By Laura Plaster 

My grandfather, Alvin Newton Bugbee, Jr., was twenty years old when he was called to active duty in June of 1943. He was a 2nd Lieutenant in the 70th Infantry Division where he served as Weapons Platoon Leader and later as Battalion Motor Officer. He fought in the battles of Ardennes-Alsace, The Battle of the Bulge opposing the German Operation Nordwind, the Rhineland, and Central Europe. He was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge, two Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star, the ETO ribbon with three battle stars, the European Theater Medal, the Army of Occupation Medal, the Victory Medal, and the French Cross of Lorraine. 

Memorial Day was personal to him, a private affair. He didn’t go in for all the ceremonial stuff, the pomp and circumstance. He remembered the faces and names of his brothers-in-arms. He remembered the names of the hills they died on. He remembered the times he almost joined them, like January 11, 1945, when an artillery barrage sent shrapnel into his neck from a shell burst against a nearby tree. He lay flat on his back in the snow thinking, “This is a hell of a place to die. This will break their hearts at home.” He didn’t die; his buddy Claude came across him and exclaimed, “Newt, you’re bleeding like a stuck pig.” He got him medical attention and got him down that hill in Alsace to a MASH unit. Three weeks later he was back with his company. Six weeks later he was injured again, this time a bullet wound. 

He didn’t talk much about his time in World War II and he never glamorized it. He remembered all too well the dead and the dying. But he honored the men he served with in his own quiet ways, including this poem he wrote in 1992 for the 50th year reunion book of the Lehigh Class of 1944. Sharing it here reminds me of my Pop-Pop’s quiet devotion to the country he loved and the way he honored his fallen friends until his own death in 2013.

In Retrospect

We could not pause to mourn for you
When on the field you lay,
Cut in your prime by war’s cruel scythe,
For Victory ‘twas pay.
We shared the heat, the snow, the rain,
The soldier’s daily life of pain.
We knew the sound of shot and shell
That poured from out the mouth of hell,
The feel of metal tearing flesh,
As fore the foe we pressed and pressed.
The shattered skies, the geysered seas,
The beaches laced with iron,
Were the arenas of your fight,
The battle your environ.
We know the pride with which you served
Your country’s call to arms,
Your willingness to risk it all in
Battles’ many harms. 
We’ve missed your laughter and your wit,
Our glasses raised on high,
The comradeship of men at arms,
and student days gone by.
And so today we shed a tear,
Remembering in our hearts
Your sacrifice of full filled life,
That kinder fate has made our part.   

By A. Newton Bugbee, Jr.

Platoon Leader, U.S. Infantry, World War II
1923 - 2013