E-Sylum Feature Writer and
American Numismatic Biographies author Pete Smith submitted this
article on collector Jules Reiver. Thanks!
This week is the second installment of numismatists portrayed in movies. Jules Reiver's exploits during the Battle of the Bulge were grossly
exaggerated in the movie, but he was a legitimate American hero.
Julius Reiver got his name in the newspaper during his service in World War II. He came to the
attention of combat reporter Ernie Pyle who reported several times on Reiver's exploits. Pyle
devoted a chapter in his book Brave Men to antiaircraft batteries and to
During the Normandy invasion, Captain Reiver was in command of Battery
Antiaircraft Artillery Gun Battalion. As reported in the Wilmington Morning News on August 25,
1944, Reiver told his story of the Normandy landing in a letter.
We've really been lucky. We were supposed to be the first
heavy anti-aircraft ashore in D-Day,
but nothing left our beach so we couldn't land. That night we were bombed as we lay offshore
taking on wounded. The bombs just missed, and the ship jumped a foot or two in the air. We
decided that since it was damned near impossible to dig fox holes in the steel deck, we would be
ashore the next day if we had to swim.
We didn't know it then, but we were the only battery to get ashore and set up. and on D plus one
night, we were the only AA protection against high flying planes. We got two that first night –
the first crashed in flames and was the first plane shot down by AA guns in France. All in all,
we've been very lucky. I just hope it keeps up. Reiver received a certificate of merit for action
on the second day of the invasion.
Ernie Pyle spent two days and two nights with the unit and bunked with Reiver. The first night
there was little action but the second night they had greater success, guided by radar and firing at
planes they could not see. Reiver commented,
The last night Pyle was with us, our men put on a
real good show. They shot down seven planes. Reiver said of Pyle,
He was such a nice little
guy. None of us had heard of him before but inside of a couple of hours he was one of us. The
fellows really got to liking him.
The Morning News related another letter written to his wife.
He said that his unit came into one
town which had been deserted by the Germans and previously bypassed by the Americans, so
that his men were the first Americans to appear there. The French townspeople gave them a great
welcome, brought their babies out to be kissed by the G.I.'s, showered them with flowers, and
brought them gifts of wine. The captain pressed one of the flowers and sent it to his wife. He also
sent some French coins and paper money and some of the invasion money used by the
In December of 1944, the Germans launched a counteroffensive now known as the Battle of the
Bulge. They broke through American lines and pushed west against little resistance. The
Germans knew they did not have enough fuel to complete their assault but counted on capturing
fuel from the Americans. An advance German column pushed north out of La Glieze toward the
First Army headquarters at Spa.
The Americans had a fuel depot with 2.5 million gallons of gasoline in five-gallon Jerry cans.
Reiver's battery was split into two groups and pressed into service to protect the fuel and delay
the German advance until reinforcements could be brought up.
As Reiver was moving into position, one of the guns was mired in the mud and the tractor
attempting to pull it out also got stuck. Time and effort were spent getting the gun free and the
tractors pulling revved up their engines and made a terrible noise.
Reiver commented on their mistakes and how that may have been an advantage. The Germans
hearing the noise may have assumed it was a much larger and more threatening tank force.
His story was told in The News Journal of April 28, 1945.
Monday morning, they came and Dog Battery saw its first infantry and anti-tank action. We
fired at them and they fired at us for about 10 to 15 minutes; then they turned their column and
They got to within 75 yards of the gasoline dump, but not a drop of that gas did they get. A
cannon shell killed one GI, but all of our men were okeh. We're really lucky. Reiver received a
bronze star for the battle.
The story was told in the 1965 movie, The Battle of the Bulge. Some reports suggest that Reiver
was portrayed by Henry Fonda. This isn't quite correct.
The November 17, 2002, issue of The E-Sylum had this report.
…after the war, the role of
Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Kiley, which was modeled after Reiver, was played by Henry
Fonda in the 1965 film,
Battle of the Bulge. The Hollywood version bore only a slight
resemblance to reality, but
The article further stated,
First, understand that when aimed horizontally, anti-aircraft guns
make dandy anti-tank guns. Other reports state that the guns were on a hill and the barrels
would not depress beyond horizontal and were useless in the fight.
Getting your name and address in the paper can have a downside. While he was deployed,
someone broke in to burglarize and ransack his house on December 12, 1944.
I had the opportunity to ask Reiver about his role and the historical accuracy of the movie. He
confirmed that he was there defending the gasoline dump but it was not like the scene in the
In a memorable scene from the movie, Americans roll drums of burning gasoline downhill
toward the advancing German column. This scene is total fiction. Jerry cans don't roll well.
Reiver said that his description of a firefight may have been misinterpreted by an overly creative
I got to know Jules through the Early American Coppers Club. Others knew him through the
John Reich Collectors Society. His contributions to both could be a topic for another article.
- - - - -
Sometimes sources give inconsistent information. When the Reiver wedding was announced, the
location was Temple Beth Shalom. When they celebrated fifty years of marriage, the location
was given as St. Matthews Cathedral.
As I noted in the earlier article, I visited with
Jules and his wife Iona on many an evening back in the 1990s while traveling in Wilmington on business, and those
encounters are among my most pleasurable hobby memories.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
JULES REIVER'S WARTIME EXPERIENCES
Wayne Homren, Editor
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