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‘Once Upon a Time’ feeds the memories

Every December just before and after Dec. 16, I think back to 1944, and how incredibly lucky those of us were and are to have survived the Battle of the Bulge.

In a 1994 letter, John Veneklasen, formerly captain, M/393, gave some stark numbers: “Out of our 170-plus M Company soldiers, only 29 survived. The rest were killed, wounded or missing. Many of the 29 were also wounded but not evacuated.” Other units of the 99th reported similar tolls.

This past December, along with being thankful to be warm and well-fed and facing no German tanks and infantry, the memories became more acute than ever, thanks to Robert Humphrey’s magnificent “Once Upon a Time in War, the 99th Division in World War II.”

Any 99er who might still have only an imperfect picture of exactly what we went through will finally understand what was taking place during those first confusing hours and days.

Thanks to your generous write-up and book reviews in the last Checkerboard for 2008, I spent a cold and snowy Denver week reading Humphrey’s exquisitely detailed chapter on the Bulge. The composite picture based on the interviews Humphrey assembled and wove into a seamless narrative provides a richer slice of realty than any one participant could.

Thank you for alerting us Checkerboard readers to an invaluable experience.

Elliot Wager
7505 W. Yale #2805
Denver CO 80227

Last modified May 19, 2009

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