Dec. 24, 1944 — The Battle of the Bulge was drawing to a close. Members of the 370th Field Artillery Battalion, along with other troops, had been engaged in this battle since dawn on Dec. 16. There was heavy snow and bitterly cold temperatures. An American foxhole somewhere in a wooded area of Elsenborn was refuge for forward observer Sgt. Charles Calhoun and his jeep driver Cpl. Arnold Sizemore.
The foxhole was equipped with a small stove vented by a pipe that extended through the pine branch ceiling of the shelter. The exposed end of the pipe was covered with wire to prevent the deposit of German grenades.
This particular event found Sgt. Calhoun outside the foxho9le while a tired and hungry Cp. Sizemore was in the foxhole fixing something to eat. The corporal pulled a can of pork and beans pack and set it on the stove to warm. He leaned against the wall of the foxhole for a brief moment of rest when suddenly he was jolted into battle mode by a loud “BOOM!”
Sgt. Calhoun rushed to the open end of the foxhole and ran slap-dab into the “business end” of Sizemore’s .45-cal. machine gun. Both men stopped, wide-eyed as possums and still as death, waiting.
Waiting and trying to assess the situation. Sgt. Calhoun held his laughter no longer.
Sizemore sat on the ground before him, poised for combat, weapon raised, and pork and beans dripping from his helmet.
“You all right, Sizemore?” the sergeant asked.
The corporal nodded in the affirmative.
“I thought I was getting’ a grenade down the pipe,” he replied with his head bowed in embarrassment, “but it was just the beans.”
In his fatigued state, Sizemore had forgotten to vent the can of beans with his bayonet before heating them.
Calhoun said he never opened a can of pork and beans that he did not think of Cpl. Arnold Sizemore.
There were other lighthearted moments during those battle days. The stresses of war made them necessary.
Sixty-eight years have passed since the bean incident, but Dad — Sgt. Calhoun — now 90, remembers the scene vividly. His eyesight taken by macular degeneration, his hearing diminished by age and the noises of life, and his body hindered by rheumatoid arthritis, yet his memory is as sharp as a tack when it comes to World War II.
The year 2003 afforded me the pleasure of recording Dad’s memories of World War II and his time spent in the 99th Infantry Division. I scrapbooked the many photos, pieces of war memorabilia, souvenirs, battle maps, documents, etc., as a gift for him on Father’s Day. The project took several months to complete and by the time it was finished, Dad and I had new friends in Belgium and contacts from Army buddies with memories of their own to share.
I used many sources in my research, but one of the best was the Checkerboard. I am forever grateful for that.
Dad and I still “fight the war” in our conversations, but now they aren’t so one-sided. I feel like I was there sometimes as we share those days of World War II.
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