Friends and Enemies
It was 0500 8 January 1945, a few weeks into the Battle of the Bulge.  In Dahl Luxembourg, a squad of the 319th Inf of the 80th ID held Asterhof Farm on a steep bluff overlooking the German border. Ike Refice and his buddies held a "critical flank position", and withdrew to the farmhouse under "overwhelming artillery, mortar, and rocket fire", as the Medal of Honor citation would read later.  On the German side, Horst Przybilski and his comrades charged up the bluff in bitter cold, "exhausted and weak" from exposure and poor rations. First they were in the barn, then they advanced on the house. The battle raged for four hours. As the casualties mounted on both sides, the GIs resorted to throwing live stove coals down the steps on the Germans. Eventually 25 Germans surrendered to the decimated American squad. All but two GIs had been wounded, and one was dead. Ike's comrade Day Turner would earn the Medal of Honor for his actions that day.

Laying unconscious with a shattered hip was PzGr. Horst Przbilski, seventeen years old and severely wounded in his first day of combat. GI Ike Refice and squad leader Day Turner carried him out and sent him on to the aid station - where Horst woke up and thought he was in Russia! Ike says "I didn't save Horst's life, I did (or we did) what was the right thing to do.  If they were bad, I didn't have to be." Horst healed up in a POW camp in Ft. Devens Massachusetts, learning English and returning to Germany in 1946. Ike, too, survived the war and returned to Pennsylvania.

Over sixty years later, the German soldier came to Asterhof looking for the men who drug him to safety. Through the efforts of the Luxembourg/American Veteran Friends group the two finally met in 2005, and now get together every June at the group's "Friendship Week".  Enemies, friends - only time separate the two.

 
80th ID veteran Ike Refice in the center with his old enemy PzGr. Horst Przybilski and Horst's partner Lisa Hofmann. In a strange twist, I knew Ike's nephew in college. My first acquaintance with Horst involved hearing his POW experiences - only later did I learn my friend Ike had saved his life.
Standing in front of the Medal of Honor monument honoring Day Turner, who was killed a few weeks after the battle at Asterhof. The American had withdrawn to the house on the right; the bluff is less than 50 meters behind. The buildings on the horizon are in Germany. From left to right are US vet Virgil Myers, German Horst Przybilski, US vet Ike Refice, and Luxembourger Francois Theis
Horst's story and photos
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Ike's story and photos