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Hometown Hero: Guy Stephens - Ex-POW/WWII Battle of the Bulge


Written By: Brenda (B.K.) Walker (in coordination with the Ste

It was a cold wintry day on December 16, 1944 in Germany. This hometown hero, Guy Stephens, had no idea just how drastically his life would change over the next several months. He would later learn that the events of that day, and those that followed would forever be memorialized and taught in history books around the world. This is Guy Stephens' story of his experiences during the Battle of the Bulge and his subsequent capture by the Germans.

The memories of those days, weeks, and months never leave the now 89-year old Combat Veteran. The feel of the cold snow slapping against his face, the sound of the wind as it whipped through the barren trees, the smell of fear and death…these are the memories of war. The barely 19-year old soldier from Indiana would face his country's enemy, alongside a small group of men from the 106th Infantry Division, in one of the most infamous battles of WWII.

Conditions during the Battle

In the early morning hours of December 16, the normally quiet 28-mile "Siegfried Line" turned deadly.

"It was so foggy, everything was covered in snow. We were about ready to have a little breakfast, when all of a sudden, here came the artillery whistling through the trees. We all hit our foxholes […]," Mr. Stephens recounts. "That was when the Battle of the Bulge first started. I was there when the first artillery came in."

This was only the beginning of the hellish nightmare he and so many other soldiers would endure.

"The German Tiger Tanks rolled in, and they were hellacious. The German soldiers were dressed in white […] it being foggy and the snow on the ground, it was hard to pick them out. But then, we could see our jeeps, well, what we thought was our jeeps…," he continues.

The ex-POW would go on to explain that the Germans had captured some American equipment during previous battles, "making it hard to tell friend from foe."

!

Over the next four days, Guy and his fellow soldiers would come to know all of the sights, sounds, and smells of burning artillery as it blasted all around them. They were out-numbered 10-to-one, and they were starving. He was surrounded by injured, dying comrades…and the enemy. They were out of food, out of ammunition, and running out of hope. They tried zigzagging from one direction to another, in an effort to out-maneuver their foe. They even tried retreating, but they were surrounded with little to no options.

Boxed-in in the valley of the Ardennes Forest, a decision had to be made…surrender or die.

"They'd see four or five of you together in one spot, and they'd shoot those things…they'd come whistling through the air, you'd hit the ground…it was just a helter-skelter type of thing. We kept that up for four-days, just trying to keep from getting killed and keeping them at bay […] fire off our shots. We were down in the valley […] 17 of us […] the Sgt., the highest ranking man in our group […] he took a white piece of garment […] he put it on his bayonet and went on up toward the enemy. He came back in about thirty minutes and said they would accept our surrender."

The young soldier and his fellow comrades had no idea the terrorizing events that would follow that surrender. They were marched for 3-days, feet frozen from the frosty snow, sleeping in barnyards, stomach to back, stomach to back, switching periodically, attempting to find some type of warmth, as a relief from the freezing cold. They still hadn't had anything to eat.

"It gets a little fuzzy, but on the 22nd (December), they loaded us on box cars […] and they packed 70 of us into each box car, it was all we could do to stand up," Mr. Stephens explains.

On Christmas Eve, 1944, while the box cars were parked in the Koblenz train yard, RAF allied planes bombed the tracks. The allies had no idea that they had unwittingly killed 13 of the captured soldiers and injured several others during the attack.

"It was terrifying; the most helpless feeling ever," Mr. Stephens remembers.

During his capture, Mr. Stephens recalls the despicable conditions of the prison camp. The men ate out of their helmets, had no spoon or fork, having to either improvise or eat with their fingers when they did receive food. The scenes in movies pale in comparison to the reality he and the other captured soldiers endured, until their liberation on April 2, 1945.

Like many others who shared in the horrors of prison camp life during WWII, Guy Stephens would greet freedom in the very clothes that he was wearing when he and his comrades surrendered that cold December day in 1944. He would go on to spend time recovering from his injuries and the effects of malnutrition from starvation. Guy Stephens would meet freedom a mere 128 pounds, down from his fit weight of 178 when he left boot camp. But, at least…he was alive.

Discharged from the service on November 29, 1945, the battle weary soldier would finally make his way home to Indiana where he would wed Mary Lou Schmitt on April 24, 1946.

"I was so used to fighting and taking orders, I said, hell, I'm just gonna get married," Mr. Stephens laughs jokingly.

The couple raised six fine children, 3-boys and 3-girls. After working a series of different jobs during the day and going to school at night, Mr. Stephens would graduate college, majoring in education and attaining his Masters Degree in 1955. He retired in 1985 from Yankeetown Elementary where he served as Principal for 34-years.

The scars of the horrific events he witnessed and experienced, both physically and mentally, would never tarnish the true American spirit of this great man. He and his wife would spend many years, under the cover of anonymity, buying coats, shoes, and other goods for needy children. His compassion, sense of humor, and passion for life is a testament to the freedoms we enjoy, each day, at the expense of so many men and women who have served and continue to serve this great nation we call America.

Guy Stephens received many medals, which include:

  • The Purple Heart
  • Combat Infantry Badge
  • European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 3 Battle Stars
  • The Bronze Star
  • Prisoner of War Medal
  • American Campaign Medal
  • World War II Victory Medal
  • Good Conduct Medal

Watch the video: Guy Stephens, Ex-POW, WWII Battle of the Bulge

Back in the USA would like to thank Guy Stephens and his family for allowing us to share this great story with our readers; with a special thanks to Debbie Stephens who provided all the information, pictures, and video used in writing this story.

~~~~~

Other Articles of Interest:

Behind Closed Doors: PTSD and Fireworks

A Son's Tribute to an Amazing Father: "And That's All There Is To That"

A Lesson in History: Remembering the Power of a Simple Pencil

Newsflash Public Education Has Always Been a Form of Control

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