JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. –
The U.S. Army Reserve’s 99th Readiness Division paid tribute to its forbearers Dec. 16 by hosting a Battle of the Bulge Remembrance and Commemoration Ceremony at division headquarters here.
The 99th Infantry Division played a key role in the World-War-II battle, holding its 19-mile sector against attack by elements of the 1st SS Panzer Division and thereby delaying the German Army’s advance.
“I thank you for helping us remember and commemorate those fallen, and those who lived on and have since passed,” said Stephen Harlan, 99th RD command historian and host of the event. “Talk to our predecessors, hear their stories, and help honor them.”
Harlan shared the story of a 20-year-old second lieutenant named Lyle Bouck who led the Intelligence & Reconnaissance Platoon of the 99th ID’s 394th Infantry Regiment. After taking positions along the V Corps, First Army sector of the Siegfried Line in Belgium’s Ardennes Forest only days before, the division was woken on Dec. 16, 1944 by an early morning artillery barrage and rapid advance of German tanks against the 394th’s position.
The Battle of the Bulge had begun.
“With his platoon of about 20 Soldiers, Bouck faced a battalion of 500 Volksgrenadier,” Harlan explained. “Bouck had the advantage of the high ground, and what he did with intermittent fire and consolidating his ammunition at different foxholes and firing at different points was make that German battalion think they were facing a regiment for 10 hours straight.”
As a result of their tenacity, the German Army was delayed from reaching the Meuse River bridges in its drive toward Antwerp, disrupting its strategic timetable. Bouck and his men surrendered only after their last round of ammunition had been fired.
“Some of the 99th POWs were eventually liberated by their own division in April of 1945 as the division advanced through the heart of Germany,” Harlan said.
In 1981, the platoon’s actions were finally recognized with the Presidential Unit Citation, four Distinguished Service Crosses, five Silver Stars and eight Bronze Stars with “V” Device for Valor. Four members of the 371st Artillery Regiment observer team also received Distinguished Service Crosses for their fire support during the battle.