One Tough ‘Ombre
Today is the 70th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Bulge. This is an article I wrote last year for East Alabama Living (http://www.eastalabamaliving.com) Obviously Tom is now a year older and has been back to Europe a couple of more times. He’s treated like a rock star over there and deservedly so.
Tom Ingram, 88, recently had a hip replaced. He stopped taking pain medication after just two days. When his doctor asked why he’d quit taking the medication, Ingram replied, “Because I’m tough. I’m a Tough ‘Ombre. Besides, I’ve already been through hell.”
Ingram was born in 1925, on a farm along highway 80 in what is now Lee County.
Ingram had two brothers, both of whom volunteered to serve during WWII, whereas Tom, the middle brother, was drafted.
The oldest brother served with the 42nd Infantry Division, more commonly known as the Rainbow Division, while the youngest brother served with the All-American 82nd Airborne Division.
In 1944, the middle brother completed 12 weeks of training at Camp Blanding, FL before embarking on an 18 day transatlantic journey aboard a troop carrier.
Those 18 days on board the converted British freightliner were challenging. The troops were required to stay below the deck for the duration of the voyage to keep from being spotted by the Germans. It also prevented the troops from tossing cigarette butts overboard, which would have been another indication of allied troop activity. If detected, torpedoes from German U-boats likely would have followed.
Ingram was one of the few troops who didn’t smoke, so he stayed sick while the others smoked and gambled their way across the Atlantic.
After arriving in England, he shipped out to Normandy the very next day and was assigned to the 90th Infantry Division, nicknamed the “Tough ‘Ombres.” They were originally called the Texas-Oklahoma Division, which was represented by the T & O on their shoulder patch. Their reputation on and off the battlefield warranted the change.
In December 1944, Ingram experienced his first taste of war in the Battle of Dilligen. It was here where he first witnessed the death of a platoon mate. It would not be the last.
The Battle of the Bulge, fought from December 16, 1944 – January 25, 1945, was the last major Nazi offensive against the Allies in WWII. The battle was a final effort by Hitler to divide the Allies in their drive towards Germany and to destroy their ability to supply themselves.
The surprise attack caught the Allied forces completely off guard and became the costliest battle of the war in terms of casualties for the United States.
Ingram will never forget how cold it was there amongst the densely forested Ardennes region of Belgium, France and Luxembourg. He estimates there to have been 18-19 inches of snow on the ground.
One night, his unit marched through the snow, directly through an ambush zone, but the Germans were too cold to mount an offense.
Ingram survived the Battle of the Bulge and soon found his way to the Czechoslovakian border as the war came to an end.
For his service, Ingram received many medals including two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart.
He returned home to East Alabama where he enrolled at Alabama Polytechnic Institute (API.) In 1950, he graduated with a degree in Agricultural Education and went on to teach for 18 years. API is now known as Auburn University.
In the early fifties, he married Myrtle, who gave birth to five children.
Since the end of WWII, he has returned to Europe 20 times and is actively involved in many WWII ventures, including the 90th Infantry Division Association. He frequently attends Battle of the Bulge reunions.
“There was a break in action around Christmas of ‘44,” Ingram recalls. “I remember having Christmas dinner with all the fixings. It sure was good. I got to eat it at the radio station but as soon as I finished, I had to go back outside and get in my foxhole.”
These days, Ingram enjoys the holidays in the comfort of his own home as he gathers with his family each year on Christmas Eve.
His lovely bride of 50 years passed away in 2003.
Tom Ingram is a proud member of the greatest generation and a tough ‘ombre to boot, but he wants to set the record straight about one thing. “They say our unit walked 1,946 miles across Europe but that’s not true, because half the time we ran like hell,” explained a chuckling Ingram.