Crossing into Belgium and the Netherlands

Posted: October 24, 2013 in Uncategorized
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We left France after spending a night in St. Quentin, and drove into Brussels, Belgium. I don’t think the 111th took this route, but we had never seen Brussels so we decided to arrive early, spend the night, and take a look at the city. Dad’s photos (and later confirmation from Arthur Brooks) indicate they took a more southern route through Belgium, through Charleroi and Liege, then crossing the border into Holland near Maastricht. This was probably in September  of 1944.

We stopped for a look at Fort Eben-Emael, on the Belgian border near Maastricht, Netherlands, just as the 111th did. This fort took seven years to build, yet the Germans took it in one day, in May 1940. By the time the 111th men saw it in 1944, this part of Belgium had been liberated and the Germans had left. When the fort, which lies along the Albert Canal, was completed after 5 years, in 1935, it was considered to be one of the strongest in the world, complete with 2-1/2 miles of underground galleries.

img153 Main entrance to Fort Eban Emmanuel, Belgium       20131024-161218.jpg

But it was a prime target for the Germans at the beginning of the war. Hitler himself approved the plan to take it using gliders. The Germans built a full-scale mock-up in occupied Czechoslovakia so they could practice the attack. In May 1940, the fort was taken by surprise when paratroopers in gliders landed silently on the roof of the fort, taking the troops within by surprise–the first time gliders were used in this way. The gliders were also fitted with hollow charge devices, used here–also for the first time–to destroy the gun cupolas. The Belgians surrendered within a day, a huge loss for them.

The fort is open to the public during the summer months most days, but only one weekend a month in the off season, so we were not able to go inside.

We arrived in Heerlen, Holland, this afternoon but had no luck finding any information about US military activities here in WW II. In fact, the city has no information office, and the library has nothing about the war. It is a large, traffic-filled, modern city these days.

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