A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
THE 103d INFANTRY DIVISION REUNION IN ALSACE, FRANCE, MAY 1994
CELEBRATING THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE LIBERATION
The liberation of Europe is generally considered to have started with the landings on Normandy, D-Day, June 6, 1944. However, for many, their personal liberation started when the Allied forces actually drove the Nazis from their villages and towns.
In rural France and especially in the region of Alsace, there are strong recollections of the way things were under the heel of Naziism and a people truly grateful for their deliverance from its horrors.
Three generations have kept alive the memory of what life was like under the Nazis and have instilled in their children a deep appreciation of what freedom is all about. The people of this region do not measure their freedom from the storming of the Bastille, but from the appearance of the first American troops in their villages in 1944. For them, Liberty is only 50 years old and they are celebrating its 50th birthday this year.
Many have vowed never to forget the sacrifices of American lives 50 years ago. It is still hard for them to comprehend the fact that so many thousands of young men were willing to leave their far away country and spill their blood for the people of Alsace, and they are making their children and grandchildren aware in a very personal way.
It is not unusual for a 9 or 10 year old child to know, as was the case in Urwiller, that "Two young American men from Company I, 410th Infantry Regiment, 103d Infantry Division, died here, on this street, in front of this house, for my freedom." In the Alsatian village of Pfaffenhoffen resides a young man, about thirty years old who vowed to his father that he would never forget the sacrifices that Americans made for him before he was born. His name is Pierre Marmillod. Pierre is the president of an association, "Les Amis de la Liberation," dedicated to the preservation of that memory. While he is a pleasant man with a broad smile, he takes the job of preserving memories very seriously and did a remarkable job of organizing a 50th Anniversary Celebration, the details of which ran from obtaining a marching band from Estonia, a country that still measures its freedom in days, to organizing an all-day Texas-style barbecue complete with a country-and-western band and square dancers.
The liberation of this part of France, by the American 103d Infantry Division, occurred in the winter of 1944 but the winter in Alsace is cold and snowy, not a good time for a celebration. Pierre and his committee decided that since freedom arrived a bit at the time, village by village, there was no specific date from which their freedom could be measured so the 50th year would be the important thing and what nicer time for a celebration than in the Spring. In the Alsace region of France, the last two weeks in May are ideal. The weather is pleasant, the trees and fields are green and flowers are in full bloom and there would be minimal interference, insofar as transportation arrangements were concerned, with the D-Day ceremonies in Normandy. The decision was made. The celebration would be held in the last week of May, 1994.
Contingents of veterans from the 103d Division arrived in Alsace by various routes.
In 1944, the 103d Infantry Division first arrived in France via the Mediterranean port of Marseille after training at Camp Howze, Texas, staging briefly at Camp Shanks, New York and enduring a 15-day Trans-Atlantic crossing aboard a convoy that surged through a hurricane en route.
My wife, Sally, and I joined one group of 103d Division veterans who opted to retrace our original five hundred mile route from Marseille up the valley of the Rhone River to the front. Our arrival seemed fraught with difficulties --- a late arrival in Orley, --- a hassle getting our luggage which did not reach the carousel for nearly an hour after our arrival-----a missed flight from Paris to Marseille-----a missing tour guide at the Marseille airport----another hassle with Marseille taxi drivers----but we eventually arrived at our hotel, the Pullman Beauvau, weary to our very marrow. The hotel was Louis XVI vintage with antique furniture in all of the rooms and the flavor of another era, altogether quite charming.
The travails of our trip were nothing compared to the battering and mal de mare endured during the 103d Division's first Atlantic crossing on the General Brooks, the Monticello, the Santa Maria, and my ship, the Henry T. Gibbons, a tiny Liberty ship, --- but Sally had no such yardstick for comparison. It may have something to do with age but while this trip was far less rigorous, I also found it to be equally exhausting.
In what is regarded as one of the great understatements of the war, the troops of the 103d were told, after debarking in Marseille, that they would have to march two and a half miles to a staging area carrying full field pack, rifle, and duffel bag. It turned out to be a 20 mile uphill climb to the staging area atop a rocky, wind-and-rain-swept plateau. For veterans of the 103d who made the hike, this has been forever recalled as the "Marseille Death March." (I was lucky to be picked to guard our secret cryptographic machines all the way from Camp Howze to the Marseille staging area so, in 1944, I got to ride to the plateau.)
This time, however, everyone had a ride to the plateau. We got there by Mercedes bus, an infinitely better way to travel. The plateau had changed somewhat. During our original brief stay in this desolate spot, only a barren, wet, rocky surface had extended in all directions. Today, it is a hunting preserve carefully guarded by wardens. In 1944, we had slept on the rocky surface, but the landscape was now spotted here and there with concrete foundations and slabs. These had been hastily installed for headquarters tents of units occupying the area in the months after we departed and just as hastily abandoned after they had served their purpose. Sometime in the last 50 years, a lot of scrub growth of one kind or another has taken hold on the plateau, providing cover for the game birds, mainly pheasant and grouse, that now occupy this desolate landscape.
In 1944, a high voltage power line cut across the plateau. It is still there and served as a marker for our attempt to locate roughly where our units had bivouacked. Most of us were satisfied that we had found the approximate locations of our units.
The plateau lived up to everyone's recollections regarding its surface, --- rocks, rocks, rocks, everywhere ---- sharp jagged rocks one to three inches across. We remembered the hopelessness of trying to drive tent pegs into that surface and worse, we again relived the fact that we once slept on it with nothing between us and those jagged edges save our uniforms and a layer of wet blanket. I brought back a handful of the rocks as a reminder ---- whenever I think a hotel bed is uncomfortable, for example.
In 1944, 103d Division Headquarters had been located in the village of Carry le Rouet, now a quiet, well-to-do, Mediterranean resort and a far more luxurious habitat than our barren plateau. This time, we visited that delightful village, had an audience with the Mayor and other city officials, and enjoyed a reception and luncheon that was to be repeated many times in the days to come. The wines of the Rhone valley were superb and the paine (bread) was the equal of the best to be found anywhere --- and nothing like the long loaves that we commonly call French bread.
Marseille and environs had sidewalk cafes and restaurants that whetted the palate even before we saw the menus. Most Marseille restaurants featured bouillabaisse. We did not try it but the cuisine we did try, on our "free time" exceeded expectations. Unfortunately, the present disadvantageous exchange rate of the American dollar versus most European currencies nearly caused us to have heart attacks whenever the bills were presented.
Forgetting restaurant prices, a Coca Cola, for example, typically costs 10 Francs ($2.00) almost anywhere. The cost is even more, 20 to 30 Francs ($4.00 to $6.00) in places like airports, and other prices are comparable. Obviously, there were no bargains to be had so even purchases of souvenirs for the folks back home were kept to the minimum. We brought back a lot of unused traveler's checks. Luckily most of our meals were included in the tour package.
The U.S. consulate in Marseille arranged for a visit to the missile frigate USS Carr. The crew of the Carr were courteous, intelligent, articulate, and knew their jobs. They are a credit to the U.S.A.
We paid a sightseeing visit to Chateau d'If, the island fortress from which the Count of Monte Cristo escaped, and to Marseille's most sacred spot, an enormous church, Notre Dame de la Garde, topped by a gold figure of the Virgin Mary. The church stands on the highest spot in Marseille and the panoramic view of Marseille harbor from that location is spectacular.
Notre Dame de la Garde
Marseille is now a major port accommodating huge cargo ships. the "old" harbor where we landed in 1944 is too shallow to handle them so it has diminished in importance. We visited the general area of the old port where we had debarked in 1944 but there were no familiar landmarks. The harbor had been littered with sunken ships in 1944, their superstructures protruding out of the water but they, of course, are no longer there. Our guide told us that some of the older cranes, still standing, had been in use in 1944 but, when the Germans were driven from Marseille, they dumped rocks and sand into the gear boxes and then operated the cranes. This completely disabled them so they were of no use to us in our landing there. All of our impedimenta had to be offloaded using the cranes of our own ships. The sabotaged cranes were subsequently repaired and some are still in use today.
In 1944 the 103d Division departed Marseille on a three-day 500 mile motor march to the front. This time, our brief visit to Marseille ended with a bus ride to the Gare (railroad station) where we boarded a train for the trip to Dijon. We shared a compartment with some other 103d veterans and their spouses and, in the process, developed some new friendships.
Our hotel in Dijon (the Mercure Chateau Bourgogne) was first class although ours was the only room not made up yet and Sally and I had to cool our heels in the lobby for an hour or so after we arrived.
After getting settled in our room we explored Dijon with newfound friends, Lee Fox and his wife Jan from Virginia, Illinois. There is a French lingerie manufacturer that uses life size photos of beautiful and shapely girls wearing their most appealing (and revealing) underwear. These photos adorn phone kiosks and bus stop shelters everywhere. We got some video footage of Lee Fox snuggling up to one of these beauties to send to the church ladies back home in Illinois.
Dijon is a beautiful city, modern around the perimeter but having retained its old world charm in the center. As in most old French cities one can follow the arrows pointing to the "centre de ville" to find the heart of the "old" city but the streets are laid out in a haphazard manner so it is not quite so easy to find your way back to your starting point unless you drop pieces of bread along the way to keep track of your route. In the older section of Dijon lie the buildings that once housed the craft guilds, the streets in this section are festooned with the colorful banners of the guilds.
We only spent one night in Dijon but we bought the obligatory jar of mustard and visited a Cassis factory before departing by bus for our ultimate destination, Pfaffenhoffen (one of the few words I know having five "f"s). We were scheduled to get there via Colmar where the Germans had tenaciously held on, posing a threat to our right flank as we advanced northward toward Germany in 1944.
Our guide up to this point was Patrick Hinchley, a typical learned articulate Brit with a dry subtle sense of humor. Patrick was fluent in French, and knowledgeable about everything. Once in our hotels in Pfaffenhoffen his job would be ended because the calendar of events from there on was to be in the hands of Les Amis de la Liberation.
En route to Pfaffenhoffen we stopped at a rest stop having a restaurant named L'Arche. The arches were not golden and the menu was much more extensive (and expensive) than Mc Donalds. While at this stop, one of our 103d veterans, John Shea from Merrick, Long Island, had a heart attack and died. On board our bus was Harley Richardson, the American coordinator for the part of our reunion centering in Pfaffenhoffen. It was quickly decided that since Patrick spoke fluent French, he would stay with the distraught wife to take care of the myriad of details involved in the return of the body from France, and Harley would see us through to Pfaffenhoffen where he was scheduled to take over anyway.
Whatever you do, don't die in Europe. The red tape is incredible. It takes about two weeks to get a body back to the U.S.A. We left Patrick to look after things and continued on to Pfaffenhoffen, skipping Colmar due to the delay caused by the unforseen death, the entire party much subdued.
It turned out that a plane seat back to the U.S.A. could not be arranged on such short notice so Helen Shea, the wife of the deceased rejoined us in Pfaffenhoffen for a day or two. She held up very well.
There are not enough hotel rooms in Pfaffenhoffen to accommodate so many, so some 103d veterans, who wished to do so, were welcomed into the homes of local residents and some of us were put up in hotels in nearby villages.
One couple, expecting to stay with a local resident, arrived at their doorstep, suitcases in hand, to be greeted by two confused, elderly homeowners who obviously were not expecting them and who had a house full of visiting relatives who had come for the festivities.
It seemed that their son (who lived at home at the time but subsequently moved out) had signed them up to take in a visiting couple but had neglected to tell his parents. It was an awkward moment all around made more so by the fact that neither couple spoke the other's language. The homeowners graciously invited them in and gave up their own bed room for the night (and slept who knows where). In the morning, they extended an invitation to stay for the entire celebration, but it was an uncomfortable situation, resolved later in the morning when "Les Amis" found them accommodations elsewhere.
Sally and I were put up in the Hotel Lindberg in Haguenau and were assured, by Harley Richardson, that it was located "in the heart of the city within walking distance of shops and restaurants." The Lindberg turned out to be way outside the city limits at a small general aviation airport. The only thing of interest was a flock of sheep being tended by some well-trained sheep dogs.
John Donlan and I had know each other and been friends through basic training at Camp Hood, Texas, through ASTP at Denton, Texas and through the war as radio operators in the 103d Signal Company. We had hoped to be in the same hotel because we had only recently renewed our friendship and had a lot of catching up to do --- but we ended up not only in different hotels but in different villages.
John raised some noise on our behalf and got us transferred to the Hotel Gare in Obermodern where he and his two sons were billeted. Gare means railroad station and the hotel was, indeed, directly across the street from the railroad station but the French trains are so quiet we did not know they were there unless we chanced to see them.
This hotel was far superior to the Lindberg and had a world class chef. Our room was "quaint" as are the rooms in most rural hotels in Europe. For example, our room had a massive diagonal beam that came out of the floor about a third of the way across the room and disappeared into the ceiling about half way across. It took a few lumps on the head before I learned to duck going past it. On the other hand, the continental breakfasts at this hotel were anything but the simple croissant and coffee that we had come to expect. We had cereals, fresh fruit, orange juice, yogurt, and a hot dish every day, such as crepes, or French toast, or scrambled eggs with bacon or ham and there were patés of all sorts at every breakfast. One evening when we were on our own for dinner we tried the restaurant in the hotel. We both decided upon steak au poive verte. It was almost worth the price of the meal just to see how it was presented. It was a work of art, looking too good to eat, but, considering the price tag, we forced ourselves to eat it and it lived up to its appearance in every way. Scrumptious !
On our first day in Alsace, busses took most of our group on a sortieinto Saverne. We experienced another of those wonderful receptions, this time, in the magnificent Chateau des Rohan with the maire (mayor) of Saverne. There was beaucoup Alsatian wine and the wonderful assortment of breads for which the French are famous. This event was repeated almost daily with the maires of the "villages du jour."
Our next village du jour was Strasbourg.
The invitation from the lady mayor read as follows:
Maire de la Ville de Strasbourg
a le plaisir de
vous convier à la reception qui sera donnée
le vendredi 27 mai 1994 à 16 heures 30
dans les salons de l'Hotel de Ville, Place Broglie
a l'occasion de la visite d'une delegation
d'Anciens Combattants americains de la "103d US Infantry Division"
organiseé par l'Association Culturelle du Val de Moder
Les Amis de la Liberation
Even without a working knowledge of French, it is not hard to decipher the essence of the invitation i.e. that Madame Catherine Trautmann, the lady mayor of Strasbourg, was inviting us to a reception at 4:30 PM at the City Hall on Friday, May 27, 1994 on the occasion of the visit of a delegation of ----- what? Some of the ex-GIs interpreted it to mean what it appeared to say --- Ancient Combatants of the American 103d Infantry Division.
Ancient Combatants? Indeed! We didn't feel that old. Well, some concluded, she was trying to say "Old Soldiers" but even that didn't fit too well.
Wars start over lesser misunderstandings.
Actually, the word "anciens" means "former" so a loose translation is former soldiers, i.e. veterans, of the 103d Division. By the time we figured it all out we were too pooped to care.
The reception lived up to the formal invitation, again featuring excellent Alsatian wine, this time, Gewertz Traminer.
In Strasbourg we visited the Headquarters of the Council of Europe, The European Union, and the European Parliament.
The European Parliament is long on talk. The delegates, as one of them confided in us, just talk, talk, talk, talk, --- but, he noted, talking is better than fighting and Western Europe has had its longest period without a war in modern history.
There is much to talk about what with the differences in language, culture, monetary and legal systems, systems of government etc. One of their notable achievements is that the national boundaries have, for all practical purposes, disappeared. One can now go from country to country (on the continent) without visas or encountering check points. --- And they are working toward a common currency which may be a reality by the turn of the century, --- if they can agree on what the unit of currency will be called. It will have to be an artificial word devoid of any hint of a language tie to any of the countries in the European Union. It will take years of talk just to pick a name for it. If you have a good suggestion, they would be glad to hear it.
A frightening aspect of their confidence in talk as a solution to everything is that they thought that the "ethnic cleansing" now going on in Bosnia is something that could never again happen in Europe. --- And they don't have the foggiest notion of what to do about it except talk --- and, in this case, talk doesn't seem to help at all.
An even more frightening aspect of the European Union is that its delegates are deeply indoctrinated in the "One World" philosophy, --- but WHOSE world? --- Again, they haven't the foggiest but they are all for it, whatever "IT" is.
France, for example, has already subordinated itself to the European Union to the extent that the flag of the European Union (interestingly, a "U.N.-blue" flag with a circle of gold stars) is flown above the French tricolor on all occasions in which both flags are displayed.--- And if that isn't scary enough, we have a pot full of "One World" idealists currently in control of the US government.(I won't inject any further political thoughts. I promise.)
BUT, It will be a cold day in the nether regions when I fly any "One World" flag above MY Stars and Stripes.
A feature of each of these meetings with the village "maires", that soon got pretty tiresome, was the exchange of keys to the city and other gifts by the mayor of Bethany, Oklahoma and the maire of the "village du jour," often accompanied by long boring speeches and which had nothing to do with our visit. The mayor of Bethany was not a veteran of the 103d Division nor was he a veteran of anything as far as we could tell. He was a friend of, and a member of the same church as Harley Richardson, the American organizer of the tour. For every ten or so people he signs up for a tour like this, Harley gets a "freebie" and he elected to use his freebies to make some points at home rather than benefit the 103d Veterans who, one way or another, footed the bill for the mayor and his wife and that did not sit too well with the rest of us. The mayor of Bethany brought a few "keys to the city" to dispense to give some rationale for his presence and it was not long before the general impression given to the locals was that the entire 103d Division was from Oklahoma and that this was strictly an Oklahoma affair.
We had two parades in Pfaffenhoffen and they were emotional events. The veterans of the 103d Infantry Division marched right up at the front preceded, of course, by a U.S. color guard (stationed in Strasbourg). We were followed by a contingent of bemedaled French veterans of WW II, Indo China (Viet Nam), and the Algerian war, followed by the marching band from Estonia, and the rest of the parade. Many of the oldsters of the area cried as we marched by and some of the children seemed in awe of us. They were so impressed that we were the actual soldiers who had liberated their land so long ago that they just wanted to touch us and many of them did.
I had been asked to bring a 3 by 5 foot Florida flag. I attempted to obtain an "official" state flag from Jim Smith the Secretary of State of Florida who is official keeper of the flags but his office had already sent a flag to Pierre Marmillod for the event. To be on the safe side, I purchased a flag as well and took it with me. It turned out that the flags were carried in the parade by the children of Pfaffenhoffen. Pierre Marmillod had an extra flag staff which he used for my flag so Florida was the only state represented by two flags. The kids all wore tee shirts having "HAPPY BIRTHDAY LIBERTY, 50 YEARS, 1944-1994" colorfully printed on them.
Alaska sent Pierre a 3 by 5 flag (3 inches by 5 inches). Pierre was nonplussed by the prospect of our largest state being represented by the smallest flag but someone got them an Alaska flag of the proper size in time for the parades.
One of these parades took us to the 103d Division Memorial Monument in the Place de la Liberation where there were several ceremonies. This was the occasion on which I was to present the greetings from Lawton Chiles, the Governor of Florida, on behalf of the people of Florida, to the 103d Infantry Division and to the citizens of Pfaffenhoffen, and Alsace, and France on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of their liberation.
By then, I had my craw full of Oklahoma, so, before I read the greetings, I pointed out that contrary to the impression that might have been given in numerous earlier ceremonies, the 103d Infantry Division had been made up of soldiers from every state in the U.S.A., not just Oklahoma. I indicated that I was from the State of Florida and that I wished to extend greetings from the Governor and the people of that state. There was a loud cheer and applause from most of the 103d Vets and their wives who apparently also had their fill of Oklahoma.
One of John Donlan's sons brought along a tape player. He usually listened to it using headphones but it had a good output level when he used the loudspeakers. One of the tapes he brought along was, ironically, the score of "Oklahoma". On one bus ride, he cued it up to the title song but was reluctant to do more so I turned the volume full on, pushed the "play" button and our gang at the back of the bus sang a raucous and not too complimentary rendition of "Oklahoma."
I think that the Oklahoma contingent got the idea.
At another of the ceremonies in the Place de la Liberation, wreaths were laid at the 103d Division Memorial Monument and a French decoration, the "Freedom Medal" was pinned on the 103d Division Flag. I assume that the lapel-pin version of this decoration can be worn by members of the 103d when we find out where to get them.
Using Pfaffenhoffen as a base of operations, we went to a number of the sites of battles in which elements of the 103d Division were engaged. St. Diè, Rougeville, Taintrux, Saulcy su Meurthe, Uhrwiller, Ingwiller, Schillersdorf, Engwiller, Mulhausen, Gundershoffen, Gumbrectschaffen, Niefern, Niederbronn, Bitschoffen, Zutzendorf, Rothbach, Lichtenberg, etc. We didn't get to the sites of some of the battles about which I have very strong personal recollections. These included Maisonsgoutte, Woerth, Epfig, Ebersheim, Wingen, Climbach, and Bobenthal. Those will have to wait for another trip.
During the war, these names all just ran together. I am amazed that I can still remember any of them, but I must confess to some help from my Michelin map of the Vosge Alsace region.
Most of the villages in Alsace have German-sounding names. There is a good reason for this. Alsace has changed hands between Germany and France a number of times. On one of the occasions when the Germans were in control, they decreed that all towns and villages under their domination must have German names. You can almost draw a line on the map to distinguish the boundary. Apparently, St. Diè, Rougeville, Taintrux, and Saulcy su Meurthe were on the French side of the line and the rest of the towns just mentioned were under German domination. The inhabitants of these villages, apparently got tired of having their village renamed every 25 years or so, and just kept the last names assigned to them but the inhabitants are "French." There is no doubt about that. The language, however, while mostly French, is an interesting blend of French and German.
We had our noon and evening meals in several of these villages. The wine (and fine wine at that) flowed in abundance at every meal. Some of the meals were real Alsatian country cooking --- wonderful taste, aroma, and undoubtedly high in calories, --- but who cared. The name of one of the most tasty stews roughly translates as "washday pot," so named because it was put in the oven in a large covered crock early in the morning and allowed to simmer all day while the women went down to the stream to do the laundry. When they returned home at supper time it was done --- and delicious.
John Donlan and I were both interested in the battlefield at Saulcy su Meurthe. Several of our ASTP buddies were involved in that battle. Bayard Dodge Jr., a well-liked ASTPer known more familiarly as "BD", was one of the 103d Division's earliest casualties, he was one of eight GIs from Company A, 1st Battalion, 411th Infantry Regiment, lying dead on the battlefield. My ASTP room mate Bob Enterline and Tom Kane (a member of the ASTP intramural basketball team on which I played, and which, incidentally, never won a game), were machine gunners of C Company's 1st Machine gun Section. They were called up to give covering fire. There were several German machine nests dug in on the high ground overlooking the terraced field. Tom was gunner and Bob was ammo carrier and feeder. Tom and Bob engaged the enemy in a fierce machine gun battle. They exhausted three boxes of ammo before knocking out all of the German machine guns. Tom, the gunner, received the Bronze star for that day's action.
On the bus with us was Bill Palangi who, also, was in A Company, 1st Battalion, 411th Infantry, and who was wounded in the same battle. When John Donlan and I realized that Palangi was from A Company, we asked him if he knew "BD". He did know him very well and provided some details regarding that fateful day.
"BD" was out on point. He had the wire cutters and had just started cutting his way through the barbed wire when a German officer rose up and hit him with a burst from his burp gun, killing "BD" instantly. Bill Palangi immediately shot and killed the German officer who killed "BD." Shortly after, Palangi was, himself, seriously wounded by mortar fire. Two of his buddies carried him, sitting on one of their rifles with arms draped across another rifle and their shoulders. They somehow managed to carry him down a steep incline (so steep that none of us could climb up it) to a house where he received first aid. Palangi found the house and spoke to the occupants, one of whom was quite young at the time but still had clear recollections of the event. It took Palangi over 50 days before he had recovered enough to get out of bed and take a few steps, and he spent many more months in hospitals, because his wounds kept reopening. He then spent a lot of additional time in hospitals being rehabilitated.
At the Saulcy su Meurthe battle site is a cemetery for French soldiers killed in WWI. Some of the fighting took place in that cemetery. At the foot of the steps leading up to the French Cemetery is a monument erected by Company A comrades to the memory of the eight who were killed there.
We had an emotional visit to the US Cemetery at Epinal. Thousands of white grave markers perfectly lined up in every direction indicated the final resting places of many fallen comrades and we wandered along the rows seeking friends. John Donlan and I located the crosses marking the graves of "BD" Dodge and another ASTP friend, Harold Class. Harold had been a friend of John Donlan from grade school on through basic training, through ASTP and into the 103d Division. Harold was killed by a sniper in January, 1945.
Enroute from Epinal to Saulcy su Meurthe, we passed through Rougeville where I had several close calls with land mines during our first day of combat. On that occasion, I had parked our radio truck near the 411th Regimental Command Post (CP) which was located in an old saw mill. As daylight crept up on us, it became obvious that I had parked in an exposed position. Our crew chief reconnoitered the area and located a succession of good parking places, screened from German artillery.
However, each time, before we could move, some other vehicle got to each of them and was blown up by a land mine. We opted to stay where we were, exposed or not, and, eventually, engineers with mine sweepers pulled out several mines from right around our truck.
This time, our bus passed an intersection in Rougeville that looked familiar. There was a modern lumber mill right at the corner. In 1944, the 411th CP had been located in an old lumber mill just a short distance up the side road. It was no longer there but the presence of the new mill just a few yards from the expected location convinced me that I had found the right spot. This had been the site of the first "most scary day of my life." There were many more to follow.
In some instances, when we visited battle sites, local residents who had witnessed and recorded the events on paper were able to give lucid accounts of the battles. The most vivid was by a man who had observed the battle of Reipertswiller in the zone assigned to the 45th Division but involving the 103d Division's 411th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion.
The 45th Division's 157th Infantry Regiment had been battered for several days and Companies Charlie, George, Item, King, and Love were surrounded on a saddle between hills 420 on the left and 390 on the right by elements of the German 6th SS Mountain Division "NORD", 11th SS Regiment, and the 256th Volks Grenadier Division.
Upon our return to Alsace from the flank of the bulge, the Second Battalion, 411th Infantry Regiment, was detached to the 45th Division to attack hill 363, a little southeast of hill 390, in an effort to relieve the pressure on the surrounded companies. As the interpreter translated the account, we looked at the saddle and visualized the battle unfolding.
Easy, Fox, and George Companies of the 411th attacked twice, the first time in broad daylight, the second time in a snowstorm, but were repulsed both times by heavy artillery, mortar, and small arms fire suffering substantial casualties without reaching Hill 363. Meanwhile, the beleaguered companies of the 45th Division's 157th Regiment attempted unsuccessfully to break out. Eventually, all radio contact was lost as their positions were overrun and the radios of the five surrounded companies were never heard from again. The men of these five companies were all either killed or captured. One 103d Division veteran of this battle was critical of the suicidal daylight attack when they could have earlier infiltrated at night with better chance of success.
The 2nd Battalion 411th Infantry could no longer perform the function for which it had been attached to the 45th Division so it was returned to the control of the 103d Division, 411th Regiment, in Bouxwiller. The eight-day action by the 157th Regiment of the 45th Division was totally unsuccessful and took an enormous toll in American lives including some from the 2nd Battalion, 411th.
We also visited Struthof the site of the only German Concentration Camp in France. This one was placed here to deal with the heavy activity of the resistance forces (Force Francaise Interieur, or F.F.I.) in this area. This trip, we had a long conversation with Gilbert May, the last known survivor of Struthof.
In 1944, as the 103d Division pressed northeastward through the Vosges Mountains, this camp, located a little northwest of Barr, was in our path. The Germans abandoned it before we got there and shipped all of the prisoners to Dachau from which this survivor was shipped to the "French" Lager at Landsberg. Because the Struthof Concentration Camp was empty when we encountered it in 1944, we did not, at that time, realize its significance. The 103d Division liberated the last known survivor of Struthof from the French Concentration Lager at Landsberg, Germany in April of 1945, starved almost to death. One of the members of our three-man radio team, Seymour Fader, actually unlocked the gates at the French Lager at Landsberg.
May told of the unspeakable atrocities that occurred in this camp and it had the strong ring of truth because we had seen with our own eyes the horrors of the Landsberg concentration camps and the things that happened here were essentially the same. The French have preserved the camp as a constant reminder of the price that they paid for their freedom.
Just one example of the brutality of the SS guards at Struthof should suffice. A hangman's scaffold still stands in one corner of the camp on the highest ground in the prisoner compound. People were hanged for minor infractions at the minimum rate of one hanging per day. All prisoners were required to witness the daily hangings, intended as examples of what would happen if anyone got out of line --- but even without any infractions, the daily hanging occurred anyway, the victims being picked at random, just to set an example.
We visited a number of points of general interest, e.g. Mont St. Odile, an abbey northwest of Barr with a an incredible view of the Vosges Mountains. We also visited the double walled city of Obernai and the village of Lichtenberg where we were entertained by a group playing those long Alpine horns seen in the Ricola cough drop adds on TV. This group had played at the opening of the Winter Olympics at Albertville.
One afternoon, a small group of us, accompanied by a TV news team from French Channel 2, went out in search of the houses that we had stayed in, in Alsace, during the two winter months in which we prepared for the upcoming big offensive. Simon Dargol was one of our small group. He was a Frenchman who had escaped from Marseille, to North Africa, to Portugal, to Havana and eventually to the USA where he enlisted and was assigned to the 103d Division, with which he returned to France. He had a twofold mission. One was to locate the home of a lady, "Georgette," who was a ten year old child when we were there in 1945. Harold Rorem, a member of the Signal Company had stayed with the young girl's family in 1945, in Imbsheim. Harold had sort of "adopted" the girl and corresponded with her over the years but could not attend this reunion in Alsace. Harold had asked Simon to deliver a present to her, which he did. Simon's second objective was to find the home where he had stayed in 1944. He had no trouble locating it and was welcomed with open arms although it is unclear to me whether the current occupants were the same family as in 1945.
Bob Powers, with some help from Simon, located the house where he had stayed in Bouxwiller. Here, members of the same family that lived in the house in 1945 welcomed all of us, (Bob, Simon, John Donlan, the French television team, and me), and even though our visit was totally unexpected, they broke out their best wine and breads and we had a delightful visit. While at this home, John Donlan and I had a long conversation with another survivor of Landsberg Concentration Camp, Charles Baron. At the time of his liberation, this survivor of Landsberg weighed only 60 pounds. In the year and a half following his liberation, he grew 10 inches in height and more than doubled his weight to 140 pounds. His body was not ready for such rapid growth and he has suffered from it ever since.
In 1945, the Division Radio Teams in Imbsheim had stayed in a large structure, It was very barn-like but it had rooms. It was not anyone's home, however, so John Donlan and I were not looking for people, just a building. That made it harder. We found two candidates but both have had some alterations and we are not absolutely certain of either of them. One seemed a bit more likely because we both recollected a fountain, actually, just a horse trough, nearby and there was one close to one of the two buildings. However, the other candidate had a section of low stone wall like one I remember sitting on while watching a one-sided dog fight between some American planes and badly outnumbered German planes. (It was all going on at high altitude but a shell from a nose cannon on one of the planes hit a building and exploded just a few feet from me, a reminder that all of that stuff they are shooting around up there has to come down somewhere, so don't watch, get under cover).
Our primary candidate also appeared to have had such a wall at one time but it is not there now. We consider our search reasonably, but not 100%, successful.
We couldn't leave without purchasing a few bottles of Beaujolais in special bottles commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the D-Day landings at Normandy. The bottles have permanent labels (not the usual paper) depicting the Normandy Landings. They will be collector's items but Beaujolais should be drunk while it is young. --- A dilemma. My guess is that the bottle itself will be as desirable to collectors as the contents so we plan to enjoy the Beaujolais within the next few months and just keep the empty bottles as souvenirs.
The final night, we had a party, for our French hosts, in nearby Gundershoffen. The military band from Estonia doffed their uniforms and entertained with music from the '40s, starting with "The St.Louis Blues March", the first number in a long Glen Miller medley. Sally and I couldn't sit still and we got up and started "jitterbugging" in the wide aisle between the two rows of banquet tables. The applause encouraged a number of other couples up and I must say that we all did pretty well. The orchestra also played a long medley of Sinatra songs including "My Way" and "New York, New York", and a string of hits from the '40s including "Sentimental Journey" --- hardly a dry eye in the house on that one.
I took what I thought would be an adequate supply of video tape but supposed that compact VHS-C cassettes would be readily available if I ran out but that was not the case. Unfortunately, I wasted far too much of our video tape on relatively unimportant things early in our trip and had to ration it severely when we got to the events that we really wanted to preserve, This last night party for example. I didn't get any of it on tape but John Donlan took copies of the footage that he and I and one other person shot and his son combined the highlights into a reasonably good representation of the entire experience.
The next morning we had to have our bags ready to load on the bus by 4:45 a.m. By around 5:00 a.m. we were loaded on the bus which picked up, in Pfaffenhoffen, the rest of the departees having to make early flights from Frankfurt.
The security in the Frankfurt Airport is very strict and a little unnerving to realize that a couple of guys with assault rifles did not have them slung on their shoulders but actually had them leveled at us, fingers on the triggers, while we were going through the metal detectors at the security check point.
A few parting thoughts. "Cleanliness" and "friendliness" come immediately to mind. One had to be impressed by the neatness and cleanliness of all of the homes and gardens in all of the villages in Alsace --- and by the cleanliness of the business districts as well. They are going through some tough economic times in Alsace but it has not affected the way they care for their property.
As many of us have found out, Parisians dislike Americans and are very rude, undoubtedly due in no small part to the "ugly Americans" who have disgraced our country by their rude behavior.
The people of Alsace, however, were warm and exceedingly friendly. They truly appreciated what we did there in 1944 and made their gratitude known in every possible way. They were gracious hosts, planned numerous events, --- some stirring, some nostalgic, some tearful, and some entertaining. They made us feel very welcome. They were incredibly generous with their wine and wonderful breads and their cuisine was without parallel. We didn't want to leave.
And the children, - We just wanted to sit and look at them, --- so beautiful, so innocent, a constant smile on every face, --- fully enjoying life without benefit of any of the offerings of TOYS "R" US. --- Something to be wished for in our own communities.
flight from Frankfurt to Orlando was uneventful but tiring even though
the Delta Airline crew did everything they could to make it as pleasant
as possible. The flight from Orlando to Daytona was on a tiny commuter
plane ---- and I mean tiny --- it only carried a few people, a single line
of seats on each side of the aisle --- and insufficient head room for anyone
to stand in the aisle --- we had to practically crawl to our seats ----
very claustrophobic. We landed in a light shower but, as much as we loved
Alsace, we were so tired that we were truly glad to be back home and didn't
care how wet we got.
THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY
OF THE LIBERATION OF THE CONCENTRATION CAMPS
APRIL 27, 1995
When the 103d Division liberated Landsberg Concentration Camp on April 27, 1945, I was among the first soldiers to enter the camp. What we saw there was horrible beyond description.
At the time, I had three dirty sheets of paper and a dull pencil in the pocket of my combat jacket. Words failed me but I drew three sketches of the camp and wrote, as best I could, a description of it around the sketches. I sent the sheets to my friend Morton Ross and he later forwarded them to my mother who put them away for safekeeping.
In 1993, I had occasion to send them to Bob Powers to help him prepare a response, on behalf of the 103d Division, to the history revisionists who claim that the Holocaust never happened. Eventually, Bob's document found its way into the Library of Congress where it came to the attention of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council.
This led to an invitation to participate as a candle lighter in a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps.
The ceremony was dignified and solemn. The United States Army Band, "Pershing's Own", provided the music.
The standards of all divisions that participated in the liberation of the numerous camps that we encountered in southern Germany were presented by a sharp contingent of standard bearers from the 3d Infantry Division.
The entry of the Division Standards was followed by the presentation of the Colors. The Color Guard was also from the 3d Infantry Division.
There were several moving speeches, mainly by survivors of the camps, and a principal address by Senator Strom Thurmond, who took part in the liberation of Buchenwald.
Participating in the candle lighting ceremony were eighteen people, three for each of six candles on a large brass menorah. In the center of each group of three was a survivor flanked by a liberator and a prominent person (two senators and one representative participated).
It was an honor to be invited to take part in this moving ceremony.
with some of the survivors brought back strong recollections of the Landsberg
camps and the monstrous things that happened there. Dreams of those terrible
sights and smells have recurred a few times since the ceremony but I suppose
that they will eventually go away as they did before.
REUNION OF THE 103D
WILLIAMSBURG, VIRGINIA, AUGUST 16 - 20, 1995
Wednesday August 16, 1995 did not bode well for the 103d. Hurricane Felix, after veering away from Florida had drawn a bead on the southeast corner of Virginia and had Williamsburg in the center of his sights. My two-hop flight from Jacksonville to Charlotte to Newport News-Williamsburg (or, as the pilots call it, "New Willie") did not go well.
Departure from Jax was an hour late. I raced through the airport at Charlotte, just making the connection. Unfortunately, my luggage missed the connecting flight. Not wanting to leave anything to chance, I put a tracer on it as soon as we landed at "New Willie" and was assured that it had been located and was already in the air on the next flight. USAir also promised that it would be delivered directly to my hotel. I took every bit of that with a grain of salt but it all worked out exactly as promised.
Hurricane Felix, meanwhile, discovered exactly who he was dealing with, specifically, the vaunted 103d Infantry Division. We held him a bay for several days before he begrudgingly withdrew and retreated into the Atlantic dropping hardly a sprinkle in Williamsburg.
The reunion was held in the Fort Magruder Inn which was filled to overflowing requiring some 103d Veterans to stay in other nearby accommodations.
This was a double reunion for me. First, of course, was my reunion with comrades from the 103d Division Signal Company. The ones I was closest to were those from the Radio Section. John Donlan, Bob Gill, and Paul Henson. I had not seen Paul in over 50 years but had a good reason to remember him. He is the person who worked out the scheme for using "Spiral Four" cable to remote control our radio transmitting and receiving facilities. As mentioned in the main text, this innovation was used many times by our radio team and probably saved my life on several occasions.
Bill Barclay finished his book, "103D INFANTRY DIVISION SIGNAL COMPANY REMEMBRANCES". It is a compilation of recollections of a number of Signal Company personnel. It includes many exerpts from this book, "PAPA'S WAR", so I obtained copies for Brenton and myself.
Many of the "regulars" were there, including Bill Barclay, John Anania, Harold Rorem, Bill Becks, Ray Vanderby, et al, and some others whom I had not seen in 50 or so years, like Bill Boyers.
Many hours were spent sharing stories of events of the "Big One". Many close calls were related but the most harrowing adventure of one of our intrepid Signal troops occurred when an 88 shell came through a low window, shattered the commode on which he was sitting, and went out the opposite wall without exploding. It was a dud but he did not hang around more than a millisecond to find out for sure.
Andy Beck, the son of our Company Commander, Captain Bernard "Bernie" Beck was there. He is a WWII buff and has collected many photographs and other memorabilia. He intends to edit a second edition of Barclay's book, expanding it to around 500 pages with many more photos than the 320-page first edition. We had several conversations about the rather amazing differences between his dad's recollections of events as reflected in his letters home, and our (various Signal Company GIs') recollections of the same events.
Andy brought a very professional set of equipment for copying photographs and made good use of it in copying wartime pictures brought by many of our ex-GIs.
The second reunion, for me, was with buddies from ASTP in Denton, Texas. These included two of my roommates from Chilton Hall, Bob Enterline and Gus Enyedy. I had not seen them for over 50 years so we had much to talk about.
Harrison Griffin, from Deland, Florida, was a friend from the day we were both inducted at Camp Blanding, through basic training at North Camp Hood, Texas and through the ASTP wars in Denton. Harrison and Gus were in the same squad in the 103d Division. I played a major role in getting both of them to come to the reunion. Gus carried a "Brownie" camera with him during the war and took many combat pictures. He later "liberated" a Leica but the pictures taken with the "Brownie" are quite comparable. Gus had a picture that shows his squad moving out one wet cold morning. A grungier bunch of troops would be very hard to find anywhere. He mounted a blowup of that picture over his computer in his office to remind him that no matter how bad things get, they can never get as bad as that. Gus has an incredible collection of combat photos. Anyone who got his hands on them could not put them down.
Stuart Friedman, who lost a leg in combat, was there. Our recollections regarding ASTP are different, but Stu denies that he was the target of any of the pranks played by Harrison, Gus, Bob, and me.
We shared wonderful recollections of our "best times" in the Army while stationed in Denton.
At the business meeting, the Presentation of the Colors was accompanied by a fife and drum group from Colonial Williamsburg. It was very impressive.
As is customary, a list of names of comrades who passed on since the last reunion was read. The names of a former ASTP buddy, Sanford Flink, and Willard Springborn (who was with us on the trip to Alsace in 1994) were on the list. Roughly 80 names were read and the list seems to grow longer each year. It makes one acutely aware of his mortality.
Sanford Flink had planned to attend this reunion. He had made reservations and mailed in his dues but fate intervened.
Willard had brought his grandson with him to Alsace to handle his wheelchair but the grandson fell, broke his leg, and ended up in the wheelchair himself with Willard hobbling around on crutches. "The Old Sarge" was a true hero, one of the most decorated men in the 103d Division.
REUNION OF THE 103D
COLUMBUS, OHIO, SEPTEMBER 11-15, 1996
The 103d Division gathered at the Worthington Convention Center, Columbus,OH, September 11th through 15th. This was a multipurpose mission for me.
There are two events mentioned in PAPA'S WAR in which I would very much like to identify all of the participants.
The first concerns a man from 411th Regiment HQ Company Message Center who had a long red and white striped stocking cap who had failed to obtain the password before venturing out at night at a time when German saboteurs dressed in American uniforms had been parachuted into our area. The cap may have saved him from getting shot by me and I would like to identify him in the narrative.
The second event is described in "Incident at Colle Isarco". I would like to identify the two radio operators from 411th HQ Company who prodded Seymour Fader and me into joining them in their Jeep for what turned out to be a wild adventure in Colle Isarco, Italy.
The 411th Regiment was, by far, the largest group present at the reunion but there was not a single person from 411th Headquarters Company in attendance at the convention so I drew a blank on that one.
I had a little better luck reopening friendships with some vets who were fellow classmates in ASTP at North Texas State in Denton, Texas in 1943-44. Some former ASTPers in attendance were Bob Enterline and Gustav Enyedy (both roommates of miýÿÿÿ‚
The 103d Signal Company was well represented with Bob Gill, Bill Barclay, Jerry Waldref, Bill Becks, John Anania, Harold Rorem, Ray Vanderby, Paul Grant, Bill Boyer, Bernie Beck's son Andrew, and others. Sid Sedinsky, a regular at the 103d reunions passed away in 1996, before the reunion.
Andrew Beck brought his photocopying gear with him and copied many photos brought by various Signal Company people including me. He intends to rewrite Bill Barclay's book 103D INFANTRY DIVISION SIGNAL COMPANY REMEMBRANCES, expanding it to nearly double it original size and including many more photographs than the original edition.
In attendance at the reunion was Charles Baron a survivor of Landsberg Concentration Camp, liberated by the 103d. During our 1994 103d Division trip to Alsace several of us searched for the buildings in which we had stayed during the winter doldrums of late January through early March 1945. We located the building in which Bob Powers stayed. While Bob was chatting with the owners of the house, John Donlan and I had a long talk with Baron.
It was good to see him again at the reunion.
One of the highlights of the reunion was a side trip to the Air Force Museum at Wright Patterson field.
88TH DIVISION UPDATE
Shortly after my return to Florida, the 88th Division had a reunion in Daytona Beach. I visited them there hoping to get some clue as to the identities of the Major and T/5 from the 88th who were involved in the "Incident at Colle Isarco".
I had several interesting discussions.
One was with a vet named Dante Salamone who was in the lead infantry unit in the 88th's drive toward Brenner Pass. He could shed no light regarding anyone foolhardy enough to be out in front of his unit but of course they were so what they were doing there and how they got there in still a mystery.
I also had a long conversation with Montsaul (Monty) Brown who brought with him a hard cover history of the 88th Division. He told me that after the formal linkup, the 88th was responsible for the part of Brenner Pass south of the border checkpoint at Brennero. This included the village of Colle Isarco. He described a cul de sac having in it a German SS Headquarters building. This appears to have been the building that was central to the Colle Isarco incident described in PAPA'S WAR, PART 6. Some of Monty's unit (including himself) occupied the building.
Seymour and I and the two 411th GIs were too intent on obtaining pistols to pay much attention to the uniforms of the officers and failed to note the SS insignias on their collars. We probably should have taken the officers prisoner and taken them with us when we left but we had no means of transporting them.
That was most unfortunate. One of them apparently rigged a time delay bomb (there was certainly enough ammo in the Armory in the building to do that). Several days after VE Day the bomb went off. Monty was on the street outside of the building at the time and was blown across the cul de sac. He was bruised but otherwise OK. However, he had many buddies killed or wounded in the blast.
The building was, as I recall, three stories high above ground but the stories were very tall with ceiling heights of twelve feet or more. The whole building was ablaze and one of Monty's buddies was trapped on a top floor balcony. Monty had alpine training and found a rope which he threw up to the GI on the balcony. An SS POW who had been policing up the area ran over and pulled the rope down before it could be secured. A bunch of Monty's buddies grabbed the POW and beat the living hell out of him (he didn't say if they killed him).
Monty tried again with the rope and got his friend down. Monty lost several friends and all of his possessions in the blast (which, ironically, included a Luger, a P-38, and a Beretta, precisely the kinds of highly prized military booty we were seeking in Colle Isarco). Monty showed me, in his book, a picture of the building after the explosion. He later sent me copies of the pages telling the story of the blast.
I don't know what Seymour or I might have done to prevent that tragedy but it hurts to know that there must have been something.
It is not
too farfetched to consider the possibility that the Major and T/5 were
in the building at the time of the blast. I hope not.
Michael V. Gannon, (an historian who has done impressive research on the German submarine activities off the east coast of the United States during WWII) recently appeared on a Discovery Channel series on Submarine Warfare in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico in World War II. During this series, he identified the ship that was sunk off St. Augustine as the GULF AMERICA. Gannon, two men who, at the moment of the attack, were, with their dates, right at the top of the Ferris wheel at Pablo Beach, and the submarine commander, Reinhard Hardegen the captain of Unterseeboote #123 (U-Boat 123), all described what happened in considerable detail. This attack is described in "PAPA'S WAR, PART 1".
Kapitänleutnant Reinhard Hardegen
One of Germany's Top U-Boat Aces
Sank 23 ships for a total of 119,014 tons
5 ships damaged for a total of 46,500 tons
Awarded Knights Cross with Oak Leaves
(One of Germany's highest Awards)
Apparently, St. Augustine was quicker to implement the new blackout regulations than Pablo Beach (now Jacksonville Beach).The sub commander described his amazement that the entire east coast of the United States was lit up as though there were no war in progress. He described automobile traffic along the beach roads and the brightly lit boardwalk at Pablo Beach and mentioned what sitting ducks the coastal freighters and tankers were, outlined against these lights.
However, he specifically mentioned that he sank the GULF AMERICA off St. Augustine , (which had blackout regulations strictly in force at the time). In the course of the story of the GULF AMERICA, it was mentioned by someone ( I think it was Gannon) that roughly half the crew of the GULF AMERICA was lost in this sinking.
I always thought that all hands were lost. From what I saw from the beach, it is hard to imagine how anyone could have survived the sinking and the burning oil on the surface of the sea. No mention was made of who picked up the survivors but it certainly was not the submarine. There was no room for survivors aboard a sub. The program also failed to mention the submarine that surfaced in the entrance channel to St. Augustine harbor to charge its batteries. This incident is also mentioned in "PAPA'S WAR, PART 1". I would like to find out if it was Reinhard Hardegen's sub or some other.
The program did mention the fact that in many coastal communities, fishing boats were manned by Coast Guard Auxiliaries to patrol the harbors and the inland waterway at night. It is quite possible that it was a crew of Coast Guard Auxiliaries (not regular Coast Guard personnel) who discovered the sub while patrolling the bay. If true, they were most likely "local" men. However, it does not seem logical that they would have kept quiet about it all this time, even if they were cautioned not to mention the incident.
I would certainly like to talk to whoever was on that patrol boat and get their version of what happened that night.
Through further study, I learned that the submarine that landed the saboteurs on Long Island was not the same submarine that landed the saboteurs at Ponte Vedre. The long Island saboteurs were landed from U-202 and the Florida saboteurs were landed from U-584 so U-584 joins Hardegen's sub U-123 as a possible candidate for the sub that surfaced in the St. Augustine inlet.
ASTP MEMORIAL PLAQUE DEDICATION
One of my ASTP room mates, Bob Enterline, suggested that it might be a fitting gesture for living survivors to place a plaque at North Texas State Teachers College (now the University of North Texas), honoring members of our ASTP Unit (ASTU 3890) who subsequently lost their lives serving with the 103d Infantry Division.
Dr. Andrew Setliff and I spent the better part of a year attempting to identify the men who were in that unit. It was a daunting task. Nevertheless, we identified nearly two hundred of those who had been in our unit, and succeeded in obtaining addresses and phone numbers of thirty six survivors. We also determined that another dozen or so survived the war but had subsequently passed away. It is probable that many others are now deceased, .... one of the reasons we ran into so many dead ends in our search.
We determined that ten of our classmates had been killed in action and while we cannot be certain that we have identified all who made the ultimate sacrifice, we are now reasonably confident that we have identified all of those who died serving in the 103d Infantry Division. Those killed in action were Tom Lutze, Harold Class, Harold Burkhard, Bayard "BD" Dodge, Carl Christensen, Daniel Gasch, Al Lamb, Bill Lang, Ed Luebke, and John Seay.
Meanwhile Bob Enterline explored the cost and availability of an appropriate memorial, made a trip to Denton to discuss our project with the Chancellor of the University and worked out a schedule for the installation, dedication, and unveiling of the memorial plaque. The plaque was paid for by surviving classmates of these men.
The dedication ceremony, took place at 11:00 A.M. on June 30, 1997, around the flagpole in front of the University Union Building on the campus of the University of North Texas. Participating in the ceremony preceding the unveiling were Robert Enterline, Pierce Evans, John Donlan, Dr. Andrew Setliffe, all former members of ASTU 3890. Other participants were Alfred F. Hurley, PhD, Chancellor of the University of North Texas and the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth and President of the University of North Texas. Many individuals were involved in the planning, including Blaine A. Brownell, PhD, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, David Shrader, DMA, Interim Vice President for Development, other University officials, and the officers of the ROTC Unit.
At the end of the outdoor ceremony, Dr. Setliffe gave the Invocation.
The ROTC Color Guard then lowered the flag to half mast while a trumpeter played Taps.
The assembled people
then moved into the University Union Building where the plaque was unveiled
by Bob Enterline. It is in Memorial Hall beside a much larger plaque containing
names of many individuals who were killed in action in several wars after
attending UNT. Some of the names on our plaque were missing from the larger
plaque so they are now properly honored in Memorial Hall.
The caption on the
IN MEMORY OF THE
WHO DIED DURING WORLD WAR II
SERVING IN THE 103D INFANTRY DIVISION
HAROLD L. BURKHEAD
ALBERT F. LAMB
HAROLD C. CLASS WILLIAM J. LANG
CARL E. CHRISTENSEN EDWARD A. LUEBKE
BAYARD DODGE, JR THOMAS W. LUTZE
DANIEL R. GASCH JOHN H. SEAY
FOREVER YOUNG, THEY STAND PROUDLY WITH GOD
PRESENTED BY FORMER
ARMY SPECIALIZED TRAINING UNIT 3890
AT THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH TEXAS
PAPA'S WAR UPDATE
PAPA'S WAR has been formally copyrighted but it does not have either a Library of Congress Publication in Progress card number or an ISBN number because, technically, it had already been "published" by virtue of the numerous copies distributed to friends and others via disk and printed pages and is therefore, for some reason, beyond my feeble reasoning capacity, ineligible for these.
The copyright procedure required two copies of the book so these are archived somewhere in the Library of Congress but probably unavailable to the public.
However, copies of PAPA'S WAR are currently available at the St. Johns County, FL, Public Library.
Mike Grogan, a reporter for the St. Augustine Record had done a story on my trip to Washington for the ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps. During our discussion of that event, I showed him the manuscript. He asked to read it, so, when it was finished, I loaned him a copy. Next thing I knew, he was at my door with a photographer for a photo to accompany an article that he had written about the book. The local library had so many requests for the book following publication of the article that they had more copies printed. Much to my surprise, some of these have been loaned to other out-of-state libraries in response to requests from readers in those cities.
Two copies are in the Library of The United States Army Military History Institute, a department of the U.S. Army War College. It is the U.S. Army's central repository for historical materials and is located at 22 Ashburn Drive, Carlisle Barracks, Carlisle, PA 17013-5008. It has a mission to collect, preserve, and make available to researchers, source materials on Military History, especially American military history.
While at the University of North Texas for the plaque dedication, I presented to the Chancellor, Dr. Hurley, two copies of PAPA'S WAR for the University of North Texas Library. These copies reside in Willis Library, call nunber D811 .E925 1996.
There are two copies in the Smathers Library of the University of Florida.
Two copies also
reside in the Library of Florida State University in the World War II and
the Human Experience collection.
UNUSUAL ARMBAND UPDATE, JULY 4, 2001
I received the following E-Mail concerning the unusual Nazi armband described in Papa's War Part 5.
I enjoyed reading "Papa's War". I am glad all these wonderful memories were not lost! People like these have kept our country free for two and a quarter centuries, today.
[From Papa's War, Part 5]
"The Unusual Nazi Armband"
Someone has probably identified this for you by now, but in case they haven't, it is thearmband of the Sports Badge Assocation of the SA, the Nazi "Brownshirts". It was worn bySA officials at the sport meets where SA men were tested to receive the badge. The Badge itself is shown on the armband.
My guess was that it probably DID belong to someone in the household.
They probably forgot about it when they threw away all the other Nazi stuff.
At this point in the war, the SA was sort of an Auxillary wartime organization, sort of likethe British Home Guard.
Happy Independance Day!
Thanks, Lee for putting me on the right track. For those who are unfamiliar with the SA, they were NOT a group of gentlemen interested in sports.
SA is an abbreviation
of STURMABTEILUNG (GERMAN: "ASSAULT DIVISION"), byname STORM TROOPERS,
OR BROWNSHIRTS, German STURMTRUPPEN, OR BRAUNHEMDEN, in the German Nazi
Party, a paramilitary organization whose methods of violent intimidation
played a key role in Adolf Hitler's rise to power.
The SA was
founded in Munich by Hitler in 1921 out of various roughneck elements that
had attached themselves to the fledgling Nazi movement. It drew its early membership
largely from the Freikorps (Free Corps), armed freebooter groups, made up largely of
ex-soldiers, that battled leftists in the streets in the early days of the Weimar Republic.
Outfitted in brown uniforms after the fashion of Mussolini's Fascist Blackshirts in Italy,
the SA men protected Party meetings, marched in Nazi rallies, and physically assaulted
Temporarily in disarray after the failure of Hitler's Munich Putsch in 1923, the SA was reorganized in 1925 and soon resumed its violent ways, intimidating voters in national and local elections. From January 1931, it was headed by Ernst Röhm, who harboured radical anticapitalist notions and dreamed of building the SA into Germany's main military force. Under Röhm SA membership, swelled from the ranks of the Great Depression's unemployed, grew to 400,000 by 1932 and to perhaps 2,000,000--20 times the size of the regular army--by the time that Hitler came to power in 1933.
early days of the Nazi regime, the SA carried out unchecked street violence
against Jews and Nazi opponents. But it was eyed with suspicion by the regular army
and by the wealthy industrialists, two groups whose support Hitler was trying to
secure. Against Hitler's expressed wishes, Röhm continued to press for a "second Nazi
revolution" of a socialist character, and he hoped to merge the regular army with the
SA under his own leadership. On June 30, 1934, the Night of the Long Knives (die Nacht
der langen Messer), Hitler, using SS forces, carried out a "Blood Purge" of the SA
leadership. Röhm and dozens of SA leaders were summarily executed. Thereafter the
SA, reduced in strength, continued to exist but ceased to play a major political role in
Nazi affairs. From 1939 it was in charge of training all able-bodied men for Home Guard
This is the text of Hilter's decree establishing the SA Sports Badge on Feb 15, 1935 and what significance he felt it had:
'SA.-Sportabzeichen' (SA Sports Badge)
"The new state demands
a resistant, hard generation. Next to the ideological schooling of the
mind a pugnacious training of the body, due to simple, useful and natural
physical training has to be supported.To give more incitement and direction
to the effort of the youth, I renew for the whole SA and all its former
detachments the institution of the SA Sports Badge which can be earned
upon passing an achievement test after a conscientious executed training
To give a more conscious meaning to the cultivation of the pugnacious mind of all parts of the German people I further decide that this SA Sports Badge might be acquired and worn by non-members of the movement too, as far as they are in accordance with the racial and
ideological ideas of National Socialism. Manufacturer determination will be made by the Chief of Staff of the SA.
The SA Chief Commander
Six conditions were part of this decree:
a) The program was
to be conducted within National Socialist racial and ideological
b) Participants had to be German citizens, neither foreigners nor Jews.
c) All candidates must be at least 18 years of age.
d) Their prior fitness had to be medically certified.
e) They had to have completed a required period of training within a National Socialist
f) Candidates had to pass the test successfully in front of competent SA testers.
The importance of
the SA in the Nazi plan for the utilization of the people of Germany is
in Hitler's pronouncement "The Course for the German Person," which appears in the issue of
"Der SA-Mann" for 5 September 1936, Hitler's statement reads as follows:
"The boy, will enter the Jungvolk, and the lad, will enter the Hitler Youth, the young man will go into the SA, in the SS, and in other units, and the SA and SS men will one day enter the Labor Service and from there go to the Army, and the soldier of the People will return again into the Organization of the Movement, the Party , in the SA and SS, and never again will our People decay as they once decayed".
To qualify for the
SA Sports Badge a young Nazi went through a purification and sanctification
ritual that included a tortuous and exhausting physical regimen which only
the best could endure.
The wearer of the SA Sports Badge was the embodiment of the ideal Nazi Youth . . . blond, blue-eyed, brainwashed, and physically superior in every respect.
The SA Sports Badge
Clearly, the SA Sports Badge Association was not a group of nice guys out for an afternoon of fun and games. The SA was a gang of street thugs. A wearer of the SA Sportsbadge represented the quintessential Nazi in both mind and body. You would not want to meet one of them in a dark alley.
As to the owner of the unusual armband, he was well placed in the SA but not necessarily one of Hitler's inner circle . . . . and certainly NOT just a streetcar conductor.
This goes a long
way toward explaining the truncheon and brass knuckles we found when we
searched the house.
I now have an internet website:
It has the full text of PAPA'S WAR, and the full text of William F. Barclay's 103D INFANTRY DIVISION SIGNAL COMPANY REMEMBRANCES, also Web Pages devoted to the 103d Infantry Division, the 103d Signal Company, as well as links to several other websites devoted exclusively to the 103d Infantry Division, or to units that were closely related to the 103d during combat.
It also contains a number of Web Pages devoted to Patriot themes and Holidays and is under continuous construction.
My e-mail addresses
are : email@example.com