In THE FRONT I’ve written an homage to one of the most decorated platoons of World War 2. On December 16th, 1944, the 18 men of the 99th’s Intelligence and Recognizance Infantry Division, faced a force of over 500 German paratroopers. They managed to hold a hill that overlooked the village of Lanzareth for 10 hours.
They were commanded by a 20 year old Lieutenant named Lyle Bouck. The amazing part was that the entire group of men were green and yet they delayed the German advance by up to 20 hours despite begging for artillery support and being told they were “seeing things”.
The 99th had no artillery support with the exception of a 60mm mortar despite repeated calls for help. At full strength the company numbered 22 men with the mortar (a late arrival on the morning of the attack). They suffered only minimal losses. One of the mortar team members was struck and died. They had almost no medical supplies and no morphine.
During the battle, one of the men, Private Louis Kalil, was hit in the face by a rifle grenade. Luckily it didn’t detonate. Kalil later said that he could feel his teeth embedded in the roof of his mouth and tongue. His face was fractured in 3 places.
He fought on throughout the rest of the day.
The idea that a force of over 200,000 German troops were staging an offensive through the Ardennes forrest was too luriscious for the allied command to believe and they were slow to respond. Making matters worse, Hitler picked a time when there was bad weather and there was massive fog. This grounded the superior Allied air cover and left a corridor for the Germans to attack through. As they advanced, the Allied lines “bulged” outward as they tried to keep from getting flanked.
The men of the 99th were eventually taken prisoner of war. The platoon was at one point lined up against a wall and thought they were going to be executed by the Germans. An officer intervened at the last minute and the men were spared. Most sat out the rest of the war in POW camps.
It was not until 1981 that this platoon received the recognition they deserved and were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism.
While THE FRONT is a fictional story that involves real world events with zombies, I can’t ever say enough about the brave soldiers who fought in World War II.
Check out this interview with the surviving members of the 99th.