The Battle of the Bulge veterans fought record cold, in addition to the enemy. From mid-December 1944 through January 1945, they fought and froze. The situation was very volatile. Battle lines and supply lines were tangled. PFC Frank Wayne Martin was one of millions of soldiers involved in that pivotal campaign that eventually turned in favor of the Allies.
Wayne scavenged whatever and whenever he could. Eventually, Christmas care packages caught up with him. His food-related stories shed some light on his humor and humanity. I’d like to share with you some of his Lucky Forward recipes. These come from the “PFC Martin’s Field Cookbook” appendix of his book, Patton’s Lucky Scout.
Here are two from the Battle of the Bulge:
Package from Home à la Disaster
1 assortment, consisting of whatever survived the journey
Being a forward observer for Lucky Forward meant that we were at the end of the line as far as mail was concerned, and it was even worse for a package. If the fighting had been heavy or if we had advanced rapidly, we would get packages only about once a month.
Most of the time, just the wrapper made it to us. Sometimes a note would be written on it saying, “Thanks for the contents.” If the contents did come through, it was generally because they were stale, shattered, or otherwise inedible, so nobody in the rear wanted it. It might take the entire group to guess what it had been originally.
Folks back home were told to send Christmas packages about the middle of November if they wanted them to arrive in time. I got one from a girl who lived next door, sent at that time but not delivered until the end of January. Judging by the hardness and the color, the box seemed to contain a shipment of small paving blocks. After everybody guessed, we declared the winner to be the person who decided the items had started out as brownies! He won the box.
1 envelope, K-ration lemonade powder
1 canteen cup of freshly fallen snow
Gently mix lemon powder in snow and eat before it melts.
During the Battle of the Bulge, we took refuge one night in a small stone building. It looked a little like one of the old-fashioned railroad stations I knew from rural New England. The temperature was reported to have warmed up from the -40 °F we had been having to a moderate 20 °F above zero during the night. As I opened the door, looking at a large snowdrift, I saw that about six inches of fresh snow had fallen during the night.
I decided to try to make a cool dessert by mixing the snow with some of the lemonade powder I had in my pocket. I scooped up a mess kit of snow, but as I did so, my cup hit something solid about three inches below the surface.
As I brushed the away the snow with my hand, I saw an arm in a German infantry uniform. I called the others, and soon we uncovered three Germans lying close together, frozen stiff. They had no weapons.
They must have come to surrender under cover of darkness, but were afraid to knock, perhaps thinking we might shoot first and ask questions later. They must have decided to huddle together to keep as warm and sheltered as possible next to the building.
We all felt sad that these poor men had frozen to death, so close to freedom. The unfortunate thing was that we would have been glad to take them in at night and ask questions. It could have worked out better for both them and us.