Several days ago we received an email from an English expat named Michael who had found this blog: “I live next to the Forest de Cerisy in Normandy and have come across foxholes and relics left over from 1944. I did not know anything about the 111th Ordnance Company and assumed those things were from 23nd Infantry Regiment until I found your site.”

We wrote back right away and told him our story. Ed and I had visited the Cerisy Forest back in the fall of 2013, when we began this blog but it is a big place and we had no clue as to exactly where the men had camped for nearly two months. (https://wwiitracings.wordpress.com/2013/10/21/dads-base-in-normandy/)

The 111th had landed on Omaha Beach in two groups, on June 11 and 12, 1944, and the next day traveled 18 or so miles south to the village of La Platiere, near the Cerisy Forest, where they spent the night. The next day they moved to the forest and set up camp. U.S. forces had chased the Germans out of the area only a few days earlier.

On the map below, the 111th’s location, which Michael determined by plotting the coordinates given on the unit’s Morning Reports for that time, is shown by the red marker near the top. The Cerisy Forest is the large green area in the center; the village of La Platiere is marked with the right arrow near the bottom, and Michael’s home is marked by the red arrow, bottom center.

Cerisy location

The Cerisy Forest, and the town of Cerisy-la-Foret, is about 10 miles northeast of St. Lo, which was almost completely destroyed by Allied bombing between July 7 and 14, 1944. Also nearby is Hill 192, which the Allies had to take before they could push the Germans out of St. Lo. The men of the 111th were supporting the 2nd Infantry Division forces during this horrific time. Below is one of my father’s photos; the caption is his:

img090 evidence of the price the 2nd div paid for Hill 192 in Normandy

Evidence of the price the 2nd Division paid for Hill 192, Normandy

Here is how Michael became interested in the 111th:

“The reason I have embarked on this journey of research is so this information does not get lost in time. Since moving to Normandy I have so longed for someone to do what you did at Cerisy and turn up out of the blue with a picture of a shot taken in 1944 and say ‘My father was here.’ The Germans occupied our current home, until the Americans pushed them out of the area field by field. It’s very rare to hear of German families doing what families such as yours have done, visiting places where their fathers stayed.

“When I started my research I found a man in the States whose father was with the 9th Infantry Regiment. After landing at Omaha on D+1 it came directly to the forest here at Cerisy. His company passed right by where I now live. His unit’s Morning Reports all mention ‘Herouville’—and my home is Manoir de Herouville. The next few weeks of Morning Reports show his company’s movements, and so far I have tracked each place.

“When the 111th arrived here on June 13, the front line in this area had just reached Litteau, where we live. This is where the Battle of the Hedgerows began. From Cerisy, the town of St George d’elle and Hill 192 were blocking the Allied advance for St. Lo. This area was where the fiercest fighting took place in Normandy. In three days of fighting there were approximately 1,200 casualties only a few miles from Cerisy.

“Because the troop movement records are not exact, I decided to use a metal detector. Right next to my house I started to find K rations (coffee), mortar boxes, lots of spent shells and one or two bullets. Also I found British and French coins. I believe this field is one of the locations listed as Litteau.

 “I have spent much time in the forest had have found many American foxholes. I have again discovered some other small items but on occasion some much larger items. I found a wheel that looks like it could be from 1944. Also I have found what looks to be an old compressor. If there was this type of work going on in the forest [that is, the 111th repairing vehicles and artillery] it may explain my finds. This has always baffled me, but maybe if the 111th was in this area they could be part of their tools or equipment.”

img234 Gus Welty satisfied with foxhole, France 1944

111th soldier Peter Patrick, satisfied with his foxhole, France 1944

20181018_161119

One of Michael’s “automotive?” finds in the Cerisy Forest

With all of this new information, Michael is planning to take his metal detector and go back into the forest where our men were camped and see what else he can find. Stay tuned!

By the way, if anyone reading this blog is planning a trip to Normandy—and keep in mind that next June marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day—you might want to hire Michael to take you around. He conducts private D-Day tours and with his wife runs a B&B and self-catering cottage in their gorgeous manoir:  http://www.manoirdeherouville.com/en/

 

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Happy 101st, Captain Brooks!

Posted: October 29, 2018 in Uncategorized

Please join us in wishing Art Brooks, the 111th’s company commander in 1945, a wonderful 101st birthday today. Daughters Lori and Louise took their father and mother (Judy, who will be 100 in February) out for a celebratory dinner last evening.

We wish Art and his wonderful family a very happy and healthy year ahead.

Old Soldiers Never Die…

Posted: June 13, 2018 in Uncategorized

We are saddened to have to report that 111th veteran Osborne Eastwood passed away two days ago in Arkansas. His niece Carolyn sent us this message:

“I wanted to let you know that Uncle Osborne passed yesterday at 8:05. He was clear and speaking to us until the end. His caregivers loved him and repeatedly told me how sweet he was. It is such a huge feeling of loss at this moment, however I know he is no longer in pain. He will be having a military service on Thursday at a private cemetery. All of his family will be present, as they were in his final days.”

Carolyn, many thanks for letting us know. Please pass along our sincere sympathy to his friends and family. He was part of an amazing WWII ordnance company and will be long remembered.

The unit’s commanding officer, Art Brooks, is the last surviving 111th member of the original five men we found in 2013-14. He is 100 years old and doing well. In April, he and Osborne spoke by phone on Osborne’s birthday, as we reported in our last posting.

Tomorrow is the 97th birthday of 111th veteran Osborne Eastwood. He and his former company commander, Art Brooks, are now the only surviving members of what was once a 180-man unit during WW II.

Osborne Eastwood photo at VA hospital AR

Recent photo of Osborne in the lobby of the VA Hospital near his home in Arkansas

The other day Art’s daughter Louise came up with a terrific idea: to have her father call Osborne to wish him a happy birthday. So this past Tuesday evening, with help from Osborne’s niece Carolyn, the two men connected after 72 years. Although we don’t know exactly what was said, I heard this from Louise shortly after: “My father just spoke to Osborne, and what a lovely conversation and such a nice reunion they had.”

We spoke with Art yesterday morning, and he said he really enjoyed recounting war memories with Osborne. “I had to remind him that he didn’t need to call me ‘Captain Brooks’ anymore,” he laughed. Keep in mind that Art is 100 years old (see the October 2017 posting on this site about his milestone birthday).

Osborne and Art were in the 111th for almost the entire war, and then some. They both joined the unit in the summer of 1942, at Camp Bowie, Texas. Together, they shared the experiences of the unit’s journey through Maryland, Canada, New Jersey, and Virginia before boarding a ship in New York harbor in the fall of 1943 for a stormy and dangerous 12-day voyage to Great Britain. There they spent seven months preparing for the Normandy invasion in June 1944. Both men were finally able to return to the U.S. in the fall of 1945 from their last assignment near Bremen, Germany.

We are blessed to have these strong and wonderful men still with us. Happy birthday, Osborne!

Osborne Eastwood with wife 2016

Eva and Osborne Eastwood

osborne eastwood

Osborne Eastwood, in Germany, 1945

In past posts, we have mentioned some of the items the men brought home with them as souvenirs of the war. The other day, I heard from a reader, Peter Pauwels, whose wife’s grandfather knew some of the men in the 111th’s repair shops. Here’s what he said:

“Hello from Heerlen in The Netherlands!!! I was surprised at seeing the pictures of Heerlen in the winter of 1944/45. That was in the street where late my dad lived. He always told me about his friendship and adventures with the American soldiers at the stone factory nearby. The granddad of my wife was working at the LTM-remise. He was always trading Dutch souvenirs that he made himself , for food or equipment.”

Peter sent me photos of the items our men traded. It was a good thing the war was nearing an end, or they might have needed these items! (If any 111th family member has a handmade Dutch souvenir that might have been traded for these tools, I’d love to see it.) Thanks, Peter!

So, to revisit a few of the men’s souvenirs, here are some photos:

Ottea others with Nazi flag
Nazi flags were a popular souvenir, it seems. My dad sent one home to his mother in San Antonio. When she opened the package, the musty odor prompted her to air it out on the backyard clothesline. She soon heard from the neighbors!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

heerlen tea cup

111th daughter Linda Campbell showed us this tea cup and saucer given to her in the 1980s by Vickie Baggens, ,whose parents had been kind to Linda’s father, Roland Unangst, who used to drink from this very cup in the Baggens home in Heerlen, Holland, during the winter of 1944/45.

box with part

This Chevrolet truck part, carefully packed in wax, was left behind at Albro Castle, in Wales, where the 111th men lived and worked for several months before the Normandy Invasion. Owner Peter Newland found it and some other parts and gave it to me.

 

When the 111th left Alsdorf, Germany, on March 4, 1945, and moved 36 miles northwest to what was then called Munchen-Gladbach, Germany, the men took up quarters in several apartment buildings near their new shop area (a former local police complex that had recently been used by S.S. troops).

We learned a couple of years ago that the particular apartment building my father lived in is still there and is still an apartment building. The other day we heard from a new blog friend, Antonio, who lives in that city. He told us that he lived in that building until recently and offered to take a photo of it, from the same angle as my dad’s photo 72 years ago. Here is what he sent:

monchengladbach apt bdlg today

Here is my dad’s photo:

img210 Our home at Munchen Gladbach, Germany, Spring 1945

Thanks, Antonio! My dad and his buddies would be amazed.

Today is the 100th birthday of 111th company commander Art Brooks. This remarkable man is enjoying the day with his wife of 71 years, Judy, his daughters Louise and Lori, and other family members in the family home in Hudson, New York.Art 100th bday

This photo of Judy and Art, with daughter Lori, was taken two days ago by a photographer from their local newspaper, which ran this story about him yesterday, https://www.hudsonvalley360.com/article/family-work-are-keys-long-life

A few weeks ago, we asked family members and friends of the 111th to send Art birthday wishes, and we are happy that so many of you did. I want you all to know that it really made his day! This morning he asked me to send his thanks to you:

To the Families of the 111th: 

I was so moved to hear from the daughters, sons and grandchildren of the men of the 111th. I was deeply touched by your beautiful cards, emails, and warm birthday wishes. It meant a great deal to me. 

I especially want to take this opportunity to salute the memory of the men of 111th for their exemplary service to our country during the trying times we went through together in World II. 

Thank you all very much.

edited Art Brooks taken outside quarters Brake Germany summer 1945

Captain Brooks in Brake, Germany, at the end of the war.