Lehighton students hear Battle of the Bulge vets
Gail Maholick/TIMES NEWS Frank Maresca, members of the Battle of the Bulge Lehigh Valley Chapter, explains some of the memorabilia to students at Lehighton Area High School. The Battle of the Bulge veterans talked about the mighty battle during a Veterans Day program.
Veterans from the Battle of the Bulge made history come alive for students at Lehighton Area High School as part of the school's observance of Veterans Day.
Marion (Ahner) Jones, Quint Snyder, Roy Minnerly and Frank Maresca, members of the Battle of the Bulge Lehigh Valley Chapter, shared their experience on the pivotal battle that caused the deaths of 19,000 soldiers and left 80,000 wounded.
Jones, a nurse, told of her training and trip to Europe on an English hospital ship manned by the British. The ship, which encountered fierce storms with freezing conditions, arrived after 17 days in Liverpool, England. She then traveled by train to Altrincham/Bowden where she stayed with an English family and continued her training.
She was then assigned to the Third Army.
On D-Day she crossed the English Channel and landed on Utah Beach. She spent two nights sleeping in fox holes dug by soldiers in the early landing wave. Her first assignment was to help care for a hospital with 400 beds and 525 patients.
That first tent hospital was close to the front lines and when the troops moved forward, so did the hospital. The Allies continued crisscrossing through France, Luxembourg and Germany following General Patton and the Third Army.
Wounded soldiers didn't remain long in the hospital. Jones said they received necessary surgery and stayed until their condition was stabilized and were then transferred to a bigger, better equipped hospital far from the front lines to recuperate.
Jones told of the emotions in wartime.
"You feel like crying, but you force yourself to smile," she said. "At long last the war was over. I could feel the relief and joy when the war ended. We had the biggest bon fire in all of Europe. No black out conditions anymore. There was singing and dancing like you wouldn't believe. Lots of hugs and kisses."
Frank Maresca spoke about monotonous hours and boredom leading up to the battle.
"At first we thought we might not be needed in combat," he said. "Perhaps, as rumor had it, we were destined for calmer things.
"One amusement we had was to search for food. We had a limited quantity to chow down."
Since they had no radio, Maresca said soldiers learned about the status of the fighting by reading the "Stars and Stripes," the military newspaper.
"The talk of the front lines was a profound effect on our lives in the combat to come," said Maresca.
During the Battle of the Bulge, Maresca was hit and laid on the floor unconscious in the eves of the makeshift hospital for hours before someone noticed him and tended to his injuries.
Roy Minnerly said he witnessed the horror of war in the concentration camps and those scenes he will never forget.
"They would seal people in a room and back up a truck to let the fumes from the truck smother the people," he said. "When they went into the camps, most never were seen again."
He said when the camp was liberated by the Allies, some of the people could just about walk.
"We had to stop them from eating solid food because their stomachs were so shrunken that they would have died if they ate."
Minnerly said that the Germans tried to slow the advance of the tanks by opening the doors of the concentration camps.
"It didn't slow us," he said. "We continued."
Quint Snyder of Palmerton was drafted into the army after graduating from Lehighton High School in 1941. Snyder said that in addition to his regular combat training, he took training to become a combat engineer.
His unit was assigned to build bridges or to blow them up. Snyder was wounded on April 6, while his unit was building a bridge. The unit continued building the bridge amid continuous flurry of shell fire. By next day the bridge was built and the tanks were able to cross it before it was sunk by the Germans.
Snyder was take to a nearby home, where a hospital was set up in the basement. After his condition stabilized, he was flown from the area on a C-47 transport plane. Many others were also airlifted out of the war zone, including Snyder's buddy who had lost a leg.
"I knew I was hurt bad, but I knew I had my arms and legs, but I was happy too, because I knew for me the war was over and I had survived," he said.
Later he rejoined his outfit in Austria, serving on limited service as an occupation solder while his injuries healed. His knowledge of Pennsylvania Dutch helped him communicate with the German soldiers.
"We were staying in the ritzy residential section and I was part of the advanced party," he said.
He stayed in Austria until he was able to go home.
"I came into New York harbor, hearing the band play 'Sentimental Journey,' he said. "I never forget the wonderful sounds."
Snyder said that this was the first time he had spoken publicly of his experiences, but that he hopes to share his story again.
"The kids were attentive," said Snyder. "The kids asked a lot of questions. I was glad to see their interest."
Snyder said that he joined the Lehigh Valley Chapter of the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge three years ago.
"These people are heroes," he said. "It feels good to be among these people"