On October 23, 2017, Paul Willis, 97, from Canton, NC, was awarded the French Legion of Honor by the French Consul General, Louis de Corail, at a ceremony in Knoxville, Tennessee. Willis, a Technical Sergeant in Company G, 329th Infantry, 83rd Division, landed in Normandy two weeks after D-Day. During his three years of service, he saw action in Normandy, Brittany, Luxembourg, the Hurtgen Forest, the Battle of the Bulge, and the Rhine River. Although he received a Purple Heart for injuries sustained in the Battle of the Bulge, Willis says the hedgerows of Normandy were his most horrendous experience.
Also present at the Knoxville ceremony, which was held at the Sherrill Hills Retirement Community Theater, were Amelie De Gaulle, grand niece of the late President of France, Charles De Gaulle, and members of the Alliance Francaise Knoxville. Consul General Louis de Corail, who represents France in six Southeastern states and is based in Atlanta, presented the award on behalf of French President Emmanuel Macron. The Legion of Honor, established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, is awarded for service to France and is its most prestigious honor. Willis and one other WWII Veteran, James Mynatt, US Army Air Force 490th Bomb Group, were presented the Knight’s Badge as a pledge of France’s eternal gratitude for their courage and fight, after risking their lives for the freedom of France and Europe during the war.
The U.S. Memorial Wereth committee wishes that the year 2018 will fulfill your dearest wishes and keep you very healthy.
Thanks to the student exchange program initiated by the American Embassy in Brussels, the 2017 Wereth 11 ceremony was memorable. The students from Morehouse College made presentations that may easily be described as extraordinary. Hermann Langer’s memorial and the Wereth Eleven are no longer unknown in Atlanta, GA.
We were very happy to welcome almost 400 guests. The precious support from the Municipality of Amel, the Belgian Army and guests’ presence have made from this day a great success. We heartily thank all who attended.
Because of the many commemorations of the 100 years of the WWI, our next ceremony will take place on Saturday, April 28th, 2018 at 11AM.
Four of the Morehouse students, Christopher, David, Gary and Luka, who were our best ambassadors in Atlanta, have expressed their desire to go on working with our association. This makes us very happy, and will lead to a few small changes in the course of the next ceremony.
Your presence reinforces us in our efforts to honor the memorial, the Wereth Eleven as well as all African-American soldiers. It helps us keep sight of Hermann Langer’s goal. Without him, the event of 1944 would have been forgotten.
We hope that you will be able to join us in April 2018.
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The 28th Infantry Division Association conducts several annual events that fulfill the purpose of the organization. Their Annual Conference and Reunion is held the Wednesday through Saturday after the Labor Day holiday. Tours of Fort Indiantown Gap, local excursions and a day trip to a place of historical interest are some of the activities available to reunion participants. The week concludes with a memorial service at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery and a Veteran’s Banquet. Details are:
My father, Thomas Rye Hickey, died November 4, 1951, after falling 1,200 feet down a mine shaft. He was working for the Tennessee Copper Company in Copperhill, Tennessee at the time of his death. He was 39 years old; I was 3. My mother, Ollie, was left a widow at 30, with 3 young daughters and no means of support.
Since mother seldom talked about him, and there were few photos of him, he somehow never seemed quite real to me. But as I was nearing retirement age, I became interested in knowing more about him and their life together. And I wanted to put my family mementos in order, to pass on to my sons and granddaughter. When I began, I never dreamed what the end result would be.
I started by sorting the 182 letters, postcards, and v-mail he had written to my mother during World War II into chronological order. As I sorted, scanned, and copied the fragile pages, I read them. I was fortunate that he had dated each letter and written his location on it. After a while, I started a spreadsheet to keep track of his location and what was happening to him.
These letters enabled me to know him better in some ways than many people who have lived decades with their fathers. Through his letters, I followed his service from draft notice, through basic training, sleeping outside in Kansas in February without a tent, to a 26 mile march in the Mojave Desert. There were gaps in the letters when mother was able to join him for a few months. I was fascinated to hear him “talk” about his ambivalence at qualifying on the machine gun or about the time he almost sat on a rattlesnake in the Mojave Desert. He wrote that 10-11 men went “over the hill” every day, but that he never
would, no matter how bad it got.
I quickly became obsessed and began researching about the places he was stationed. He served with the 9th Armored Infantry Battalion. When he mentioned in an October 1944 letter that he had sailed to England on the Queen Mary, I began to suspect the extent of his service.
Early in my research I wrote to the NPRC to obtain a copy of his military records. That’s when I learned that 10-16 million military records were destroyed in a warehouse fire in 1973. My father’s records, along with those of his 3 brothers, were among those destroyed. I was able to get a copy of his discharge document, which showed he fought in the Ardennes. There was the proof of what I had begun suspecting from his letters. My father fought in the Battle of the Bulge and no one in the family was aware of it! He called the Battle of the Bulge “the storm” in his letters. He was awarded a Purple Heart for a shrapnel wound he received while he was driving a half-track in Luxembourg. He mentioned it briefly in one letter, but said he “kept going.”
My parents had been married less than two years when he was drafted into service in August 1942. Every letter home reflected his homesickness and love for my mother. When my sister was born in 1943, he talked of his love for her as well. He smoked Camels, liked chicken and chocolate cake, and had a weakness for shooting craps. He never mentioned the hardships he endured. He worried about his brothers Joe and Dick, who were also fighting in Europe. Dick was wounded in Sicily and Joe was a German POW in Stalag VII in Moosburg, Germany.
In his letter dated April 26, 1945 he wrote that his outfit was the first to cross into Germany. That would have been across the Remagen Bridge. On May 8, he was in Czechoslovakia when word came that the war was over. The Army had been massing in Czechoslovakia for the next front. He returned to the States in early October, 1945. I inherited my father’s Purple Heart and Army Good Conduct Medal from my mother. I spent a lot of time researching the other awards and medals he was entitled to and spent a full year corresponding with the NPRC before I received them all.
This is the full list: Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign – WWII, Europe-Africa-Middle Eastern Campaign with 3 bronze stars, World War II Victory Medal, Combat Infantry Badge 1st Award, Expert Badge with Machine Gun Bar, Sharpshooter Badge with Rifle Bar, Marksman Badge with Carbine Bar.
My son Scott, who served 10 years with the Navy, helped me organize a shadowbox to display them appropriately. I wish my mother was still alive to see it.
In 2014, my son Jeff and I traveled to Germany, Luxembourg, and Belgium. For me it was a pilgrimage. We visited Coburg, Germany, which was mentioned many times in his letters. At our hotel, we were fortunate enough to meet a woman who remembered where the American Army had camped and marked it on a map. I have no idea where in Luxembourg he was when wounded, but we did see the American memorial and walked down Franklin D. Roosevelt Boulevard.
Before leaving the U.S., I arranged a tour guide, Roby Clam, for our visit to Bastogne, Belgium. Roby took us to each of the roadside memorials dedicated to American troops, the Mardasson War Memorial, and to the place where the 9th Armored Infantry Battalion fought during the Battle of the Bulge. It was a moving experience to see where my father fought and to realize how grateful the Belgians still are to the Americans who fought and died there.
I am so very proud of my father and wish more than ever that I could have known this truly remarkable, courageous man.
The 71st Annual Reunion of the 83rd Infantry Division Association will be August 2-6, 2017 at the Cleveland Renaissance Hotel (located at 24 Public Square) in the heart of downtown Cleveland, Ohio.
The Association plans to honor our living veterans and memorialize those of the Greatest Generation who sacrificed so much. We welcome new members, living veterans of the 83rd and attached units, retired 83rd reservists, active 83rd AARTC members, family members, descendants, and European friends.
As part of our reunion, we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the raising of the 83rd Infantry Division and its origins as the “Ohio Division.” A focal point of the reunion will be a public historical exhibit highlighting the history of the 83rd and those who proudly wore and continue to wear the insignia of the 83rd. Many activities and educational workshops are planned.
Hotel accommodations may be made by calling the Cleveland Renaissance at: 216-696-5630; or online here at the 83rd Association’s website. The reunion registration information and form may be found through the same link. For any additional questions, you may email firstname.lastname@example.org.
They are medics of the 1st Battalion aid station of the 328th Infantry Regiment in the ETO at Bohmisch Rohren, Czechoslovakia, probably in 1945. The 328th regiment was part of the 26th Infantry Division (Yankee Division) that was part of Patton’s Third Army. My Dad, 1st Lt Robert T Marshall, and Staff Sgt Walter German, wrote a frontline account of their work from Normandy Beach through the Battle of the Bulge. I am publishing their story as a book, Healers and Heroes, scheduled for Fall 2017 release. I welcome contacts and/or information about any of these men. Contact: email@example.com or go to: www.facebook.com/HealersandHeroes/
Family and friends of the 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion, attached to the 82d Airborne Division during the Battle of the Bulge, just completed its ‘walk of remembrance’ in the Ardennes. The purpose of the walk was to honor and remember the combat history of the Battalion. The Salm River chapter, C-47 club sponsored the event, a totally Belgian-sponsored event by the local citizens in the Ardennes, who know the history of the Battalion. While expecting about 80 participants, 180 people attended, making the event outstanding. Colonel Doug Dillard, the only 551st veteran present, was accompanied by family members and arrived in Belgium on 5 January and drove to the Ardennes from Brussels. On 6 January, the group visited Bastogne and the headquarters building that the 101st used during the siege of Bastogne. Colonel Dillard was honored by the placing of his photo on the wall with other veterans of the Bulge. On 7 January, the walk of the 100-plus participants started at the point from which the 551st began its part in the counterattack on 3 January 1945. The walk continued, as the weather changed to snowy, freezing temperatures much like it was in 1945. At each significant point along the attack route, Colonel Dillard explained to the participants what had actually happened, and answered many questions about the action. At the location where a monument stands to honor Company A for its bayonet charge, the mayor of Vielsam addressed the group to honor the sacrifice of the men of the 551st. Nearby is the residence of a City Councilwoman who lives in the same building that was the 551st Battalion Medical Aid Station, where Colonel Joerg died from his wounds. She provided a delightful lunch for the group. The walk continued down through the wooded area where a monument was dedicated to honor Richard Field of Company B, who passed away in November. Field’s daughter Ginni and granddaughter Rachel attended the event, and after the dedication of the monument, Ginni spread some ashes of her father over the field where his company had fought. On 8 January, the group visited a farm at Noirfontaine, where the 551st infiltrated the lines of the 1st and 9th SS Panzer division defenses, to conduct a reconnaissance in force to collect information needed for the forthcoming attack on January 1945. The infiltration began at midnight 27 December 1944. A German company commander was captured, about 100 soldiers killed, and a captured US half track destroyed. The battalion returned to friendly lines before dawn…mission accomplished! The 551st was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for its actions in the Bulge, but it paid dearly from a starting force of 800 paratroopers to only 98 left on 7 January 1945 attacking the fortified village of Rochelinval. Airborne all the way…and then some!
On January 26-29, 2017 elements of the WWII Historical Association (WWIIHA), dedicated to promoting, preserving and respecting the spirit and memory of the World War II soldier, met at Fort Indiantown Gap, a National Guard Training Center northeast of Harrisburg Pennsylvania, to recognize and recreate the service and sacrifice of both Allied and German soldiers who fought during the Battle of the Bulge. Reenactors from all over the east coast, mid-western states and even a few “Tommies” from the United Kingdom, gathered on a windy and cold weekend. Beginning on Thursday night, the troops stayed in WWII-era barracks—although modernized since the ’40s—and throughout the weekend, they operated in WWII vehicles, both German and American, and Jeeps, Half-tracks and a Sherman tank. Thankfully for the Allies, Tiger tanks were unavailable.
Chow halls hummed with activity to feed the troops, which numbered near 1000, and included U.S. Army, German and civilians dressed in uniforms or other clothing of that era. Armed Services Radio provided (FCC- approved) radio broadcasts consistent with the times. A USO called the “Drunken Monkey,” the GIs “home away from home” offered appropriate refreshments to all Allied soldiers, just as long as they had their approved passes! The MPs were on patrol.
For a fee, various vendors supplied troops with all types of equipment, clothing, and other sundries. To boost morale, “Classic Pin-up” girls stopped by to boost the sagging morale of those frontline troops returning for R&R. They were every bit as welcomed as Jane Russell, Rita Hayworth, and Betty Grable would have been in their day.
After breakfast and necessary equipment and vehicle checks on Friday morning, Allied units departed for the field at 0800. They received their safety briefing and either mounted assigned vehicles or where bused to the training area. Upon arrival, the troops disembarked, formed up according to their assigned command, and then stepped off into history.
Friday’s event consisted of small-scale troop movements and focused on securing three bridges by elements of the 82nd, including the 327th Glider Infantry Regiment and 101st Airborne, who were reinforced by the 28th and 106th Divisions. All three bridges changed sides several times that afternoon, with a final—and, of course countered—assault by German infantry, supported by light armor, resulting in the surrender or capture of the attacking units. The great movie directors John Ford and John Huston wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Saturday’s event involved all attendees, and fitting of January weather and of the conditions during the Bulge, snow began to fall. Many motorized units of the American defenders became lost due to the lack of road signage, and at one point ran into a German patrol: “Nuts!” Yet, due to the heavy snowfall, most units were able to escape. As the morning dragged on, the weather began to clear enough to allow the Allied forward observers to spot enemy armor and infantry in the open. A platoon of the 327th GIR, equipped with three mortar teams, were able to drop sufficient HE rounds, resulting (according to the ground empires) in a 500% casualty rate of the enemy, halting any more armor or infantry advances in their sector. Many more engagements continued throughout the day.
By 1430 hours, the event was declared over and both Allied and Axis troops began to assemble in the roadway for the long march out of the training area.
Thus concludes another successful “Battle of the Bulge” at the “Gap” re-enactment. Many participants remarked that this was the best event they’ve ever attended, and in the end, we achieved our objective to honor and remember those who served and sacrificed at the Battle of the Bulge.
—Submitted by Chris Hennen, Member; story by John Cronin and Joe Colombo; photo by Marc Herman
The mission of the Military Honor Park and Museum, located at the main entrance of the South Bend International Airport, is to recognize, acknowledge and pay tribute to all veterans, living and deceased, from each of the five military branches.
The Military Honor Park began as a dream of a few in 1995. A mounted RT-33 Lockheed trainer jet marked the visual beginning of the park. A “pentagon” design would be used, representing each branch of military service, with five bronze service plaques and flags. Also on display, a five-sided black granite monument. As the park grew, a collection of other military hardware was integrated. They would include: Mark 14/17 WWII submarine torpedo; single 3” anti-aircraft gun; twin 3” anti-aircraft gun; AM General 2 1/2 ton utility truck; M60 Patton tank; M42 “Duster” tank; 155MM Howitzer; Hummer “Humvee”; Tartar missile; UH-1 Huey helicopter; and two Talos missiles. There are also 3,500 bricks naming military personnel.
The Honor Park Museum is home to military artifacts representing the five military branches and all U.S. conflicts. Uniforms, weapons, and objects as small as buttons, to as large as motorized vehicles, are on display. The museum also houses a research library and video room.
The Park also includes a granite Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge Monument, dedicated in May 2011, with the financial assistance of late BOBA member Geza Csapo, 32 CAV RECON SQD.
I am a member of BOBA and a son of BOB veteran who was wounded there. I tried many times (without any luck), up until his death several years ago, to get him to share with me what he went through in the war.
My father was Roy M. Hershock, 8th Infantry Division, 13th Infantry Regiment, Company G, and all I know is that he was an foot soldier.
I would like anyone having information about my father, or his units’ combat experience in the Bulge, to please contact me. Sincerely, Bob Hershock
58 Quaker Hills Rd; Lancaster PA 17603; 717-871-9919; firstname.lastname@example.org
Submitted by John A. Pildner, Sr., 75th Infantry Division, 290th Regiment, Anti-Tank Company
John A. Pildner, Sr., a veteran of the United States Army who fought in the Battle of the Bulge, attended the Inauguration of President Donald J. Trump, Sr. He was accompanied on this trip to Washington D.C. by his son, John A. Pildner, Jr., a veteran of the United States Navy and daughter, Pamela J. St. Angelo.
The Pildners’ experience of attending a Presidential Inauguration Ceremony together was a rare opportunity to witness a piece of American history that occurs once every four years. There were many who helped make this trip happen: family members, friends, and even a stranger who was also present at the rally in Geneva.
This trip started when Pildner, Sr. and his daughter Pam attended a Trump rally at the Spire Institute located near Geneva, OH. A memorable moment here was when, at the conclusion of the campaign speech, Mr. Trump saluted Pildner, Sr., to which he offered a return salute.
The Pildners’ trip to Washington, D.C. was highlighted by a side trip to Arlington National Cemetery. They visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where the Pildners witnessed the changing of the guard. Here the Pildners were greeted by Marty McFarlin, a Tomb Guard who served in 1973 – 1974, and who emotionally thanked Pildner, Sr. and all of the WWII veterans who fought to preserve, protect, and defend the freedoms of many around the world.
Another highlight of this occasion was locating the burial spot of Dalton Raze, who was a platoon leader in the 290th Anti-Tank Company of the 75th Infantry Division. He rose through the ranks from a 2nd Lieutenant to a Full Colonel at the time of his retirement from the military. At one time during his military career, Raze had carried the codes for the U. S. President.
Pildner served in the mine platoon of the 290th Regiment Anti-Tank Company of the 75th Infantry Division. This was the same company in which Dalton D. Raze served during WWII.
This trip to the Presidential Inauguration of Donald J. Trump, Sr. was a great experience!
When Ralph Bozorth attended a meeting of the Delaware Chapter of the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge with a friend VBOB member, he instantly became deeply interested, although not a veteran himself. He joined as an Associate and was soon driving a few of us older suburban members in to meetings at the Naval Yard in Philadelphia and became actively involved, bringing his vitality and expertise to the group. The new electronic age had left most of us behind, so we instantly relied on him. He enrolled all the chapter veterans in the WWII Registry of Remembrances (as well as many more veterans over the years) and created a slide presentation containing veterans’ photos which he presented at reunions.
Recognized for his abilities, he was elected as a Trustee on the Executive Council of National VBOB. Later, taking on the responsibilities of Treasurer, he worked diligently to solve the IRS problems and to get VBOB incorporated. If he himself couldn’t do something, he found someone who could. At reunions, he was seen rushing around organizing bus trips, showing film presentations, and sometimes handling all the other responsibilities of chairman.
But much of his activity for VBOB was behind the scenes and with our website, bringing in his stepson Kevin Diehl to revamp it, making it more accessible and complete, including a searchable digital archive of all issues of The Bulge Bugle. They added the website’s VBOB store, where one can buy QM merchandise, and added online Reunion Registration and a photo gallery of BOB veterans. Ralph posted many photos and news stories to the website on an almost daily basis for years.
Letters were sent by him to all of our member authors who have had their battle stories printed in The Bulge Bugle, to get permission to reprint them in a book. Through his efforts, the book called “The Battle of the Bulge: True Stories from the Men and Women Who Survived” is now printed upon demand and is sold on Amazon’s and Barnes and Nobles’ websites. We receive royalties from the sales of the book. [Click here for how to purchase the book.]
When no longer able to attend reunions because of his wife’s illness, he continued working quietly in the background, helping to edit the Bugle, and became Editor upon the death of George Chekan, who had been editor for many years. Now he has retired, and the website and publication are being handled efficiently by Kevin and Tracey Diehl, VBOB Member Services. His accomplishments on behalf of VBOB have been too numerous to list here. Our best way of summing up is that Ralph brought VBOB into the 2lst Century. We at VBOB thank him for that.