Voices of the Battle of the Bulge: 'After they put it all back together'

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the fourth installment of a 10-part series about asking the same five questions to 10 World War II veterans who served during the Battle of the Bulge Dec. 16, 1944, through Jan. 25, 1945. The veterans returned to Europe for 70th anniversary observances of the battle in Belgium and Luxembourg, Dec. 9-18, 2014. 


Victor Cross
87th Infantry Division, 345th Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion, Company B
A native son of Flint, Michigan, Cross was born Oct. 8, 1925. Inducted into the service from Detroit on July 24, 1944, he was aboard the General William M. Black sailing from Boston Jan. 3, 1945. Experiencing his first combat east of St. Vith, Belgium, in late January during the 87th Infantry Division's push back to the Siegfried Line, Cross fought with the 87th Infantry Division all the way to the Czech border near Plauen, where his war ended. Returning to America July 5, 1945, he was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge and Bronze Star. He worked as a tradesman for seven years, specializing in arc welding, eventually becoming a machinist at a Chevrolet plant in Flint. He retired in 1980 after 22 years. He currently resides in Clio, Michigan.
Where were you during the Battle of the Bulge?

It was a very integral part of my life. When I came over I was 19 years old, and it made a deep impression in my psyche. It was a helluva experience, if I can use that term. I don't know, but I survived it. I got through it without any serious wounds, outside of frozen feet and fingers. But I managed to overcome that, handle it and live on. And I don't know but you always like to go to places or visit situations which are memorable, pleasing and enjoyable. But this, at that time, wasn't. I don't know, but there is some reason to go back and see what it's like.

But there is always one thing in my mind when they told us the fighting was all over and that we'd leave the continent and go back to the states. I wanted to come back for one main reason, originally, for one main reason: I wanted to see what it was all going to be like after they put it all back together again. I figured that they would probably do the same architecture and same structures would be, and the way they were arranged in the cities, streets and buildings. And I wanted to see that when it was all put back together. And there were people in the streets, and they were walking and enjoying themselves. I could just picture these outside cafes and people sitting in those cities all around. That's what I really wanted.

How does it feel to be back 70 years later?

It's emotional, of course. This is the fifth trip I've made over here. It's hard to pinpoint any particular thing, because each trip, as you go along, it's after the trip is over that you start remembering things, and those are things that make the trip more memorable after it's over with. But some things that happen during the trip are very present - I'm glad I was able to come. I was here for the 60th anniversary, and this one so far has been too.

'The Greatest Victory'

What was the proudest moment of your military career?

When they come up and gave me the Combat Infantryman's badge. Pure hell. I was in the firefights, artillery, and Rock Hudson mortars.

What got you through some of the toughest of times?

I have no idea. I don't know.

WWII veterans honor Wereth 11

What advice do you have for the men and women in uniform today?

Hang tough. That's the only thing I could say. If you're in there, you're in there for dedication to duty and honor.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Cross's biography provided by the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge.
Video by Senior Airman Rusty Frank.
Photos by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden, Senior Airman Rusty Frank and Airman 1st Class Kyle Gese.