By CRA News Service
Sixty-seven years later, Stan Saltz vividly remembers his group of American soldiers needing some help from up above as they took part in the bloodiest battle in the nation’s history. “You didn’t realize you were suffering,” the Delray Beach resident recalled. “My feet were frozen and I didn’t have enough clothes, but we had each other. We had our buddies.”
It was December 1944 and the Battle of the Bulge was raging. Following Patton’s plea to the heavens, the Army Air Force began attacking German supply points while dropping much-needed supplies, medicine, ammunition and clothing to suffering Allied Forces on the ground.
The revived American effort put a halt to Germany’s final offensive in Belgium, France and Luxembourg on the Western Front and all but secured victory for the Allied Forces in Europe.
Saltz, 86, was among dozens of U.S. Army veterans who attended a luncheon Sunday at the Airport Hilton. The members of the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge, Florida Southeast Chapter shared their stories of their experiences fighting the bloodiest battle of World War II. Each played a significant role in helping the United States to victory over the German forces in Europe.
If you ask any of the veterans, victory was never in question despite the harsh weather conditions that caused thousands of Americans to freeze to death.
“We had terrible weather,” said Al Irzyk, 94, recalling the cold, snow and even fog in which troops fought. “That was the worst winter in 60 years.”
The American sacrifice was enormous as nearly 100,000 lost their lives during the German offensive, which lasted until Jan. 25, 1945.
“It was probably the most vicious battle under the most vicious conditions,” said Irzyk, a retired brigadier general who served with the Army’s 4th Armored Division during the Battle of the Bulge. “We had an overwhelming enemy.”
The event featured presentations by U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, as well as Irzyk, VBOB southeast chapter president George Fisher and Florida Department of Veteran Affairs Executive Director Mike Prendergast.
“Thank you so much for your service to our country,” Deutch told the group of about 200. “I appreciate the opportunity to be here with you, not only because you served so bravely at the Battle of the Bulge, but also because you came home and built families and then built the country that we’re so blessed with today. Deutch, whose father, Bernard, served with the Army’s 84th Infantry Division during the Battle of the Bulge, said the chance to come and thank them personally for doing so much for their nation “is a thrill.”