George Arnstein was the only World War II veteran to show up at the Battle of the Bugle's 75th anniversary at a memorial in Washington, DC, on Monday.
The 95-year-old Arnstein was drafted into the Army in 1943 and served as a gunner and radio operator in the 76th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop (Mechanized). He achieved the rank of a technician five, which was comparable to a corporal, according to Stars and Stripes. He left the service in 1946.
Arnstein reportedly took a taxi to get to the memorial event, where he was the only WWII veteran present. Inclement weather conditions at the Capitol prevented others from participating, Stars and Stripes reported.
“Armored cars are made of cold metal, which means that we were very conscious of the cold,” Arnstein recounted of his war-time experience, according to Stars and Stripes. “We didn't have heaters or anything like that. Mechanized cavalry recognizance means hit and run, and most of the time, just explore and report what we found. We didn't have that much mobility.”
“Above all, it was bitter cold,” Arnstein said of the Battle of the Bulge. “It was the coldest winter in I don't know how many decades.”
The number of WWII veterans is declining quickly.
About 348 veterans of World War II are dying every day, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Less than 500,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in the war were still alive as of last year, according to George Mason University communications manager and author John Hollis.
“It is sobering, because I don't know if there are any of my fellow troopers left,” Arnstein told Stars and Stripes. “We used to have reunions of the troops, and that became smaller and smaller. And then we had a reunion where we joined the whole division and that got discontinued.”
The Battle of the Bulge.
On December 16, 1944, the German army launched what would be known as the Battle of the Bulge.
After a series of victories by the Allies, the desperate German army launched a counteroffensive that included over 200,000 German troops and 1,000 tanks.
An unlikely location.
The German plans were to push the Allied forces back, starting from a 75-mile line of dense forests and snowy terrain.
Because of the poor weather and difficult terrain, it was initially thought of as an unlikely location for a major offensive.
Although the four US divisions in the forests of Belgium and Luxembourg were outnumbered, they held off the attack long enough for reinforcements to arrive.
Roughly 19,000 US troops died in the three-week battle.
“This is undoubtedly the greatest American battle of the war and will, I believe, be regarded as an ever-famous American victory,” British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said of the battle.