Kiwanis prepares to hand out gifts
Monitor Photos/Kerry Yancey
Kiwanis member Paula Kimball drops off a loaf of
bread into a food basket, while Tate Cramm adds flour and sugar to another
food basket Wednesday, as Kiwanis members made final preparations to hand
out food and toys to needy families at the community room of The Library at
Cedar Creek Lake in Seven Points.
Monitor Photos/Kerry Yancey
Kiwanis members Shannon Steakley (left) and Carol Eubank review lists and
names to make certain toys and gifts are properly labeled and ready to hand
out to needy area families.
Battle of Bulge veteran recalls
key WWII fight
By Kerry Yancey
Monitor Staff Writer
PHALBA–Sixty-two years ago this Christmas, the
tide turned on what was then called the Western Front, as Allied troops
began to cut off the German armies that had pushed a huge “bulge” into
For 18-year-old Phalba native Davis H. Marable, it was a time to forget –
and now remember.
“The American people have no idea how close the Americans came to getting
shoved back into the sea, like at Dunkirk,” Marable said. “They don’t
realize how few people are still around who were in World War II. I’m 80,
and I was one of the younger ones.”
Young Marable found out quickly how life would be on the front lines in
“The snow was not quite tabletop deep,” he recalled. “They said, ‘Dig you a
hole. That’s your home’.”
Marable, who now lives on the old family farm in Phalba along State Highway
198, literally feet from where he was born, joined the U.S. Army Aug. 8,
1944, following his two older brothers, Elmer and Willie (Bill), who joined
Dec. 30, 1941, and Feb. 14, 1942, respectively.
As a youngster, Marable attended school in Canton, and received his basic
training at Camp Hood (now Fort Hood) in Central Texas.
When the Battle of the Bulge began, Marable’s Texas training was cut short,
and he was quickly shipped overseas to join the 11th Armored Infantry
Division, and the 21st Armored Infantry Battalion at St. Vith, just north of
the besieged city of Bastogne.
Marable crossed the Atlantic Ocean on the luxury liner Queen Elizabeth, but
crossed the English Channel on a much smaller craft.
He vividly remembers his embarkation onto French soil.
“I had to climb over the side of the boat, down a rope ladder, with a full
field pack on,” he shuddered.
German dictator Adoph Hitler himself came up with the idea for a lightning
attack in the Ardennes Forest, the same area where German forces had swept
into France in 1870, again during the Great War of 1914 and again in the
blitzkrieg of 1940.
The idea literally struck Hitler like a lightning bolt during a Sept. 16
conference with his top generals.
During Gen. Alfred Jodl’s report on the deteriorating situation, he
mentioned the Ardennes, and Hitler stiffened, then pounded on the map,
saying the Ardennes Forest would be where his armies would counterattack.
As he quickly outlined the proposed offensive, Hitler looked almost like his
old, dynamic self, shaking off the continuing physical deterioration noted
by everyone after the failed bombing attempt on his life July 20, 1944.
(Hitler’s personal physician actually was slowly poisoning him with
“anti-gas” pills containing small amounts of strychnine.)
Jodl drew up plans for the offensive under intense secrecy. The code name
for the operation was changed weekly, in an attempt to foil the spy Hitler
knew was in his headquarters (the spy was actually the British Ultra, the
cipher machine that had broken the German secret codes).
Three entire armies – 250,000 men, plus tanks and support vehicles – were
secretly moved into place, and the operation, finally known as Autumn Fog,
was set to begin either Dec. 15 or the next day, whenever the weather turned
bad enough to ground American airplanes.
The shivering German troops heard a message from Field Marshal von
Rundstendt: “We gamble everything!”
Hitler’s plan was to drive a wedge between the American forces and the
If Hitler’s armies could reach the sea, the Western Front would be split,
forcing the Allies to sue for an armistice. That would allow Hitler to
disengage his forces and turn east to halt the Russians.
The area marked for the German advance was held by just six divisions. Of
these, three were brand-new, and the other three literally bled white by
It was known as the “Ghost Front,” and neither side had done much to annoy
the other for two months.
At 5:30 a.m. Dec. 16, the Germans launched an intense artillery barrage
across an 85-mile front, and began pushing forward behind their Tiger tanks.
Incredible confusion marked the entire front, as the Germans tried to outrun
news of their assault, and, in many cases, succeeded.
Hitler’s personal commando, Major Otto Skorzeny, had the brilliant idea to
infiltrate seven squads of German soldiers in American uniforms to sow
disinformation and sabotage behind the lines.
While Skorzeny’s 28 men didn’t do all that much, they told their captors
there were thousands of them behind the American lines, and that lie did
more to distrupt the Americans than the group’s actual activities.
In the deep snow of the Schnee Eiffel, some 8,000 (perhaps 9,000 – no one
knows for certain) American troops were captured. It was the largest capture
of American troops in the war, aside from the surrender of Bataan in early
The 11th Armored Division lost 6,000 of its 15,000 men during the drive into
Germany, Marable said.
Overall, the Allies lost 76,980 casualties, while the Germans lost at least
70,000 casualties and had 50,000 troops captured.
In retrospect, Marable’s unit was incredibly lucky. “We only lost one man
out of 19 in five months,” he recalled.
Marable’s first action would again be memorable.
“The first thing they did was put nine of us in a half-track and send it
over a wooden road to see if it was mined,” he recalled.
Marable was his platoon’s radio operator and machine-gunner, using both
.30-caliber and .50-caliber weapons.
“Another guy, Albert Adams, said I was too small (generously listed at 5-7,
154 pounds) to carry the radio, and he carried it,” he said.
Marable was in I&R, intelligence and reconnaissance, operating in the
spearhead of American forces. Nearly every day, he would join in a group of
two Jeeps and a half-track that would probe ahead, seeking the enemy and
reporting their positions.
The Ardennes Forest was virtually impassible, he said.
“Those woods were so thick, a squirrel couldn’t get through,” he said.
Those heading into battle couldn’t tell Americans from Germans – everyone
was wet, muddy, freezing and starving.
“We wore every bit of clothes we could beg, borrow or scrounge,” Marable
He recalled going three weeks without a mess call, because the food couldn’t
get to them.
“Americans just don’t know what it’s like to have to do without food,” he
said. “My brother (Bill) was hauling gasoline and food to us, but he didn’t
know I was there.”
Allied Commander Gen. Dwight Eisenhower had forces both north and south turn
to cut off the German spearhead, which was halted just east of its intended
target, the major Allied base at Dinant, on the Meuse River.
On Christmas, the weather cleared, and the Allies could use air power to
pound the German supply lines and troops or tanks caught in the open.
Air power and Eisenhower’s ability to call up reserve troops, which Hitler
couldn’t do, turned the battle, and by Jan. 28, 1945, it was all over.
Hitler’s desperate gamble had failed. The Allies were pushing into Germany
On Jan. 12, Russia launched a huge offensive, which quickly broke through
the thinly-spaced German lines and began driving towards Berlin.
Marable recalled the hottest action he was in came Feb. 21, 1945, when his
column found itself coming under fire from three sides, after advancing less
than 1,500 yards.
“I was the getaway guy, because I was the short guy,” he recalled. It was
Marable’s responsibility to get back to American lines and report the danger
“I was too young and too small to get hit,” he said with a chuckle. He did
have a piece of shrapnel hit his foot, but it failed to penetrate his boot.
March 7, 1945, the Americans got lucky, and captured an intact bridge across
the Rhine River at Remagen.
“We crossed the Rhine about nine miles downstream from the bridge at Remagen,”
Marable recalled. “We could watch the dogfights over the bridge.”
By then, Hitler’s “wonder weapons,” such as the world’s first jet-powered
fighter, the ME 262, were in production, but there were too few of them and
too little available fuel to make a difference against the Allies’
overwhelming air superiority.
With the Russians less than two miles away, Hitler killed himself in his
armored bunker deep under the Reichchancellery in Berlin April 30, and
Germany surrendered May 8.
The war in Europe was over.
During the Allies’ drive into Germany, and after the surrender, the world
began to see the horrors hidden behind the Nazi flag.
Marable was among the first Americans to arrive at Camp Mauthausen, just
outside Linz, Austria.
The 2,400 German guards there surrendered to fewer than two dozen GIs,
finding the Americans preferable to the advancing Russians.
Inside the camp, the Americans found thousands of prisoners literally
starving to death.
“We buried 1,600 people the day after I got there,” Marable recalled with a
frown. “We dug a hole with a bulldozer and pushed them off in there.
“That was all we could do with them,” he added. “They were nothing but
Marable and an interpreter were sent out to collect the camp’s commander,
who had holed up in a nearby house. The interpreter went upstairs to fetch
the commander, and they escorted him back.
“We put him in the gas chamber, and they were really perturbed when we
didn’t turn the gas on,” he recalled. “You can guess how they might feel
After the war, Marable briefly attended North Texas State University, and
later enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps, later to become the Air Force.
He spent 20 years in Air Force intelligence, and after retiring, joined the
U.S. Postal Service, becoming a postal clerk in Dallas. He retired again
after 20 years with the Postal Service, and returned to the family farm in
Marable has attended a few reunions, but admits he can’t spend thousands to
travel to reunions each year. “If there’s anyone else in the area who was
there, I sure would like to get ahold of them,” he said.
He and his wife Mae married Oct. 3, 1947. They have three living children,
three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
The horrors of the Battle of the Bulge are long behind him now, but he still
remembers, and hopes that younger generations learn what it takes to stay
“The American people have no idea how the world turns,” he said. “It would
be nice if they woke up and smelled the roses.”
Editor’s note: Historical information in this story was collected from the
autobiography “Adoph Hitler,” by John Toland, published in 1978, and “The
Two World Wars,” by Susanne Everett and Brig. Gen. Peter Young, published in
Davis Marable in 1944.
|Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
Davis Marable holds the Bronze Star he was awarded for his service
during the Battle of the Bulge.