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Ti veteran reflects on experiences

TICONDEROGA - Tony DiFebbo was watching a war movie recently.

"I saw Saving Private Ryan," he said. "I liked it, it was pretty good. But it's not the way war really is; movies never are."

DiFebbo would know. The Ticonderoga man is a World War II veteran who, like many of his generation - The Greatest Generation - witnessed the horrors of war firsthand.

"I'm no hero," DiFebbo said. "A lot of guys saw more action than I did. I was just a kid and I wanted to do my part."

DiFebbo, age 84, graduated from Ticonderoga High School and was drafted in 1944. After basic training at Fort Bragg, N.C., he was assigned to the 99th Infantry Division.

He shipped out to Europe aboard the Queen Elizabeth in a snow storm. He eventually found his way to Belgium - and the famed Battle of the Bulge.

Out of site of the enemy, artillery units send forward observers to the front line to direct their fire. It's considered one of the most hazardous jobs in war. DiFebbo's job was to string communications wire from forward observers back to the men firing the guns located a few miles away.

"That was the first time I'd ever seen guys all shot up," DiFebbo recalled. "They were missing arms, legs...it was terrible. It was one of the worst things I ever saw in my life.

"And there was snow up to our waist in some places," he added. "It was so cold and everyone had cold feet. Those Army boots were worthless."

The Battle of the Bulge was Germany's last offensive of the war. It began Dec. 16, 1944, and ended Jan. 25, 1945. Fought in bitter cold and snow in the densely-forested Ardennes Mountains region of Belgium, American troops were pummeled by German artillery. With over 800,000 men committed and over 19,000 Americans killed, the Battle of the Bulge was the single largest and bloodiest battle that American forces fought in World War II.

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