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Veteran remembers the Battle of the Bulge

Just before the bloodiest surprise attack of World War II, Don Rosenthal said he saw the enemy coming.

Rosenthal, an 89-year-old Spring Ridge, Md., resident, was in the Army's 2nd Infantry Division in France during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944.

He was having lunch on a hill overlooking a forest, he said, when he suddenly saw something alarming.

"It looked like the forest was moving," he said.

A sergeant told him to call intelligence officials, who responded that German forces were only relieving their troops.

In reality, they were moving in thousands of soldiers who would start the deadliest battle of the entire war.

Rosenthal was injured on the second day of the battle: Dec. 17, 1944, he remembers.

"I was there, and next thing I know, I was wounded from a shell," he said.

He was sent to a medic with a concussion and a scratch from flying shrapnel, then moved to a hospital in England for further treatment.

An earlier infection from living in a foxhole with three men for three weeks sent him to the hospital long enough for his mother to get a "Missing in Action" letter from the U.S. government. His family found out about 10 days later that he was injured, not missing.

He was reassigned to the Air Force as a paratrooper after his recovery, but there was little to do while the war was winding down.

The day before his 21st birthday, he received his discharge letter.

After the war, the GI Bill funded his education at Sampson College, a now-defunct member of the Associated Colleges of Upper New York, then his transfer to George Washington University. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in accounting in 1952.

"God bless the GI Bill," he said.

After spending some time as an apprentice, he decided to start his own accounting firm.

In 1967, Rosenthal received Washington, D.C.'s fifth-ever certified public accountant certification from the Internal Revenue Service. He retired at age 71.

A certificate commemorating his participation in the Battle of the Bulge hangs in his home office, above his framed dog tags, Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

"You're looking at one of the luckiest men that ever lived," he said.

@SylviaCarignan

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