soldiers rarely received any mail because it took a month or longer for mail to travel from the United States to Europe. They also seldom saw any officers. 

            Nearing the end of the Battle of the Bulge when his unit was preparing to travel to Germany, Mr. Lock received a note from SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) sending him back to the United States.  He turned in his rifle, got a lift on a truck to the city of Luxembourg and slept at the US Headquarters there.  His pants and field jacket were ripped and dirty, and he carried two bags with him.  One carried his clothes and the other a German periscope with tripod.  He ended up dropping the tripod in Paris, France but still has the periscope to this day. He also carried two hand grenades with him at all times. He then traveled by truck to Reims, France and then by train to Paris, France.  After asking some fellow soldiers about transportation to England, he took a boat train to London.  All this time, he had no money to pay for food or transportation but was never asked for any.  In London, he found a Red Cross unit.  He felt very out of place there because all of the other soldiers were in clean, pressed uniforms while his pants were ripped and his field jacket was dirty.  When he asked for food at the Red Cross unit, the workers would not give him anything to eat because he couldn’t pay for it.  Eventually a young lady touring with Fred Astaire bought him a sandwich and a coke.  He ate quickly and left.  He then took a train to a Replacement Depot in Birmingham, England which was an old English barracks.  At each depot, Mr. Lock would seek out the Mess Sergeant at the Mess Hall for food and extra sandwiches for travel.  At this depot, Mr. Lock was given English trousers to replace his ripped uniform pants.  He stayed there for a month waiting for a ship to take him back to the United States.  To keep busy he went to the pistol range with fellow English soldiers from early morning to sundown.  Each soldier would fire one clip with the .45 automatic they used.  Mr. Lock put toilet paper in his ears to lessen the sound of firing.  Not once during the month he was there did they have to replace the target.  Finally ready to sail to the United States, he went by train to Scotland to catch the ship traveling home.  He arrived at Norfolk, Virginia and as he walked off the ship, he was given a quart of fresh milk.  From Norfolk, he was sent to the Philadelphia Naval Hospital for examination, shipped to Maryland to be discharged from the Army and enlisted into the Navy.