CHICAGO -- A poster hangs on the wall of Richard Idstein’s home on this quiet street in a northwest Chicago suburb. It says Bataille Des Ardennes in bold black letters with the years 1944 and 1994 below it. In the hallway, near the front door, is a picture frame holding a Purple Heart, bullet and Army medals. It’s the home of a World War II Soldier who remembers the day the Battle of the Bulge started.As he shared, the Soldiers of the 106th Infantry Division, Company C ate breakfast quickly. They fall out with full packs and overcoats. But they are given the order to change into light packs and jackets on this early December morning.Their mission: move to the front lines to assist “B” Company and provide reinforcements for Cannon companies already positioned in front line bunkers.19-year-old Pfc. Richard Idstein is assigned to an intelligence and reconnaissance squad. He leaves behind the candy he received in a Christmas package from home. But keeps his overcoat. Only a few Soldiers have one. The battle took place in one of the coldest winters ever recorded in Europe. His platoon moves by truck and on foot through the thick woods of the Ardennes region of Belgium. Then the German Army attacked.“We ran into the German infantry. They had machine guns, pistols and rifles,” explained the 95-year-old retired elementary school teacher, recalling his first day of fighting at the Battle of the Bulge during World War Two.German war planners called it ‘Operation Watch on the Rhine’. Adolph Hitler’s final Counteroffensive to divide the American and British forces and capture the allied port in Antwerp, Belgium. The six week battle began December 16th, 1944 and ended January 25th, 1945.A wire service reporter described the initial attack.“The attack against the 106th started in the foggy dawn of December 16th with a tremendous artillery barrage against their line that curved northward from the center of the Schnee Eifel, a rocky wooded ridge ten miles long and two miles wide against the Siegfried line,” reported Associated Press Correspondent E.D. Ball who traveled with the 106th Infantry Division.“The cannons were firing at us. I was in the first squad of the 1st platoon. When the Germans heard us coming they formed an upside down U formation. Machine gun and rifle bullets came from in front and mortar shells were exploding among the trees to the rear,” said Idstein. “When the mortar shells hit the trees they caused the trees to burst and the shrapnel rained down on us. Two of the men in my squad were badly hurt.”Idstein’s platoon leader, 2nd Lt. McKay, ordered the Soldiers to attack. They pushed forward to front line bunkers originally held by German Soldiers and captured ten of them. But it came with a cost. Seven Soldiers in his platoon were killed.Idstein was part of an action to rescue an entire company of fellow 106th Infantry Division Soldiers that were captured by German forces.“The Germans caught those Soldiers completely unprepared and captured them,” said Idstein. “They were not expecting the Germans to attack.”But help was on the way.“My first platoon went forward and shot our way through the Germans and rescued about 35 Soldiers from Cannon Company. It took three days to get back to our headquarters at St. Vith,” said Idstein. “After we rescued the Soldiers from Cannon Company we were even more careful. That’s why it took three days to get back to the American lines. We didn’t know where the Germans were. We had no idea where they would pop up.”The platoon increased from 50 to 55 Soldiers but now they were behind enemy lines.On the morning of December 21st, Idstein and another Soldier were doing a reconnaissance mission on a bridge.“In order to move we had to see if we could cross a creek. We had to see if the bridge was being held by the Germans. The bullets came flying. That’s when they shot me, “said Idstein. “The Germans were guarding the bridge.”He was hit in the left shoulder by a bullet fired from a German machine pistol and crawled back to his foxhole. An officer provided basic medical care to his wound.“2nd Lt. McKay sat on the edge of the foxhole and bandaged me up,” said Idstein. “After I was shot I gave away my overcoat to a Soldier I shared the foxhole with.”Idstein was driven in a Jeep to a first aid station in Verviers, Belgium and then to Liege, Belgium.“The bullet was taken out of my back. I still have the bullet. It’s hanging up with my purple heart,” he said.Idstein would be moved to Paris, France where he spent New Year’s Eve in a hospital recovering from trench foot. He went to a hospital in Sutton, England to complete his recovery before rejoining Company C in late March, 1945, for “mopping up” operations in France.“You find the other towns the Germans have captured. We attacked them and nine times out of ten they surrendered because they were cut off,” said Idstein.A few months later in August, 1945, Idstein boarded a liberty ship with other Soldiers heading to the United States. They would go on furlough and then train for the invasion of Japan.“We were coming back and were two days out of New York when the first atomic bomb was dropped. When the first bomb was dropped none of the Soldiers believed a bomb could do that much damage. When they dropped the second atomic bomb we became believers,” said Idstein.There would be no invasion of Japan.Fireboats welcomed the Soldiers on the liberty ship when it entered the New York harbor.Idstein traveled from New York back to Fort Sheridan in Illinois in the fall. He was discharged January 6, 1946.The retired teacher reflected on his service in what British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called “the greatest American battle of the war”.“It was the German’s last big attack” said Idstein. “They had to be stopped or they would have gone all the way to the English Channel. The Germans wanted to get there and they never made it. It was quite a battle.”(Special thanks to Mr. Greg Padovani and Mr. Andrew Woods, a Research Historian with First Division Museum at Cantigny Park, for their time and assistance with this story.)