Magazine article America in WWII

Winter, War, and GI Joes

Magazine article America in WWII

Winter, War, and GI Joes

Article excerpt

WINTER AND WORLD WAR II: that terrible, unendurable combination ceaselessly fascinates me. There's something grimly awe-inspiring about our Gls battling not only their human enemy, but also the harsh, unyielding forces of nature in places like the Ardennes in the winter of 1944-45.

For them, staying alive and on duty meant finding warmth--without the high-tech accouterments we take for granted today, such as our lightweight, wind-resistant, moisture-wicking, heat-retaining coats.

Many GIs in the snowy Battle of the Bulge were knocked out of action by horrific foot maladies brought on by constantly damp socks and boots and unrelenting cold. Every foxhole dug in snowy, frozen ground ended up with an icy puddle on the bottom. Unfortunately, that was where the soldiers had to stand. The US Army tried to outfit men with over-the-boot galoshes, but waterproof, heavily insulated shoepacs proved to be the best defense for the feet that carried America's war effort forward.

I admire the long-suffering WWII GIs of winter from the safety of home, through books, TV, and the Internet. For some people, though, that's not enough. My friend Joe Razes, a contributing editor of this magazine, wanted something more tangible, at least a tiny taste of what our boys went through. Not having a time machine, Joe settled for the next best thing: he participated in a reenactment of the Bulge here in Central Pennsylvania. In January. You can read how that turned out in this issue's installment of Landings, our travel article. …

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