It was the last major offensive by the German army in WWII. The 'Battle of the Bulge' lasted for more than a month, 75 years ago and local veteran Bill Glaspie was right in the middle of it. The U.S. 3rd Army dug in for what would become one of the bloodiest battles of the war.
For Glaspie, it was another hill, another forest on a 17-month march across Europe from Normandy to Munich. One of 12 kids, he was drafted into the Army in 1943 and was assigned to an anti-aircraft crew. His half track vehicle landed on the beach during D-Day before he did. "It was in a landing craft ready to go," said Glaspie, "we just had to get to the beach and unload and we were ready to go."
His first assignment was in St. Nazere, France guarding a dam near a Nazi submarine base. His first action involved a German plane that flew over reportedly carrying three Generals on board. It got away. During another encounter, two German 109 fighter planes dove on his position for what he thought was a strafing run. Both planes were shot down.
As the Army moved closer to Germany, Glaspie remembers entering Belgium and the Ardennes forest when the 'Battle of the Bulge' began in mid-December 1944. "The German army was moving so fast, we had not time to set up our gun," said Glaspie, "our commander said don't bother, we have to go."
It's been called the bloodiest battle of the war with more than 19,000 American casualties. "There were bodies blown up in trees," said Glaspie, "I would always say my mother's prayer and it kept me alive."
From there, Glaspie crossed the Danube River, then the Siegfried Line on his way to Munich, where the Germans finally surrendered. He earned several commendations including the Bronze Star.
He went on the 'Honor Flight' last May, and followed that by driving by himself to Oregon to visit his kids. Now, there's only one thing that might prompt him to leave Bakersfield again. "If war broke out, I'd go to fight," said Glaspie, "I might not hit anything but I'd scare them!"
A call to action that this 96-year old veteran he says he's ready to answer, again.