During late December 1944, the German counteroffensive in the West, known as the Battle of the Bulge, was in full swing. The important crossroad town of Bastogne, held by the 101st Airborne, had been surrounded by the Germans. Meanwhile, Europe was in the midst of one of its coldest winters in decades.

The Vincken family, which lived in the German border town of Aachen, planned to move from the town, which had been partially destroyed by the Allied bombing, to a hunting cabin in the Hürtgen Forest. The cabin was frequently used by Hubert, the father of the family.

Hubert, unaware of the upcoming German counteroffensive, sent his family to the cabin believing that they’d be safe. His wife Elisabeth and their 12-year old son Fritz stayed in the cabin while the father was ordered into the Civil Defense fire service in the nearby border town of Monschau about four miles away. 

As the fighting raged nearby, Elisabeth and Fritz huddled together listening to the booming guns and aircraft flying in the darkness.