The first thing I noticed was the odor. It reminded me of the Kuhner Packing Company’s waste being burned in my hometown of Muncie, Indiana. It was a warm morning in April, 1945 — calm and peaceful — unlike the grueling conditions we had recently left behind in Belgium and Luxembourg.
Towering over a vast stretch of eastern Germany, the hills looked down on cities, rivers, mountain passages and tactical and strategic sites. Most significantly, Hills 648 and 649 were bastions of Germany’s Siegfried Line, a series of heavily-armed and mined bunkers dug into the hillsides.
After helping to free the besieged city of Bastogne, Belgium, during the Battle of the Bulge, the 87th Infantry Division soldiers were exhausted. And their ranks had been thinned of experienced infantrymen. Yet, acting under orders from Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., the two towering hills were the 346th Regiment’s newly-assigned targets.