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Harold Kennedy at Camp Hale, Leadville, Colo.
7/23/43
Harold Kennedy at Camp Hale
Leadville, Colo. 7/23/43

"Hitler Wanted to Give the German People a Christmas Present,"
Harold Kennedy's view of the "Battle of the Bulge"

Harold Kennedy

December 21, 1994
Interviewer: Rheba Massey

Allied forces, including the 104th Division of which Harold Kennedy was a part had battled around and occupied the important German city of Aachen and been able through a long, tough series of battles to drive the Germans beyond the Rur River. That winter they were preparing for a drive toward the Rhine River. On December 16th the Germans struck in what became the Battle of the Bulge.

"They came through the Hürtgen Forest, below us. We were totally surprised. The weather had been bad and as a consequence our air force wasn't able to perform reconnaissance. The Germans had absolute radio silence, so they only let us have what they could monitor for deception. I'm quoting from other sources; I wasn't part of this process, although I did talk to lots of German prisoners. We were frankly uneasy because our patrols had picked up prisoners on the other side of the river . . . by that time a lot of Germans were convinced the war was going rather badly for them. We were impressed those days, I think, by the lack of German units on the other side of the Rur River. It puzzled us. We now know that the Germans had withdrawn combat troops to engage in the thrust which led to what we now call the Battle of the Bulge. I won't get into the technical, geographical description of it, but the object of the attack was to take the city of Liege and also retake Aachen and drive to Antwerp and surround the 1st Army. . . It was a bold stroke. . . .

"Hitler was losing badly on the Russian front and he wanted to do something on the western front to bring a halt to the Allies thrust into Germany. He recognized the peril that came with the fall of Aachen -- that we were going to get to the Rhine. We were only a few miles from it. He wanted to give the German people a Christmas present, if you please, by the capture of the Belgium city of Liege which was behind us . . and the city of Aachen in front of where we were fighting. . . The whole idea was to roll up a whole American army which would have been a real victory for him. This started on December 16th. The weather was very bad then; I can recall it being very cold. It started with the battle down below us, anywhere from five to ten miles. So they immediately used our division to cover a three divisional front. They moved out two other divisions . . to counterattack the German thrust, which was done with great success. . . We dug in. . . All sorts of preparations went on. You were conscious of a lot of military movement. . . We were concerned that the Germans might re-attack across the Rur River; yet we knew they didn't have much of anything over there. . . We knew all about the battle to the south of us. You could hear it all day long and see it at night with artillery fire.

"At this time the Germans started using what we call "buzz bombs" - I'm not talking about the huge rockets which were used against London . . . They were what they call "pulse jets", small unmanned airplanes. They were controlled with gyroscopic controls so that at a certain point the motor would cut out. The buzz bomb was loaded with about 2,000 pounds of explosives . . . that thing would be coming across the sky, usually at a fairly low level . . about 1,000 feet. . . We watched them go by all day long. American planes would try to intercept some of them or our anti-aircraft would shoot at them. . . Once in a while one of them wouldn't work. It made you a little nervous because . . . two thousand pounds of explosion going off makes quite a concussion . . . we were used to concussion, of course; artillery fire . . was going on all the time . . . we didn't really pay much attention to them. We knew that we weren't the target."

"We just sat around. It was actually, for us, quite a static situation; it was routine. You had your guard duty or any other duties they gave you. . . Cleaned up your clothes, bathed if you possibly could. It's amazing how we could clean up in our steel helmets. . . We did a lot of scrounging . . .One of the problems was keeping warm. . . when the Germans abandoned these areas, they were forced beyond the Rhine. So they left their fuel, their stoves, their food, everything. Houses were just as if you would leave your house on an hour's notice . … meals on the tables in some cases. . . It must have been a sad experience for those people when they got back after the war was over. . ."

"When the German advance was contained, the attack toward the Rhine ensued, starting with a massive, coordinated assault across the Rur, proceeded by an 8,000 artillery piece bombardment of the German Forces. The unimaginable became a nightmare of thundering flame. A breakthrough of major proportion took place and in a few days we reached Cologne and quartered in the western suburbs which were relatively undamaged. I did a lot of house requisitioning, telling Germans to get out of their homes so we could move in.. . Kind of ruthless . . . but these civilians did adapt, especially when they discovered us as a source of chocolate and cigarettes. Little kids were never intimidated by American soldiers."

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