On Monday, a WW2 Veteran named Vincent Speranza from the 101 Airborne related his memories about the Battle of Bastogne Dec. 19-21. At that time, he recalled going on a beer run for an injured buddy while being surrounded by Germans, which should delight history lovers, and inspire even the least festive person on Earth.
“It took sixty-five years for one member of the 101st Airborne Division Screaming Eagles to learn that his actions during the Battle of Bastogne were legendary, but not for heroism or bravery. It all started with a simple request for a beer – and the greatest beer run the world will ever see,” is an expert from a fantastic story by We Are The Mighty, about Vince’s greatest legacy to beer. You have to read the whole story.
I have chatted with Vince a few times; he lives alone now, his wife recently passed away. He has a wonderful aide who assists him, and he still enjoys traveling and writing out his memories on Facebook. He is also the author of the Biography, “Nuts.”
FAMOUS IN EUROPE- AIRBONE BEER NAMESAKE
THESE ARE THE EVENTS THAT LED UP TO THE GREATEST BEER RUN EVER
From Vincent’s Facebook, and with permission, here is his story, in his own words this week.
Hello, Friends. Today is the anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge. From now until the 23rd of December, I will try to give you, as best I can remember, day by day account. 76 years ago today, Dec.16th, I was a 19-year-old paratrooper assigned to H Company 501 PIR, 101st Airborne Division, sitting in a barracks at Camp Mourmelon, France, MOS, Gunner.
I had been with the outfit for 3 weeks, staying in the background, listening to the “old-timers,” gleaning what I could from their experiences. No friends yet (when you are a replacement in a combat outfit, you are NOTHING until you prove yourself in combat). The Division was supposed to get 90 days for rest, rehabilitation, and resupplies. The “new kids” were to get combat training. In the meantime, the Division was planning a recreation program, and I was to represent 3rd Platoon in a relay race. I remember going to bed that night planning to drive myself hard hoping to earn a little respect from my comrades. It was not to be. No one could have known what was coming. Continued tomorrow ……
“76 years ago today, Dec.17th. Camp Mourmelon, France. About 4:00 am, the barracks lights come on, and a harsh voice breaks through the tranquility of sleep. “AW RIGHT, DROP YOUR ***** AND GRAB YOUR SOCKS, WE’RE MOVING UP !!” “OUTTA THEM RACKS.” I BOLT UPRIGHT. “SARG,” SOMEONE SAYS, “YOU GOTTA BE CRAZY, THE GROUND IS FROZEN, WE’LL ALL BREAK OUR LEGS” ” YOU AINT JUMPING, YOU’RE GOING UP IN TRUCKS.” AND THEN FROM ALL OVER THE BARRACKS, ” SARG,” I DON’T HAVE A HELMUT, I DON’T HAVE A RIFLE, (ME, “I DON’T HAVE A MACHINE GUN, ONLY A TRENCH KNIFE”). ” STOP BITCHING, MAKE A LIST AND WE’LL STOP ALONG THE WAY AND PICK UP WHAT YOU NEED. WE NEW KIDS BELIEVED HIM AND DUTIFULLY APPLIED PENCIL TO PAPER, THE EXPERIENCED SNICKERED. IT WAS ESTIMATED LATER THAT FULLY 10% OF US ARRIVED IN BASTOGNE UNARMED.
And then began the great adventure, an all day and all night truck ride we would never forget. No stops, jammed in like sardines, freezing weather with no winter clothes, and an unknown mission. Dec 17th saw a miracle take place. A whole Division (about 9,000 paratroopers, joined later by 1500 705 Tank Destroyer men and 1500 10thArmored troops) moved 130 miles to Bastogne, arriving in time to face off 56,000 well-armed, well equipped German troops. As for me, well, combat, at last, let’s see what you’re made of. And that was Dec.17. What would Dec 18th bring? ………..More tomorrow ….
76 years ago today, December 19, 1944, in the Bastogne area. I shiver myself awake. Fog is everywhere. I can’t even see the next foxhole. Sgt. Russell’s voice comes thru the fog. “Stay alert, you guys.”
The fog begins to lift, and we can see each other. The open field out front comes into view. The swishing of big guns. Heavy explosions shake the ground. “get down in those holes.” You bury your face in the bottom of the foxhole and curse yourself for not digging it deeper. You shiver in anticipation of more explosions, and the ground shakes like an earthquake. Then the sound all infantrymen fear and hate the most. TANKS. “Get ready.” The tanks come rolling up, firing those terrible 88’s point-blank right at the foxholes.
When they hit one, the man disappears, and his rifle spins in the air. The Lt says, “set your sights at 400 yards.” My thoughts explode. Combat. German infantry starts up the field as the fog lifts, and they gallop thru the snow. The Lt says, “Not Now.” I am hot, cold, shaky, mind on fire, as bullets come whizzing by. Where the hell from? What, where, and at whom should we fire.
Not yet Not yet, said the LT. the tanks are on top of us as the first wave of infantry reaches the 400-yard mark. I tense up. “Change the range to 200 yards,” says the Lt. The second wave of German infantry begins to back up the first, and the artillery fire goes past us up on the ridge. “Now Now,” says the Lt. My gun erupts. Training kicks in. 3-second bursts, traverse, bursts. and, (I am later told) a string of curses emit from my cracked lips. “Man,” my buddies tell me later, we never heard such cursing in our whole lives; we think you even invented some new ones. “Curse & Traverse Speranza” was born. We slaughtered them. The snow turns red. We pour it on. Their lines falter and turn back. The tanks, now realizing that their infantry is not behind them, turn around and go back. On their way back, McAuliffes artillery opens up.
He destroyed them. We begin to shout. “Surprise You Bastards” you didn’t know the 101st Airborne was in here. You thought you were going to smash through like you did the other four American Divisions in the Ardennes. Our exhalations fade as we turn around and look at our men, down and bleeding. The medics go to work. Things go quiet and I start to collect my thoughts. How did I do? Was I scared? Yes! Was I scared shitless? No! What then seeped through my mind was, “how did I do?” My father’s last words at the train station before leaving for the Service come back ” figlio mio, non fai una cosa che me fa calara la testa” (son, just don’t do anything to make me hang my head in shame); I DIDN’T POP.
Sgt Russell approaches. “You did good Speranzus”, “you’ll make a paratrooper yet.” I swell with pride. We soon found out that this was just the beginning. ….. More tomorrow. Vince
76 years ago today, December 20, 1945, Bastogne Bad day today, heard an ugly rumor that the Germans have surrounded us and captured the field hospital. I got visited by the Luftwaffe last night, and the town is flattened. Casualties are starting to mount, and the bombardment remains unabated. The temperature has dropped again.
We have to keep stamping our feet and beating our arms to keep from freezing. Spending most of our time with our nose buried in the foxhole. Down to two K-rations already and scooping up snow for water. When is the artillery going to quit? The expected counterattack did not materialize where I was. No place to put the wounded except the church and the seminary across the street. No beds, stretchers, or blankets … the wounded on the floor of the church, one doctor, and one Belgian nurse are the only medical team.
The rear boys went through the houses, gathering bedspreads, curtains, drapes, and whatever else they could find to cover the wounded. Those of us that had two blankets donated one to the wounded. Everyone was freezing anyway. The sergeants are redistributing ammo supply. It doesn’t look good. Hear that a lot of guys have frozen feet and trench foot beginning to set in. Not good. Morale, however, is high.
But where the hell are our planes to knock out some of those tanks? (Found out later that the weather in England was impossible. Our planes could not get off the ground.) The town is a shambles, and a lot of communication has to be by a runner. By evening, we hear firing at other parts of the line. Sporadic attacks take place, but all lines hold. More tomorrow … Vince
76 years ago today, Dec. 21st, Bastogne. Snowing again. Terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach heard my buddy Joe Willis got hit and taken back to the Church. “Sarge, can I go back to see him? ” “get back in that goddam hole, Spranzus.” Maybe later today I may have to send you back there to try to get some batteries for our radio. Then you might get to check on him. “Arty” let up a bit by noon. Now on my way to town for the batteries. Lt says, “wait; I’ll look.” I run down to the church. Bad scene, guys laying all over the floor, some still unattended. Our one doctor (Capt, later Major, Walkman) and his one nurse in a frenzy trying to take care of the worst cases. I see Joe on the floor.
” Joe. how the fuck are you doing?” “Aw nuttin, just a couple pieces of shrapnel in my legs, I’ll be out of here tomorrow.” ” No shit,” “you had me scared.” “That’s great, Joe; I’m relieved.” “well, I gotta go back, anything I can do for you before I go?” ” yea, go find me something to drink” “Joe, where t’hell you think I can find you something to drink, we’re surrounded, there are no supplies coming in here.” Go look in the taverns” “Joe, the taverns are all bombed to shit.” “go look anyway; you might get lucky.” OK. When your foxhole buddy wants a drink, you go find him a drink. (So here begins THE BEER STORY, too long to tell here. On your cell phone, Google … Airborne Beer …. for all the details.) Always, in the midst of misery comes something to laugh at. More tomorrow, Vince.
And that is how Airborne Beer got it’s name.
For more from Vincent, to obtain a copy of his book from him directly:
In US, Send check for $25 ($20 for book $5 for postage and mailer) to …..PO BOX 234, Auburn, Il. 62615 Autographed book will be in mail next day