VBOB speech by John Foy - 347th Inf - 87th Inf Div
#1

VBOB meeting speech, as shared by John D Foy, and supplied to us by Jim Hennessey. Thank you. Please read.

 

Gentlemen,

 

Several men have asked me for a copy of the speech I gave at the last VBOB meeting. I was very proud of that talk --- I think it was the best I have ever given.

 

Jack

Co. A 347th Infantry

87th Inf. Division

 

 

 

----------------

John D. Foy

135-C Spanish Trail

Rochester, NY 14612

663-6913

 

Ladies and gentlemen, honored guests, fellow veterans.

 

I am honored to represent the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge and the so-called Greatest Generation today. The Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 to the end of January 1945 was the largest and bloodiest land battle in our nation’s history. Over 600,000 American men fought in the bitter cold and snow, often reaching 10 below zero. Over 19,000 young American men were killed and over 62,000 were wounded, taken prisoner or missing in action. The great majority of them were 19-20-21 years of age, front line infantrymen. Over 1500 WWII veterans answer their final bugle call every day. There are not many of us left.

 

Let me take you back 64 years to a foxhole just outside of Bastogne Belgium. We are just getting ready to jump off in an attack on a strong German position. The temperature is about 10 below zero, a couple of feet of snow on the ground. German artillery is blasting our position, -- the ground is heaving up and down with the violence of the explosions. Trees are splintering and crashing to the ground. The shrapnel is slicing into soldiers flesh. Rifle and machine gun fire splits the air. The sound is deafening and overwhelming. We are the machinegun section of what is left of an Infantry company of the 87th Infantry Division, part of General George Patton’s famous Third Army. Young men – hardly more than boys.

Alongside of me is a good friend that I had trained with for over a year, Harvey Wilson. Harvey is very quiet because Harvey is dead. He was feeding ammunition into my machine gun when a German bullet hit him. Within about ten yards of our position are the bodies of three more of my comrades, men that I can never forget, Finn, West, and Porzio, half buried in the snow and frozen in the ten below zero weather. An image that still sears my mind after over sixty-four years. There were to be many more before this war was over. My machine gun squad of six men was now down to two. Then the word came “move out” and we began our attack on the German position.

This is a scene that was lived by most of the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge here today to a more or lesser degree. Many men who were usually in support of the front line infantry and not directly involved in the fighting were forced to take up rifles and fight when the rampaging Nazis overran their positions.

 

Some served on the front and were taken out because of wounds received in battle. Some of us received minor wounds ---- got patched up and sent right back to the front. You may find it hard to believe, but most of the front line infantrymen were hoping to get what was called “the million dollar wound” a minor wound, but still severe enough to be sent back to a hospital in France or England to heal. Anything to get out of front line combat --- the 10 below zero cold --- the constant misery, the fighting and killing.

In those weeks of the Bulge the men had seen more, endured more, and contributed more than most men see in a lifetime. The army was boring, unfeeling, and chicken and they hated it. They found combat to be ugliness, destruction, and death and they hated it. Anything was better than the blood and carnage, the grime and filth, the freezing cold, the impossible demands made on the body --- anything that is, except letting down their buddies. In combat we found the closest brotherhood we ever knew. We found selflessness. We found we could love the other guy in the foxhole more than ourselves. We found that in war, men who loved life would give their lives for them. There is no way to convey to you the terror and agony of front line infantry combat. Men being shot next to you – men being blown to pieces by the dreaded German 88’s, yet you keep going to kill and drive the enemy back. The front line infantryman’s concern is with death, not life, with destruction not construction. The ultimate destruction is killing another human being.

 

Back home in America, Western Union telegraph lines hummed with those dreaded messages --- The Secretary of War regrets to inform you --- your son – your husband – your father – was killed in action bringing tears and sadness to homes across our land.

We come together today to honor and remember my comrades who gave their lives on that cold January day in Belgium in 1945 -- 64 years ago. We come to remember and honor the 19,000 men who died in that horrible battle. We come to remember and honor the 400,000 American soldiers, sailors and airmen – and women too -- who perished in WWII. We remember and honor the thousands of soldiers and sailors in veterans hospitals across our nation – their minds and bodies destroyed by the horrors of war. Many of our comrades here with us today still suffer from wounds received in battle. Several of my Battle of the Bulge comrades here could not march in the Memorial Day parade because of wounds received in battle, they had to ride in cars. Of course many more could not march because they are 84-95 years old and our legs are not so good anymore. Most of us are survivors of Infantry companies that went into the Bulge with about 200 men and came out with about 40 to 50 survivors.

 

The cost of victory was high. There in the Ardennes, on that cold, brutal field of battle, 19,000 young Americans answered the angel’s trumpet call and had their rendezvous with death. Purple Hearts were awarded by the thousands. The bleeding wounds of 69,000 young Americans, dead and wounded, stained the snow and left the “Red badge of courage” on that blood soaked field of battle.

 

The war in Europe ended May 8, 1945 ---sixty-four years ago. The war may have ended sixty-four years ago ---- but for us — the soldiers who fought in that war and the families of those who died in that conflict, it will never end. Many of us still hear the artillery barrages, the screams of the wounded, the machine guns and rifles firing, when it all comes back to us in the quiet of the night. Some wait for the comforting arms of their wife to shield them from the memories, but she too has gone. We still see the destroyed tanks, burned black, standing in the snow looking like great dead animals. Hundreds of black artillery craters pock marking the snow covered fields, and the most horrifying the snow covered mounds----once men---our comrades, dotting the landscape, many with frozen arms and legs raised aloft through the snow, seemingly begging us not to forget them.

 

What we did --- what we experienced, represents the love of our country, the love of our religious faith, the love of our fellow citizens, and our love of freedom. We saw what a lack of love and a lack of freedom could do. We saw the concentration camps, we saw the slave labor camps, we saw the prisoner of war camps, we saw the vile inhumanity of man against man.

Tears still well up in my eyes when I remember all the friends that I left in the fields, the towns and cities of Europe, not only on Memorial Day or Veterans Day, but many times every day. Why them and not me, did someone else take the bullet intended for me? I was wounded three times, but only minor flesh wounds. I only know that God took them at 18 – 19 – 20 years of age and has allowed me to reach my 85th year. I thank him for it every day.

We are the warriors of the “greatest generation” a generation that is taking their final curtain calls and soon will be leaving the stage of life. We have passed “Old Glory” on to the next generation. Look at those old warriors gathered here today. They are yesterday’s heroes. We were soldiers once and young – the vibrant youth of that time, men who were there on that terrible battlefield 65 years ago.

Lord God, may we never forget --- may this nation never forget--- those 81,000 fine young soldiers, the pride of American youth, who gave their lives, were wounded, were captured or went missing in action in the Battle of the Bulge.

“Were you a hero in the war Poppie?”, my grandchildren sometimes ask. I usually answer with what seems to have become a stock answer for infantrymen, “No, but I was in a company of heroes.”

Ask yourselves now, with heads bowed, from where, Oh God, came such men as these? The warriors of the so called “greatest generation” a generation that is taking their final curtain calls of over 1500 men a day and soon all will have left.

This country was truly blessed.

 

The Ardennes woods are silent now,

The battle smoke has fled.

Sixty years and five have passed ----

Now ---- only memories ---- and the dead.

 

Thank you, and may God bless America. Please pray for our Patriot Armed Forces standing in harms way around the world, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for their families awaiting their safe return.

 

Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"
Reply
#2

 

John D Foy--Kinda sounds like what we,(1st Bn. 135th inf . Regt. 34th Divn.), went through at hill 609 No. Africa, Mt Pantano,Casino,Anzio, there were a lot more before and after the ones mentioned here. AND YOU ARE RIGHT !! We were among heroes then. I'm 88+ for the LORD watched over me.---------(just an ole dogface vet atalkin')

Reply
#3

I will make sure I send your personal message to him. I'm sure he'd love to hear from you.

Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"
Reply


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