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Historical

Lucky WWII Vet Describes Narrowly Escaping Death

91-year-old World War II veteran George Hansen from Clovis, California, recalls a night during the war. While on their way to Bastogne, a German shell hit the armored vehicle he was traveling in, killing the two men sitting next to him and injuring several other men, while he miraculously survived without a scratch.

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"It was an explosion of a German shell, had come and landed right in the middle of the nine of us."

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Photo Credits : (GettyImages)
Keystone Hulton Archive
TRANSCRIPT This transcript was generated by AudioBurst technologies

I remember the one night we were heading towards the city of Bastogne, and we stopped at night, and went to sleep, on that ground next to a haystack and we thought well we'll have a good night's rest here by this haystack, at about 10 o'clock the captain says were moving out, so we got in our armored column, tanks in the front, and than half-tracks, with machine gun squads and other foot soldiers and we're heading for Bastogne. - And tell us why it was so important to get to Bastogne, because the timing of this was the Battle of the Bulge, right? - That's right and there were hundreds of soldiers there surrounded by Germans and our goal was to go and rescue them. So we're on the way up there and I'm in the back riding along a couple of tanks, in front and behind us trucks with more soldiers, and all of a sudden about 11 o'clock at night, this explosion wakes up the guys like me that were sorta dozing in the back as we went along in this armored column and it was an explosion, a German shell had come and landed right in the middle of the nine of us in the back. The explosion woke us up, if we were asleep and I immediately felt that my leg, on my left side, was, I thought it was blown off, so I started feeling to see where it ended and I got to my foot and I was very happy that I still had a foot and a leg, but it was numb from the explosion which ripped off my overcoat that had a hand grenade in it and a camera I carried and I couldn't feel a thing, but they said get out of this vehicle fast so I got out and you know isn't it interesting how God treated me, there was a medic jeep right behind our vehicle, the nurses or whoever they were, red, guys with first aid caps on their heads, they took me in this jeep to a field hospital and then the next day to a hospital where I spent a few weeks in a warm room having meals in bed, being treated by American nurses and I thought wow am I ever blessed to be alive and to be here while the rest of my buddies were for two days pinned down by the German artillery, sleeping in the snow banks. -Yeah, you talk about something that could have saved your life, maybe being shaken up and wounded, and you did get the purple heart for that incident maybe that did save your life and more about that shell, so we can understand how amazing it is that you did survive as intact as you were, you said it tore your overcoat off, smashed all the contents, and it also put a hole in the floor of this metal half-track? - That's right, and sitting right next to me it was very snug back there with all of us together with our heavy overcoats on and a gun in our hand, the guy next to me was killed immediately they said it kind of blew up his insides and the one sitting across from him whose feet my feet were touching was also killed immediately and a couple of others were wounded so when a few weeks later when I went back to my organization it was a new bunch of replacements except for two or three guys of the 12 and the captain says George, now you are the squad leader so I took over as squad leader.