A final sad loss

Posted: September 17, 2019 in Uncategorized

We are sad to have to tell you that the last living member of the 111th, Arthur T. Brooks, passed away last week in Hudson, NY, at the age of 101, a month short of his 102nd birthday.

We got to know Art and his wife and their two daughters and son-in-law (all of whom survive him) quite well over the past six years, visiting them in Florida and New York State several times. Art was a remarkable man, a true representative of the Greatest Generation. His intelligence, strong character, and kindness endeared us to him from the start.

Art was an Army captain who had been with the 111th since its time at Camp Bowie, Texas, in 1942. By the time the company crossed over into Germany in early spring of 1945, he had been made company commander. Our fathers could not have asked for a better leader.

Ed and I will miss him very much.

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Linda Jackson, a daughter of 111th soldier Tec 5 Louis B. Soutier, has found our blog and has been sending us information about her father. We are thrilled to be able to add another soldier’s family to the fold! Linda and her two sisters, Cindy and Carol, are the 55th family we have found, or who have found us, since we started this project nearly six years ago.

Linda told us, “My dad lived in Salem, Illinois, most of his life. He lived in small towns close to Salem in his younger years. After he married my mother, they moved to Patoka, Illinois, and he later bought a hardware store there.”

soutier portrait

Linda told me that all the family photos were lost in a fire of their home in the 1950s, but that fortunately Louis’s sister had some photos of his time in the war and gave them to one of Linda’s sisters. Here are a few, probably taken at Fort Robinson, Arkansas, just before Louis was transferred to the 111th at Camp Bowie, Texas, in the spring of 1942 (he is standing on the far left in the second photo):

Another photo shows what I am fairly sure is the artillery work area at Camp Bowie in 1942; we have another similar photo from another family member. The funny thing is that it shows my own father’s car parked off to the right, his beloved Ford “Woodie.” (I knew he had the car while the unit was still in Texas, as the smaller photo shows.)

soutier trucks and artillery USAscan0024

Linda said, “After the fire he sold the hardware store and moved to Salem, Illinois, where he bought a farm and named it Soutier Stock Farm. He farmed 250 acres and raised show cattle until he retired. He was an active VFW lifetime member.” Louis was with the 111th until September 1945, when he was finally sent back to the States from Brake, Germany. He passed away in 2003 at the age of 87.

Louis was an artillery mechanic, along with 111th men Joe Sedlacek, John Andrews, Harold Goerges, Leo De La Garza, and John Raisler, who was from a town near Chicago. We are sad that John (one of our original survivors from 2013) is no longer with us because I’m sure he would have remembered Louis. Perhaps they reconnected long after the war—Linda said, “My sister told me he did visit someone in Chicago, on his way to meet a tour group.” Louis took two farm bureau tours in the late ’70s and early ’80s and visited Pearl Harbor, Wales, Germany, China, Japan and several other places. Below is a photo of Louis in front of General Patton’s grave in Luxembourg:

souiter patton grave luxembourg

Thank you, Linda, for finding us. We are so happy to be able to add your father to our blog.

 

Last week we were excited to hear from yet another Frenchman. Nicolas used to live in Cherbourg and is quite familiar with the city. He wrote to say that he knows the location of one of our photos, taken on July 17, 1944, during the Normandy Campaign.

One of the 111th men took several pictures of Cherbourg that day, and one in particular caught Nicolas’s eye.

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“The location of this picture was easy to find, as there is only one mountain around Cherbourg: La Montagne du Roule,” he wrote. “Plus, my former high school was located a bit further from the house (which I circled in red). I used to walk this very street every morning, and every evening … the sight looked familiar.” Merci beaucoup, Nicolas!

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The day that photo was taken in 1944, some of the unit had left their camp in the Cerisy Forest, Normandy, for a trip that took them through Isigny-sur-Mer, Carentan, St. Mere Eglise, Monteburg and Cherbourg. The Allies had taken Cherbourg, an important port, in late June. Twelve days after their trip, Operation Cobra was launched—the Allied operation to break out of Normandy.

Five years ago, we first came to Barry to have a look at where the 111th called home here—Brynhill golf course (in tents) and what was left of Camp G-40, places where the 111th began their European journey in November 1943. Our guide was Barry at War Museum member Glenn Booker, and our driver/U.S. Army Jeep owner was Wayne.

This past week we returned to Barry to give a presentation at the museum and have another ride in Wayne’s Jeep. We had a great time meeting all the museum’s volunteers at a supper prepared by Rose, one of the volunteers, and seeing Glenn again.

In front of the museum; that’s Glenn second from left

The American and Welsh flags flying outside the museum on Wednesday night.

Neal, me, and Wayne

We didn’t have any “then and now” photos in mind for this trip, mostly because the structures the men lived in are long gone and we weren’t able to identify locations of the area photos we had. But the next day, Terry, one of the museum volunteers, spotted one of the places:

Penarth Road, Cardiff, the eastern end of Cardiff General Station, 1943 or 1944

Same location today

Many thanks to the folks at the Barry War Museum for putting on a memorable evening for us Yanks!

Paris—then and now

Posted: May 18, 2019 in 1944, Liberation of Paris

Our last stop on this “tracings” trip was Paris, but the 111th men saw it early in their tour, the last week of August 1944. By chance, they arrived in Saint Remy de Chevreuse, near Versailles, just a day after the Liberation of Paris. All the men were given passes to go into the the city, and they had a ball!

My father, Bill Johnson, and Percy Ackert on the Eiffel Tower. Dad never mentioned to me that he had been to Paris. We didn’t go up the Eiffel Tower.

John Andrews, Ray Buggert, and Peter Patrick at the Arc de Triomphe, having a rest.

Ed Sutcliffe last week at the Arc de Triomphe, having a rest.

The 28th Infantry Division—which the 111th had belonged to in Wales—marched down the Champs Elysees as part of the liberation celebration, and Lt. Perry Witt was there: “I will not attempt to explain to you the feelings that the Parisians had for us or any American soldier who had arrived after the liberation. We were fortunate in seeing the American 28th Division parade down the Champs Elysees. The people cheered, cried, and swarmed around me as I stood watching our boys go by.” Cpt. Art Brooks recalled, “It was unbelievable, the Parisians were in a frenzy!”

We spent the night in Saint Remy de Chevreuse, a very pretty village, but since our men had camped in tents there, we could only look at open fields in and around the town and guess where they might have been:

The 111th’s summer-long stay in Brake, near Bremen, from late May until the fall, must have seemed like an eternity for the men, as they waited their turn to go home according to the point system, based on time in service and other factors. Their work was pretty much over with, and at least two of the men took the time to write their memoirs of the war, which are elsewhere on this blog.

Brake was, and still is, a port on the Weser River, south of Bremerhaven. The unit took over six apartment buildings. Today we drove into Brake, a much larger town than we expected. We decided to have lunch before driving up and down streets looking for those apartment buildings.

It was a good thing we did. We showed the waitress our photos. She wasn’t sure and sent over one of the other guests. That woman also wasn’t sure and said she’d send over her husband. He recognized them–but spoke no English. His daughter was there, so he called her over and she told us the street name (Brommystrasse) and where it was, near the port several blocks north of us. We drove over, and there they were, still being used:

Lt. Kent wrote that down the street from the apartments, “We took over a bar room, using the bar on the ground floor for recreation and the second floor for company headquarters. Across the street from the bar was an Olympic-size swimming pool, which I promptly appropriated and had filled with the aid of conscripted German help.”

Kent continued, “I also hired some German carpenters to convert the swimming pool bath house to a mess hall, confiscated enough china and silverware from a nearby kasserna (armory) to accommodate the company, and hired some women to assist the cooks.”

 

This is the building in the man’s photo marked “Our Room.” Not evident in either photo, but which we could see, were cranes at the port in the distance.

This is a picture of our apartment taken while the Germans were in full swing. I found it in the room here Campbell.

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DeLaGarza, Sedlacek, Raisler

Leo De La Garza, Joe Sedlacek, and John Raisler, in front of their “home” in Brake, Germany, summer 1945  

Roland Unangst on right

Roland Unangst on right in Brake

Red Cross Club, Brake, Germany Campbell

The American Red Cross club in Brake, Germany—the building is no longer there

Swimming at pool in Brake, GE. Occupation time after V-E Day

Swimming at the pool in Brake

Well, this one was a bit of a challenge. My father wrote on the back of this photo, “Luchow, Germany.” That’s John Andrews on the left and Dad on the right. As John’s son David once said about this photo, “It looks like the two of them won the war single-handedly.”

So we thought it would be fairly easy just to go to Luchow, a few miles north of Salzwedel, where we are staying, and locate the town square, where we would find the building in the background. We figured the remains of the statue would be gone. This is where the men spent the week before the end of the war. They were assisting the 29th Division with the processing of German POWs.

We drove to Luchow this afternoon, found the town square—but the big building didn’t match up at all. Hmmm. Luchow is a lovely ancient town, quite large, but we couldn’t find an information office or a museum. We had parked the car in front of some shops, and something told me to try an optometrist’s shop.

With photo in hand we went in, and Ed showed it to the man at the desk. He took a quick look and said, in perfect English, “No, that’s not here. That is in Dannenberg, up the road.” Now, what are the odds of finding someone who knew that? All these lucky encounters are getting a little weird.

So of course we got back in the car and drove to Dannenberg. It was a pretty drive of about 10 miles on country roads.

The town was bigger than we expected, so we drove around for a while looking for the main square. We spotted the information office, so I went in, photo in hand. The young woman at the desk took one look at the photo and said, “Follow me, I’ll show you.” We stepped outside and she pointed to the building at the end of the short street. She laughed when I told her the story behind the photo.

Note that the building has gone through some renovations over the past 74 years. Note also that I had a slightly different photo.

The town square, Dannenberg, Germany