Negative sixty-five degrees farenheit. Cold enough for blood to freeze in the veins. Not even the animals were out on this night. Thin cotton trousers and worn-down leather boots with no socks did little to keep the body warm. Shivering was the body’s last and final attempt to heat up. If that did not help, then death was almost certain. Snow fell gently, and hushed voices could be heard in the darkness. Hunkered-down in freshly-dug foxholes were the men of the 44th U.S. Army Infantry. The lucky ones had put up canvas as makeshift roofs to keep the snow out, while others were left with mere blankets, or less. The members of the 324th Infantry Regiment did what they could to keep warm, but thoughts of home and fire coming from a small metal can were not enough.
It was hard to believe because it was only the beginning of November, not even technically winter yet. But this cold was common in these parts, and brutal in its strength. The high mountain woodlands of southern France proved to be unforgiving in its challenges.
The 8th Army had been moving through France with an ultimate destination north, towards northern France, Belgium, and Germany. This advance had gone on for two months, with little progress thus far. Travel had been slowed due to the Germans destroying several key bridges while retreating. Fuel for the vehicles gelled up in the tanks because of the cold. Roads also had to be rebuilt, following bombardments by allied B-52 bombers trying to sight the Germans that were running back home.
For the last week, the 324th infantry regiment had been stationed in this very same place – a strategic hillside overlooking the Vosges Gap in Vosges, France. Road D-157 was the only supply line open from southern to northern France. This made it a key allied asset. When the men first arrived to this hillside, they could sense something from its forests, a somber mood of death and darkness. Some men reported hearing strange noises at night, cries of men and a high pitched whistling were the most common. They had heard stories from the villagers passing through that the hillside had been the sight of a major battle in World War I, that left thousands of men dead.