He was a teenager in 1943 when he was drafted to serve in World War II, but 94-year-old Arnold Foltermann and his family are determined to hold onto his memories of service for years to come. 

Some of the most important documents — including a map that charts every place Foltermann went — are neatly compiled in a folder. Among the collection is a handwritten document of everything Foltermann can recall. Over the span of a summer in 2005, he relayed everything to his wife, who transcribed the tales of snowstorms and close calls hiding from German soldiers that Foltermann encountered during his 38 months in the Army. 

Overall, Foltermann said being drafted for military service was a stark contrast to the life he had in rural Texas as someone who was born in a cotton patch in Gay Hill, grew up in Lyons then attended high school in Somerville.

“It was all different than what I was used to,” Foltermann said from his home in October. “I was just an old farm boy.”

Among his memories serving as a private first class who was responsible for working on the phone lines are the tales of well-known conflicts including the Battle of the Bulge. 

When Foltermann arrived in England, he was sent to Le Havre, France, and landed on Omaha Beach before being sent to the Moselle River. He was assigned to be a permanent replacement to the Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 318th Infantry Regiment, 80th Infantry Division of the 3rd Army.

“This is where I had my first experience as to what goes on in the infantry under actual combat conditions,” the handwritten account reads. “We stayed in buildings that were badly damaged by German Artillery fire along the Moselle River. Out in what had been the fields and farm land. There were hundreds of dead cows laying around, that had been killed by artillery fire.”

About halfway through December 1944, orders where changed while Foltermann was relieving another infantry division. Instead of starting an offensive to breach the Siegfried Line, he was sent to his foxhole to help with Battle of the Bulge. The 150-mile journey was a challenging one. 

“We started to travel in a light rain and mud which later turned to a blinding snow storm that left 18 inches of snow on the ground at our destination of Ettelbruck,” the handwritten account reads. 

According to an Eagle profile published in 2016, Foltermann and the other men reached Ettelbruck the day before the Germans. 

“When they arrived, it was almost a slaughter,” Foltermann said in the article. “I actually began to feel sorry for them but realized if the positions were reversed, it would have been us doing the dying.”

On Dec. 24, 1944, Foltermann was a part of the team that assisted the 4th Armored Tank Division in the relief of the 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne. 

The next day was Christmas, and according to his wife’s written document, Foltermann had a turkey dinner. 

“This was certainly better than k-rations,” he said in the document. 

In the final days of the war, Foltermann was part of an effort to free men who were in a German prisoner of war camp for British airmen. Then, they went to Inn River in Austria — Adolph Hitler’s birthplace. 

“This was an unusual river crossing, as the mayor of Braunau ordered residents to meet and greet us as we moved through the city,” Foltermann’s document reads. 

While he said he doesn’t have specific memories about the day itself, Foltermann said he remembers the joy he felt when the war ended.

“We were just glad it was over with,” Foltermann said in October.

After completing his final discharge process at Camp Fannin, Foltermann rode a train to Caldwell, where he spent his first night out of the military on a train depot bench. He went to Lyons the next day, but eventually moved to Bryan where he started his family. He used the skills he learned working on phone lines during the war to land a 41-year career that started at Southwestern States Telephone Co.

Foltermann’s daughter, Kim Callaway, said it’s moving to see people show respect for her father’s time in the military, whether it’s his grandson bonding over their respective times in service or strangers.

“My dad will wear his hat and people will come up and say, ‘Thank you for your service,’” Callaway said. “It always gets ya.”

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