Veterans Day Tribute – A Kraut’s Dilemma In Combat

A Kraut’s Dilemma in Combat

By Col. E. Rusteberg

At the time of the Battle of the Bulge in WWII, my unit was in charge of the defense of a small village in Alsace.

During one of the numerous enemy attacks against this village, a German tank, supported by a squad of infantry, attacked the building in which some of my troops and I were located.

The tank was promptly destroyed by a bazooka round from the attic of the building and its burning and exploding hulk created an inferno in the center of the street to our front.

The supporting infantrymen, about ten in number, were simultaneously mowed down by a machine gun in the building and lay scattered in the street about fifty yards in front of us. All appeared to be dead as none moved.

After about a half hour, one of these “apparently dead” German soldiers came to and sat up in the middle of the street facing in our direction. As he sat there in this ” no mans land”, all alone, he decided to take inventory of his wounds. As we watched him examine the various parts of his body we could see that he had been hit in both legs and one arm.

We all watched him, wondering what he would do in this terrible predicament in which renewed fighting was expected momentarily. His thinking was not hard to decipher as first he looked around him and saw all his comrades lying dead nearby and his supporting tank, with its cremated crew, still smouldering from its violent end.

“I’m the sole survivor and badly wounded”, he must have said to himself, as he used his good arm to feel the extent of the damage to his extremities, “and here I am in the middle of this bare street, half way between friend and foe!”

He knew he couldn’t stay where he was or surely he would be caught in the crossfire which was expected momentarily/. So he must move the best he can to the side of the street and “out of the way.” At the same time he must be very careful not to give the enemy the impression that he was making an “offensive” move or he might be picked off by some “trigger happy” American G.I.

So he moved very slowly, the best he could, by remaining sitting, facing us, and by the use of his good arm slid himself an inch at a time until finally, hours later, he reached the edge of the street and could lean back and rest his body against the corner of a brick building.

There he sat in this new position for some time, with a seat on the “fifty yard line, waiting for the “kickoff” of the next contest. But since all was quiet at the moment, and he was hungry and needed something to do to divert his mind, he reached into his pocket and pulled out an apple. There in front of “God” and all to see, he nonchallantly proceeded to eat the whole apple, as friend and foe alike watched the apple disappear bite by bite as time passed slowly by.

As darkness fell, and as we awaited the night attack which was to come, we bid our lonely foe, in his terrible dilemma, “Gods’s Speed, Brave Kommarade!!!”

Memorial Day 2022

(This article was written many years after the Battle of Hatten as part of a series of letters written to his two children about his life’s experiences spanning from childhood to shortly before his death in 1990 – Bill Rusteberg)