Battle of the Bulge Anniversary

Winton Churchill: "Greatest American Battle of the War"

On December 16th, we remember the Battle of the Bulge.  Called “the Greatest American Battle of the War” by Winston Churchill, the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes region of Belgium was Germany’s last major offensive in World War II. Hitler’s aim was to split the Allies in their drive toward Germany and reach the Port of Antwerp.  Just weeks before, there was widespread rumors, the war would end before Christmas.   

Lasting six brutal weeks from 16-DEC 1944 to 25-JAN 1945, the assault, also called the Battle of the Ardennes, took place during frigid weather conditions, with some 30 German divisions attacking battle-fatigued, poorly equipped American troops across 85 miles of the densely wooded Ardennes Forest.  American troops had very little (if any) winter gear.  They were dressed in summer uniforms and subjected to sub-freezing temperatures. They had little food, medical supplies and ammunition was in short supply.  

As the Germans drove into the Ardennes, the Allied line took on the appearance of a large bulge, giving rise to the battle’s name. The battle proved to be the costliest ever fought by the U.S. Army, which suffered over 100,000 casualties. There were also German war crimes committed when U.S. POW’s and civilians were massacred.  It was said, on Christmas Eve in 1944, the snow turned red with blood.

Those that fought and served there, remembered the vicious fighting and severe conditions.  Besides fighting the Germans, they were subjected to some of the harshest winter conditions ever in the region.  They experienced about 8 inches of snow and an average temperature of 20 degrees.  Locals said, “it was the coldest winter in sixty years.”  

Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge would never forget the cold at Bastogne. Many veterans of the battle employed their own standard of measure of how cold it can get later comparing it to Bastogne. Many Bastogne veterans remarked, “it’s not as cold as Bastogne” or “it was the coldest I have ever been.”  

Here are a few of our local heroes that served at the Battle of the Bulge.  

Ralph Barrale (Our Founder)

There were many units and local men and women that served in the Battle of the Bulge.  

Ralph Barrale at Bastogne

Our founder, Ralph Barrale was in the 3rd Army, commanded by George Patton.  Ralph was a Combat Military Policeman (MP) in the 821st Combat MP Company.  Ralph landed on Utah Beach at Normandy.  On 26-DEC 1944 Ralph’s unit commanded by General George S. Patton under grueling conditions relieved the besieged Allied defenders of Bastogne.  Ralph remembered the cold of Bastogne his whole life.  He bristled many years later, when asked “if the 101st Airborne Division based in Bastogne did indeed need their help.”  Ralph was among the first troops to enter Dachau concentration camp.  After the war, Ralph remarked, “I now know why we fought the war.  We can never let this happen again.”

Charlie Schlenke 

Charlie served in the 8th Armored Division, 80th Tank Battalion at the Battle of the Bulge.  Charlie suffered severe frost bite to his feet. Charlie’s daughter Sue told us, “He took a pair of six buckle boots with him – I don’t think he was supposed to – and he froze his feet. They were going to amputate his feet. He refused to come off the line for treatment. He was supposed to leave his unit and go back to the hospital. Charlie told them, I’m not leaving my company. A doctor asked, how are you going to walk? Charlie wrapped his feet in blankets and that’s how he fought. His feet were black, and the skin came off. He took blankets and cut them into strips and was able to get those six buckle boots on. Dad would suffer from the effects of the frost bite, his entire life. That’s why he qualified for 100% disability later in life. Dad didn’t apply and get his disability until he was in his eighties.”  Sue said, dad would never apply for disability because people went through so much worse than he did.”  

Charlie Schlenke

Larry Huff

Larry served with the 104th Infantry Division.  The division nicknamed “Timberwolves” was under the command of Major General Terry de la Mesa Allen who had previously led the 1st Infantry Division in combat in North Africa and Sicily.  In December, the 104th was forced into defensive positions by German counterattacks in the Battle of the Bulge.  

We are looking for more information about Larry.  

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Please contact the St. Charles County Veterans Museum Oral History project at or call 636-294-2657 for more information and lets’ talk. We want to hear from you because we know…Every Veteran has a story.