The closing stages of the Battle of the Bulge were fought just as ferociously as the beginning, if the Allies were winning it was at a price. In many places the gains that were made were subjected to immediate and repeated German counter-attacks. For example the US 90th Division seized the town of Oberwampach and then spent 36 hours facing down nine counter-attacks.
With the Germans on the back foot the US Army tried to exploit the situation with another push into the Saar ‘triangle’, between the Moselle and Saar rivers, a move which would take them over the Siegfried line. German resistance was galvanised against any such breakthrough.
For the infantry men of the 94th Division who found themselves at the spearhead of the attack, nearly a week would be spent virtually cut off in the town of Butzdorf. Private Morton D. Elevitch found himself and part of his platoon cut off in a ruined house by themselves. On the 17th they found themselves facing a combined Panzer and infantry attack:
Walters is popping away at the heads. I tell him don’t, we’ll only draw direct 88 fire. I was right. The room was quivering. Our ears were ringing. Our chests were throbbing. We shook like wet washing — a cold, creepy uncontrollable shaking. Only our minds remained clear. The rubble was piling high in the center of the room… our ceiling was ready to bury us beneath it.
Solemnly we discussed our procedure when the Germans, expected momentarily, entered the house. “Walters,” I say, “it seems we are in a position not particularly desirable to our state of welfare. Our careers are jeopardized. I strongly urge that we prepare for the worst.” We agree to hide in wine barrels, hoping for an eventual American victory. Someone is pounding on the wall.
Chandler is hit… a slug caught him in the head… he plunged head first down the cellar stairs… Walter’s eyes are big and brown and expectant. For the first time in our lives we know the feeling of utter hopelessness, the dread sensation of approaching doom. The turmoil within us almost gives way, but we are listening for our artillary. When it comes, it is right on top of us.
Luckily the patterns had been drawn in on us, keeping the Germans at a reasonable distance. This factor alone, saved us.
Walters has his hands in his pockets, looking out the window. A shell bursts outside the window to my right rear. Shrapnel wirrs across the room, cuts through Tom like a sewing needle, slicing a path from head to stomach. He explodes apart in a torrent of blood. “Get out the door!” I shout. With his hands still in his pockets, he turns halfway, starts to jerk forward, choking, gasping, sputtering, then settles face down to the floor, gurgling away his life.
At the head of the stairs I collapse in a pool of Chandler’s blood, tell them Walters is hit. Kettler and Doc take off and return with something still. Jenkins and I force our eyes away. We know Walters is dead.
We give up our guard posts altogether, leave one man atop the stairs, and slump down in the basement. Chandler is groaning. Boomer is shaken to tears at the sight of Tom. He tells us to pull out. The machine gunners had long ago departed. We’re to try to reach Tittengen under smoke.
At the door Chandler breaks down: “I can’t make it.” “You’ve got to try.” One by one we make our suicide dashes, passing pleading men. I sail through a doorway of beckoning hands ahead of a whistling 88. Now that we’re gathered in this place and the CP next door, the Germans can concentrate their fire. They do.
Men keep toppling over my shoulders. I struggle up for air. A wild-eyed kid holds up his hand. “Look, my thumb’s blown off!” The ragged stump is maroon like our basement floor at home. We’re all bunched up on a stairway. Guys are lying on the floor and propped in corners. I look around . . . what is going on? I see the drawn, bearded faces, torn clothes, staring eyes, yards of dirty bandages. Men are muttering, babbling. No, I decide, it isn’t possible. The shell—shocked stand up and look at us. “Can’t you see I’m bleeding?” they whimper. No one answers…
We finally crowd into a tiny room beneath some stairs … still the men on the outside keep getting hit. For four hours we stand shoulder to shoulder, softly talking, sweating, shaking. The smoke had failed us — lifted before it hit the ground. We’re to try to make a run for freedom when it gets dark. Meanwhile we’re ordered to return to our positions.
Some men go back, find Germans, kill them, rip open ten in one boxes, urinate on the food [to deny it to the Germans who were often relying on capturing Allied supplies], return to us. Others go after the wounded. Sgt. Flynn lugs in a box of ten in ones. Courteously we divide up the cold food and pass it around. From a can of corn I get needed water.
This is just a small part of the vivid description that Morton D. Elevitch jotted down immediately after that battle and later developed into a more coherent piece. His letters home served as an outlet for him, containing not only contemporaneous accounts but cartoons and sketches, they were finally published in 2003 Dog Tags Yapping: The World War II Letters of a Combat GI.