Veterans Recall the Battle of the Bulge
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It's one of the few times each year these men, most of them in their late 80s and early 90s, get together to talk about their wartime experience.
"And we have a lot of fun too kidding each other and so on,” said Tom Hope of Brighton.
They're a close-knit group that didn't know one another when they were in their late teens and early 20s, but have a common bond fighting in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II.
"Being with them makes me as close as I was to the paratroopers in my outfit, my buddies in the outfit. So they're as close as they were,” said John Cippola of Greece.
Each of them has a story or two to tell; many of which are hard to forget.
"I was very fortunate. Out of my company of about 212 men, I was one out of about 12, 13 or so that came back in one piece,” said Jack Foy, Greece.
Some would still rather keep that experience to themselves.
"There's horror stories. I don't like to talk much about them but I never forget them,” Cippola said.
Even those whose job it was to get the news and images of the war to the people back home say it was hell.
"I was a photo officer, although when I first went into combat after arriving in France I replaced a whole photo unit of five men who were killed. Then I had two of my own men killed and my immediate boss was killed, he was the photo officer of the ninth army, so I moved up and took his place,” Hope said. “In wartime it's pretty rough."
Not everyone at this gathering fought in World War II. Marcel Blaakman was just 14 years old at the time and living in Holland. He says these men are responsible for his freedom and it's a great joy to be part of their group.
"When I went to Washington on the Honor Flight, I came by Arlington Cemetery and it was so huge and I said 'I wonder how many of them died for my freedom?' Tears came to my eyes,” said Blaakman.
World War II and the Battle of the Bulge aren't the only topics discussed at these gatherings. The vets also talk about today's soldier and the battle being waged in Afghanistan.
These vets come from what is called the Greatest Generation, when an entire country backed the war effort. They say those fighting today are somewhat forgotten because most of us don't have a personal connection to the war.
"They don't have the big, grand battles like we had, like the Bulge and other battles, but now they have real intense small engagements. The thing is, they have a fight and four people get killed. We lost that many out of our own company almost every day,” Foy said.
To commemorate their efforts nearly 70 years ago, Rochester's Battle of the Bulge veterans are publishing a book where each tells of their war experience. They're hoping it will be on sale by December 16th, exactly 69 years after the Battle of the Bulge began.