Memories from World War II
December 16, 2009
BASTOGNE, Belgium--Carmen Gisi was on the front lines of the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. The now 86-year-old returned to one of his former battlefields in December 2009 as part of the battle's 65th anniversary commemoration. Gisi was drafted into the Army in 1943. He attended basic training with the 106th Infantry Division and deployed to England with the 401st Glider Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division in May 1944. Below is a summary - in his own words - of his combat tour in Europe.
"Being we were a bunch of replacements, they didn't let us go into D-Day because we just got to the division, but my first combat was the airborne invasion of Holland -- Market-Garden. After Market-Garden, we came down to Mourmelon, France, for a rest. We were there two weeks, and we were alerted to go up to Bastogne. We were notified on the 17th and we left on the 18th of December 44. We got to Bastogne and we pulled some road blocks.
On about midnight on the 19th, we were alerted to go down to Crossroads X because there was something brewing down there. So my Company B, under the command of Capt. McDonald, so we marched about over an hour, close to 90 minutes to get down to Crossroad X.
When we got to the ridge, we seen American trucks burning, and we heard Germans talking. The company commander put us in an attack position. I was in the 3rd Platoon, which was the furthest to the right, and the other platoons were in the middle and to the left.
We were instructed by my platoon sergeant or platoon leader to send two scouts out to the road, and I was first scout. When we got there, we were to fire two shots -- was a signal for the company to come down firing. So Charlie Sawyer and I, he was second scout, we hit the road, fired the two shots and the company started opening up.
They scared all the Germans who had attacked at our convoy -- that's why the trucks were burning, they killed all our men there. Now, they scared 'em out there and they ran away from where they came from, and they ran right in front of Charlie Sawyer and I.
This position here, we didn't know this at the time, was across the street where the hospital tents were, we didn't know that. So they came in front of Charlie, and Charlie and I opened up on 'em, plus the company was firing too, but Charlie and I killed a few of them, I don't know how many, but we killed a few.
After that skirmish, we pulled back and 7 o'clock in the morning -- this was like 2 or 3 in the morning -- at 7 o'clock, a German convoy came down with seven vehicles, and they didn't know we were there, so we opened up on them. One of the vehicles got away, but we got six of them.
So after that battle, it started to get light, so we went across the street, and it was wooded area, and we stumbled on the tents, so Frank, my good buddy -- I've got pictures of him -- we went around scouting in there, and we found two dead paratroopers on gurneys. They were wounded, but they were so bad wounded that the SS slit their throats.
They started to attack again in force, so we were told to get out of there from the headquarters -- said "get yourself out because you're too far out and you're all gonna get captured."
So the vehicles that were working at the Crossroad, Capt. McDonald put us on there to get us out of there, and we went back towards Bastogne where we took up our positions around the perimeter of Bastogne.
We fought at Bastogne until the middle of January because we had to go on to the offensive and push them back. After we left Bastogne, we were ordered down to Alsace-Lorraine because they thought there was going to be another push down there, so they sent the 101st. We were all disappointed because we figured we got relieved; we're gonna go back for a rest. Didn't happen.
After Alsace-Lorraine, we came back to France for a rest. And then we were sent into Germany. That's when we started pushing into Germany. From ... where we were in Neuss, we were spread out all over. From there, we were ordered down to Bavaria, and we went through Austria and the 506th liberated Landsberg Concentration Camp. All the inmates were released, and we were on trucks coming in, and we saw all the inmates. It was a sight, you know.
And then, we continued on into Berchtesgaden, which we captured. And, while we were there -- all the buildings, Hitler's home all that -- on the Eagle's Nest, they had his hotel and stuff there. The VIPs and people from other outfits were coming to start looting, so they sent a detachment for guard duty, so I was picked for guard duty, and my job was to stand in front of the tunnels. They had tunnels underneath, so we stood there, and I slept in Hitler's private hotel. Der Platterhof it was called, Der Platterhof. I slept there and ate there. Good duty. Good duty.
There was a brochure of his hotel, so what I did, I took one, and I wrote in the back of it to my parents. I said, "This is where I'm staying right now, this is Hitler's hotel." And I sent it home, and I still have it. I got it in my album.
I stood there for two weeks. We stayed there. Now, the war had ended there. When we first got there on May 8, the war was over, so we stood there maybe until June maybe. Then, we were shipped back to France, and we started training for the Pacific, but then the war ended there, and then it was a matter of just waiting for you number to come up to go home.
We left France, Dec. 16 (1945). It took us 10 days to get home. We had a big storm on the way home, and I got home into New York the day after Christmas. And then, from there on I got discharged in New Jersey, and I became a civilian."