Our World: Battle of the Bulge ‘was a great adventure’ for Naples veteran

Naples resident Mike Viechec, 87, fought as an infantryman in the U.S. Army through the entire Battle of the Bulge until the end of World War II. David Albers/Staff

Photo by DAVID ALBERS

Naples resident Mike Viechec, 87, fought as an infantryman in the U.S. Army through the entire Battle of the Bulge until the end of World War II. David Albers/Staff

Sixty-six years ago today, Cpl. Mike Viechec was fighting in the bloodiest U.S. battle in World War II, the Battle of the Bulge. The 21-year-old son of Polish immigrants from a Pennsylvania coal-mining town participated in the Allied push from Nancy, France, through the entire Nazi counter-offensive of the Battle of the Bulge and onward to V-E Day.

Today at 87, Viechec recalls the events as if they were yesterday, an event that helped define history and his life.

“Frontline combat everyday. It was like going to your daily job… As a matter of fact, it became so routine that you felt no danger… You saw everyday what was happening on that battlefield, but somehow I guess you are brainwashed to accept what was happening.”

As a machine gunner and rifleman, Viechec was sent with his squad to push the battle lines under the cover of artillery.

“You’d never lay down for a night’s sleep. You’d catnap. And food, especially during the Battle of the Bulge, it was so cold our rations were frozen solid. They were in little cans, K-rations, biscuits and little beanie weenies. We had a little can opener, a p-38, but our fingers were so frozen you couldn’t open that can so you would just throw it on the ground and go.”

The soldiers in Viechec’s squad would rotate out as they fought eastward.

“By the end of the war, I had 12 different guys, nobody that I started out with. They were either badly wounded, or killed. Constantly you’d be getting replacements. They’d come up like rations fresh out of basic training.

“I don’t think the enemy was our biggest fear, it was freezing. We had to bite our hands, rub our nose and kick our feet to keep circulation going. Of course the enemy suffered just as well. We had guys that lost fingers to frost bite. The tips of their noses. An ear.

“I thought to myself as I went along and I believe that with all that I have seen and all that has happened in front of me, I felt I had divine guidance and divine protection. That’s why I came out of it. The heroes are still there.”

It wasn’t until the Russian Army broke through the eastern front, he says, that the Nazis retreated to fight the Russians.

The last death Viechec personally witnessed in the war was the death of his close friend, Larry Flynn, with whom he worked as forward observers. The two holed up in an abandoned house while scouting in Germany as the Nazis retreated. Flynn volunteered to be on the lookout in the attic window one night as Viechec made coffee.

“I had the two cups of coffee and I went up there and I saw him slumped down. I looked and there was blood coming down. He had a bullet right in the forehead. A sniper got him. It could have been me. It was just a matter of which one of us was going to go up there. Of all the combat killings that I saw, that touched the depths of my soul to look at my friend lying dead in front of my eyes after it was just about over.

“When I think about my experiences, I will say that despite all the adversities and the cruelties that I have seen, if I had to live my life again, I hope God would give me an exact duplicate copy of it. It was a great adventure.”

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Connect with David Albers at www.naplesnews.com/staff/david-albers.

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