Carson man remembers Ardennes Campaign
Veterans Day is always a day of reflection for Royce W. Nauman, or “Bud,” as his friends know him.
He has many good memories from the waning days of the European conflict in World War II. There are also memories of some rough times, having been wounded twice in February and in March 1945 – for which he was awarded Purple Hearts – and more importantly, wounds he recovered from.
And for Nauman, now 80, it is a time to remember the friends from his 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment and other war veterans who never had the opportunity to return home.
“I always reflect. I think about a lot of friends who are lost,” Nauman said. “There’s a lot of people who went down the tubes. They were good folk, but there’s nothing you can do to bring them back. I just feel very fortunate.”
A resident of the Carson City-Dayton area for the past 30 years, Nauman continues to lead an active life which includes a golf game that is still very respectable, “I still shoot around 106.”
One date he has never forgotten is Feb. 7, 1945, when he was taken down by .30-caliber machine gunfire.
“I took a bullet 4 inches from the heart,” Nauman said, recalling the first time he was wounded, just six days before his 21st birthday. “It was about 2 1/2 miles inside the enemy lines. We were up on a mountain pass, and they just butchered us. There were machine guns, mortars, 88-millimeter cannon, anything they could fire at us.”
When the D-Day landing commenced in Normandy on June 6, Nauman had already dropped behind enemy lines with the 507th engaged in three days of fighting in the Battle of Merderet River, which ended in victory and a Presidential Unit Citation.
On Dec. 24, the 507th was called upon to help stem the German offensive in the Ardennes Campaign – more commonly known as the Battle of the Bulge – which continued until Feb. 12. With less than seven weeks to recover from his wound, Nauman jumped again on March 24, when the 507th parachuted across the Rhine River into Germany near Wesel. He was wounded again, this time he was on the receiving end of shrapnel after crossing the Ruhr River.
Conditions certainly weren’t ideal. For one, it was winter time.
“It was so cold,” Nauman said. “Three of us dug our foxholes together. When we woke up in the morning, we looked out of the holes and saw and our whole company marching in a circle. We’re thinking, ‘What happened? Maybe we were captured by the Germans? We finally waved some people down asked, ‘What is going on?’ They said, ‘Nothing – we’re just walking to stay warm. We’ve been walking all night.'”
Meals didn’t always come on a regular basis, according to Nauman, who remembers three- to five-day stretches without food.
“We lived off the land quite a bit,” he said. “We didn’t eat that frequently, so we always enjoyed the food when it became available.
“I skinned a cow one day. I’ve got it skinned hanging in a tree, and a lieutenant comes walking by and says, ‘What are you going to do with that? You can’t eat it.’ I said, ‘Why not?’ And he says, ‘It’s not government inspected.’
“Without refrigeration (in April), we didn’t waste a bit of that cow.”
Though constantly in danger, Nauman remembers that the troops took on an attitude of trying to make the best of their situation.
The 507th holds annual reunions that Nauman has regularly been part of until this year.
“They can only find 125 people now out of the whole regiment, and that’s out of 5,000. I still stay in touch; we send Christmas cards and things. The relationships are more special now than ever. You sympathize with everybody because you feel a part of them.”
At the same time he feels fortunate, too.
“I’ve had a good time in my life, really. I have a lot of memories, but good ones, and I’ve seen a lot of things that are amazing,” Nauman said.
“My sister, who is 85 now, and I grew up during the years of the Great Depression, and I can’t think of a better time to have grown up in this country. We didn’t have hardly anything, but we appreciated everything we had.”
Contact reporter Dave Price at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 881-1220.