(Leister is a long-time member of the White County Historical Society and husband of former Society president and editor Cloie Presley.)
n the fall of 1944 Headquarters Company of the 85th Calvary Ren. Bn. Of the 5th Armored Division first entered Germany at a little railroad village of Kalterherburg. We had been in Belgium nearby for some time. For days we were back and forth and my letters would be headed “Somewhere in Belgium” or “Somewhere in Germany” but the move would not be more than 10 miles. The area in Belgium was very thinly defended, and had we not been moved before the bulge, I probably would not be enjoying the Christmas of 1979 [when this was written].
We were moved to take part in the Hurtgen Forest campaign. Some of our units went in as infantry in the Hurtgen campaign. Headquarters Company was stationed in a little village of Van Wegan, Germany. I remember how dreary it was, with the constant string of ambulances passing, bringing the wounded out. While there the Germans dropped flares one night, making it almost like day, when they started the Bulge push.
When they got the Bulge going, they relieved our division and sent us to defend the north flank of the Bulge, to keep it from widening. On Christmas Eve day, we moved to a small town on the north flank of the Bulge. I do not remember its name. The day was fair and cold. What was left of the German air force came out in strength and among other things straffed our column as we moved in. In bailing out of the truck to take cover, I hit my leg on the steering wheel and made a big blue spot. Guess I could have had a Purple Heart, if I had put in for it.
The ground was frozen so hard that Bodin and I could hardly set the pins for our pup tent. Seems that we must have been there some two weeks. Were there on Christmas and I was on guard Christmas night – clear, cold and a lot of pretty stars.
While there, snow came and made out tent almost touch us. Our wonderful air force came out in strength and caught the German columns on main routes. They made hash out of them and slowed down the drive. Yes, the Battle of the Bulge was something to remember. Maybe it was a case that a person would rather have been some place else – but I am happy to have been a part of the mighty 5th Armored Division, and I do not have to apologize the rest of my life for not being there.