Herman Mofshowitz by Eric Morris

This is a photograph of my grandfather in uniform.
The American flag behind him is the one he carried
while in the war.  On the left of him are the patches
from his Battalion Destroyer Division.

Always Remember: The Battle of the Bulge


In the small and dusty basement of my house a chest holds a key to another life.  This chest contains memorabilia that my grandfather saved from his experiences in the war.  Faded army jackets, dirtied patches from his battalion, a collection of bullets, and tattered journals and booklets organized into one chest.  Through these materials and other sources, I was able to piece together his journey from New York to Texas and then to the battlefields of Germany.  Being described as “reluctant to talk about it” by his son Howard, the journey of Herman Mofshowitz can be constructed from his army papers and remembered forever.

The Draft and Training

On April 22, 1941 a draft card was sent to the home of Herman Mofshowitz located in the Bronx, New York asking him to travel to Texas for training in the 801st Tank Destroyer Battalion.  The draft was established in order to recruit more troops for the war effort.  Shortly thereafter he went to Camp Hood Texas to begin his training.  He spent almost three years learning the methods of disabling tanks and other skills such as how to drive the supplier trucks and learning to shoot different firearms.  On the 28th of February, 1944 he was sent to Europe to engage in battle for the Allied forces.

This is the uniform of my grandfather.  Underneath the jacket is his bag he carried while in the war and the magazine Army Talks was the Army`s publication that all soldiers received.

“You couldn’t understand it if you weren’t there”

Herman Mofshowitz arrived in France on March 11th, 1944.  His division was able to advance to Belgium`s Ardennes Forest without any major conflict, but he saw the remnants of previous fighting.  My father remembers Herman`s vivid description of his march towards the forest.  “You couldn`t imagine how horrible it was,” my father remembers Herman recalling, “Its not something you want to remember.  Going through the forest seeing hundreds of dead paratroopers hanging from trees, forests of dead bodies.”  On December 16th, 1944 the enemy attacked.  Hitler thought the Allies believed if “the enemy is fighting a defensive campaign; he cannot stage major offensive operations” (PBS).  Germany planned a surprise attack through the Ardennes Forest with the goal of recapturing the Port of Antwerp hoping to interrupt the Allied supplies chain.  This battle was the last gamble for Hitler`s army, an all or nothing move that could tilt the war in his favor or solidify the end of Hitler`s plan of worldwide domination.

This counterattack seemed doomed from the beginning according to General Rundstedt, who was the Commander in Chief of the Western front for the Nazi army. General Sepp Dietrich General, the man in charge of the Ardennes offensive, was  “decent but stupid, he understood nothing at all” (Hitler`s Generals).  This can be seen in the flaws of his plans.  One flaw in this plan is that the German tanks would not have enough gasoline to last more than a few days.  The Germans hoped that they could capture the fuel that the Americans were using.  Also, if successful, the Germans would not have the tank divisions to defend against the Soviets who would attack from the east.  Lastly, the Germans gambled that the weather would be poor so that the superior Allied planes would be grounded.  Fortunately for the Allies, the weather, cold and cloudy at first, became clear on Christmas Eve.  The battalion history describes their battalion “fighting like mad men.”  Along with the clouds turning, the battle and the war, turned in the Allies favor.

When the Germans first attacked, the surprised Allied soldiers suffered huge losses as they began to fall to the German tanks.  A horrific experience Herman described was of him in a trench watching while his friends and fellow soldiers were being sprayed with bullets and were dropping dead all around him.  He was just one of the few men that survived in his regiment that day.  This image of your fellow Americans being murdered as you watch on helplessly is what Sgt. James A. Donahue of the First Marine Division was referring to when he wrote the lines, “And when he gets to Heaven/ To St. Peter he will tell: 'One more Marine reporting, Sir — I've served my time in Hell”  (Mark`s Quotes).

"At that time I have lost every bit of my equipment, including personal stuff as I`ve had my shirt off at the time"- Passage from a letter he wrote while in the war

The name Battle of the Bulge came from the ‘bulge’ that the German forces caused by breaking through the weak first lines of the Allied Army.  Through small victories, like the one in Bastogne, Belgium, the Allied forces began to turn the table on the enemy.  The cloudless skies on Christmas Eve allowed 10,000 Allied airplanes to take off (PBS).  General George Patton exclaimed, “This time the Kraut stuck his head in a meat grinder.  And this time I`ve got hold of the handle” (Hitler`s Generals).  These aircraft bombarded the Nazi tanks and by January 3rd the Germans were on the retreat for good.  By the end of this battle, 110, 000 Germans were killed and 80,000 American troops were either killed or wounded.  This remains the largest battle ever fought by America.

One of the few memories that my grandfather did share took place during this war and is a graphic and saddening description of the war.  My father recollects his father saying, “I bent down to tie my shoe and the guy standing directly in back of me was shot and killed.  He had his head blown off.  If I had now bent down to tie my shoe, I would have gotten that bullet.”

The End Result

The Germans were defeated in the Battle of the Bulge on January 28, 1945.  From this point on, Hitler used his remaining resources to defend Germany in vain.  Allied soldiers marched on to Germany and Adolph Hitler, the fascist leader of the Nazi regime, committed suicide in late April of 1945.  On May 7th, 1945 the Germans surrendered to the American and Soviet forces. 

The picture to the left consists of my grandfather`s manual from Camp Hood.  Surrounding the picture are bullets and knives that he collected while marching through Europe.


Homeward Bound

On the 16th of September 1945, Herman Mofshowitz returned home from his tour of duty across Europe.  While spending a year and a half fighting across Europe, he had come back with a lifetime of experiences but not one stays fixed in my father`s mind more than the principled stand Herman took that led to his demotion.  After a battle following the Battle of the Bulge, his Lieutenant was being awarded a medal for his bravery in the war but Herman had witnessed the man run to the back of line to save his own life.  When it was the troops` turn to salute the Lieutenant, Herman refused and as a result was demoted from Corporal to Private.  It is this action taken by Herman that portrayed his strong character he possessed to his son as well as to myself, his grandson.

Before Herman passed away on December 5, 1983, he had saved articles from newspapers about his battalion as well as other documents concerning his World War II experience.  Only recently I opened up the chest that held these artifacts and leafed through the piles of papers.  What intrigued me the most was not the saved letters from the war, his badges, or the collection of knives he had acquired while crossing Europe.  What was most interesting was a small packet of manila colored paper that contained the history of his battalion`s adventures in World War II.  At the end of the notebook there were maps of Europe with small descriptions of events that took place in each country.  I flipped to the map of Belgium that consisted of a rough black and white drawing of the Ardennes Forest.  On the bottom of the paper it read, ‘Remember Battle of the Bulge’.


Primary Sources:


Interview with Howard Morris, December 22, 2004.


Letter written to Mrs. M. Bernbaum on February 2, 1945 by Herman Mofshowitz.


Origin & History of the 801st Tank Destroyer Battalion:  A booklet sent after the

war to all those who were part of the battalion.

Pictures were taken from the trunk of my grandfather`s possesions.


Secondary Sources:


“Bulge, Battle of the, December, 1944-January 28, 1945.”  DISCovering World History.

Online Edition.  Gale, 2003.  Reproduced in Student Resource Center.  Detroit:

Gale, 2004.  http//galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/SRC


Feldman, George. World War II . 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale Group, 2000.


Goralski, Robert . World War II Almanac. 1931-1945 ed. New York: Bonanza Books, 1981.


Shelford Feldman, Brigadier. Hitler`s Generals and Their Battles . New York: Chartwell Books Inc., 1976.


"The Battle of the Bulge." The Perilous Fight. 2003. KCTS Television. 16 Nov. 2004 <www.pbs.org/perilousfight/battlefield.