Alfred Grossenbacher

'It was hell'


The war was hell for Alfred Emil Grossenbacher. Just hell - a bullet-ridden, endless, frozen hell.

Grossenbacher, who'd spend 15 years in the Army, fought the Battle of the Bulge from a waterlogged foxhole somewhere in Germany.

It was December when Adolf Hitler threw his final punch westward from Germany, pushing a nose-shaped bulge in the Allied line with a quarter of a million troops.

"That was real hell because 30 to 40 degrees below zero in water up to your knees," said Grossenbacher, 84. "And you couldn't get up and move because if you moved, they'd shoot you, they knew you were down there."

His foxhole pooled with water. No matter.

His feet had already frozen. Too bad.

"They took me back to the rear and said they were going to evacuate me," he said.

That was in early December 1944, just days before the massive German surprise offensive, Hitler's last stand.

"When they finished looking at my feet, they said, 'We're going to need you back on line.' "

Grossenbacher got to see the aid station before returning to the front, to his foxhole, four feet by three feet.

He kept his feet, but they're still numb to this day.

He made it through the war's single largest, bloodiest battle for the Yanks. Some 75,000 Americans died in five winter weeks of fighting.

He thought a few times he was going to die, but he wasn't afraid.

That's what he was there to do, after all.

And the Germans he faced were the best trained soldiers in the world, he said. They had an esprit de corps. And they weren't afraid of anything.

They were better than him, he says.

"I don't think I was a good soldier," he said. "I think I was an American soldier.

"We stayed with tenacity, that's the best word I could use. We stayed with it until we won. We didn't give up. We wore them down."