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‘BRO’ Vietnam vet’s service begins in WWII battle

By Sgt. Michael Leverton | 1ST INF. DIV. PUBLIC AFFAIRS | June 11, 2014

Several weeks after the Normandy invasion, a young platoon sergeant from St. Paul, Minnesota, was readying his Soldiers in Nancy, France, for what was to come next.

“We were on the water when Normandy began,” said James A. (Jacque) Michienzi. “When we got to England, they moved us out to France, where we began to prepare.”

Michienzi, who would later receive the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions in combat while serving with the 1st Infantry Division in Vietnam, was assigned to the 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 17th Airborne Division, when the call came down to move out. He and his troops soon found themselves outside a little Belgian town named Monty.

That was the starting point of the regiment’s and Michienzi’s participation in one of the most historic battles of World War II: the Battle of the Bulge.

“We moved from Monty up to Flamierge,” Jacque said. “It was the coldest I’d ever been in my life. The clothing wasn’t very warm back then.”

The path they took from Monty to Flamierge was open field with little cover and included a path known as “Dead Man’s Road.”

“We started with 160 or 170 guys, and by the time we were relieved, there were only 25 or 30 of us left that weren’t dead or injured,” he said. “That was a long, cold, bad month.”

He doesn’t talk much about what happened while the bullets were flying, but recalls details about the lack of food and harsh sleeping conditions.

“We slept in our foxholes and didn’t get a whole lot to eat,” he said. “We would cut holes in our sleeping bags so we could sleep with our arms out so we could hold on to our rifles. That way, when they would attack us, all we would do is roll over and start firing.”

The back-and-forth battle continued for what seemed like an eternity, Michienzi said.

“The Germans would drive up with their armor, and we would shoot at them, and bullets would ricochet right off of them,” he said. “We thought they were going to drive right over us, but for some reason, they would turn around and go back to their lines. It’s almost as if they were afraid of our bullets.”

Jacque and his men moved into Flamierge, and they found themselves using the houses and barns for cover. The Germans had snipers all over the town. While Jacque and one of his men were passing by a window, the other was shot and killed.

Michienzi has a hard time talking about the events that unfolded after his Soldier’s death. He summed it up with this: “In all my years, it’s something I’ve never been able to forget.”

Michienzi moved on with the allied forces farther into Belgium to push the Germans back into their homeland, and later took part in Operation Varsity, the last large-scale airborne operation of WWII.
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