It seemed like the shells would never stop falling. That's what Lionel Adda remembers. That, and the cold.
Sixty-eight years ago, German forces launched a massive assault on Allied soldiers in the Ardennes region of France, Belgium and Luxembourg. The conflict, which lasted for several frigid weeks in December 1944 and January 1945, would become known as The Battle of the Bulge.
On Dec. 20, two survivors of that battle--Adda and Morris Metz--shared their memories at Easton's Sigal Museum.
For Adda, it meant going back to a place called Elsenborn Ridge, where American troops found themselves under constant attack from the Germans.
"They were shelling incessantly," Adda said, recalling seeing one officer whose arm was just shredded flesh. “He was going to lose his arm if not his life. I don’t know what happened to him.”
In addition to the shelling, there was the cold--the coldest winter in 100 years. Trenchfoot, a condition caused by constant exposure of the feet to damp and cold conditions, was a common problem.
"It looks terrible," Adda said.
"Spending the night in a hole in the ground...it became difficult to accept as a way of life," Metz said.
“One time I woke up in my hole and there were icicles all over the place...from my breath," Adda said. "That was as cold as I can remember.”
Metz, of Forks Township, handed out cards to the audience, bearing a prayer that Gen. George S. Patton had a chaplain write, asking for an end to the bad weather.
Hitler had hoped to use the weather, and the element of surprise, to divide the Allies, force an end to that part of the war, and concentrate his efforts on the Soviet Union, Metz said.
“He might have been successful,” Metz said. But then the skies cleared and the Air Force arrived with ”hundreds, then thousands of planes. And I feel that spelled the difference between defeat and victory.”
This wasn't an afternoon of Great War stories. Metz spoke of the sacrifice of the people who suffered under the Nazi occupation.
"I tried to convince them that what they endured was worse than what we endured, because we were professional soldiers," he said.
He spoke with sadness of hearing a grade schooler's definition of war: "How nations solve problems."
At 87, Metz is the youngest member of his local group of Battle of the Bulge Veterans. He closed with a moment of humor, talking about the time he "was a hero" for finding a hidden bottle of schnapps.
“He also go the Bronze Star,” Adda chimed in, “so he was a hero in other ways as well.”