FORT MYER, Va. -- It was the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge and for 18 hours the band of young U.S. soldiers -- outnumbered 15-to-1 -- held their ground, stalling Hitler's troops.
Finally, when their ammunition ran out, they surrendered and were placed in German prison camps until the end of World War II six months later.
Then, they were forgotten -- until Monday.
'We were all captured and isolated. Not one of us got back to tell anybody about it,' said Lyle Bouck, the lieutenant who was commanding the 18 members of the platoon awarded medals for their valor nearly 37 years later.
'We didn't know what we'd done, we had no idea what a big attack it was until two days later when we were prisoners and marching back, and we saw the German armor lined up bumper to bumper,' Bouck said.
The decorations belatedly showered on the members of the 394th Infantry's Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon included Silver and Bronze Stars and four Distinguished Service Crosses -- second only to the Medal of Honor for extraordinary heroism.
'The cold, that's what I remember, how cold it was,' said Geroge Redmond, another of those honored. 'That and the artillery coming in. The sky was lit up like there was no tomorrow. We knew it weren't no little thing. But I figured if I'd gotten that far, I'd get the rest of the way. You only have to go when your time comes.'
Three platoon members have since died and their decorations were handed to their widows or nearest relative at an emotional ceremony that had to be moved indoors because of rain.
The rest, except for one other who could not make the journey, arrived from around the country to receive awards from Army Secretary John Marsh, himself a World War II veteran.
In addition to the Distinguished Service Crosses, the awards included five Silver Stars for 'gallantry in action'; and nine Bronze Stars with 'V' for valor markings for 'heroic actions.'
The platoon's heroics were documented in a presidential unit citation.
The oldest recipient was Jordan Robinson, 73, a tobacco farmer from Blaine, Tenn., who took home a Silver Star. At the time of the battle he was a private first class and, at 35, then the oldest in the platoon. He was known by his fellow soldiers as 'Pop.'
'It was just plain hell,' Robinson remembered, 'you get 300-400 men shooting at you, it's hell.'
The youngest survivor is Clifford Fansher, 56, of Enid, Okla. He was awarded a Bronze Star with the 'V' addition for valor. An account of the platoon's actions at Lanzareth, Belgium was only entered into their division records on May 2, 1945, and lay forgotten. No recommendatons were made for commendations by May 2, 1952, when the federal statutes for the submission of award recommendations for World War II expired.
Attention was drawn to the platoon's exploits in 1969 in a book, 'The Bitter Woods,' written by John S.D. Eisenhower. But it was not until Dec. 14, 1979, that President Carter signed a law waiving the time limit.