On a cold morning in December, 1944, deep in the Ardennes forest, a platoon of eighteen men under the command of twenty-year-old lieutenant Lyle Bouck were huddled in their foxholes trying desperately to keep warm. Suddenly, the early morning silence was broken by the roar of a huge artillery bombardment and the dreadful sound of approaching tanks. Hitler had launched his bold and risky offensive against the Allies-his “last gamble”-and the small American Intelligence and Reconnaissance platoon of the 394 Regiment, 99 Infantry Division, was facing the provisional vanguard of the 1 SS Leibstandarte Adolph Hitler.
Vastly outnumbered, they repulsed three German assaults in a fierce day-long battle, killing over 64 German Fallschirmjaeger and wounding another 100, defending a strategically vital hill. Only when Bouck’s men had run out of ammunition did they surrender to the enemy. As POWs, Bouck’s platoon began an ordeal far worse than combat-survive in captivity under trigger-happy German guards, Allied bombing raids, and a daily ration of only thin soup. In German POW camps, hundreds of captured Americans were either killed or died of disease, and most lost all hope. But the men of Bouck’s platoon survived-miraculously, all of them. Once again in vivid, dramatic prose, Alex Kershaw brings to life the story of some of America’s little-known heroes-the story of America’s most decorated small unit, an epic story of courage and survival in World War II, and one of the most inspiring stories in American history.
In this short video, historian and author Alex Kershaw returns to Lanzerath, Belgium and talks about the I&R Platoon.