Archive for November, 2013

The 111th always seemed to luck out. Being a support unit, they were never on the front line but they were always close to the action—Normandy from June 11 to late August; Belgium just north of the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944; and western Germany near the Siegfried Line north of Aachen in the spring of 1945.

But I just learned that the men were present at one memorable event. On August 29, 1944, they were in Paris, the day of the victory parade celebrating the liberation of Paris.

The National Archives website notes, “Paris was liberated by Allied forces from the Germans on August 25, 1944. Taken several days later on August 29, the caption of this photo [shown below] reads: “American troops of the 28th Infantry Division march down the Champs Elysees, Paris, in the ‘Victory Parade.'”

Victory Parade, Liberation of Paris

Victory Parade, Liberation of Paris

However, the 111th Ordnance Company was not part of the parade. Why? According to John Raisler’s memory of that day, “Gee, we missed that…. We were told by higher-ups that we were good mechanics, but a sorry-assed looking bunch of soldiers.”

But they were there nonetheless. John recalls more: “Ah, yes, the Liberation of Paris. As I told you, the company itself did not participate [in the parade], but my two closest friends and I (we worked together as a special team), ahem!, we were able to slip into Paris before the celebrations started, and we did find it quite an experience!”

[I just learned, after a marvelous phone call in late November from the second living member of the 111th we have found–and its last company commander, in 1945–Arthur Brooks, that the company’s officers did see the parade in Paris that day. He told me, “It was unbelievable, the Parisians were in a frenzy!” The officers were treated like kings, and were even put up in a five-star hotel.]

While Raisler and his friends were celebrating in their own way, my Dad and his buddies were out taking touristy photos of Paris. It must have felt great to be in a happy place after nearly three months in foxholes in Normandy.

mom's list          mom's list

John Andrews, Raymond Buggert, and Glenn Cobb, in Paris

Lt. Perry Witt, in Paris

Lt. Perry Witt, in Paris

Dad ("Pinky") John and buddy, on the Eiffel Tower Pinky Johnson and Percy Ackert on the Eiffel Tower

mom's list mom's list mom's list       mom's list Ladd Hancher and Percy Ackert

But soon they were back in the war. Their convoy left France not long after and continued into Belgium and Holland, where they would spend the coldest European winter in 40 years.

Veterans Day, 2013

Posted: November 11, 2013 in Uncategorized

Of the 185 men of the 111th Ordnance Company, all but two (who drowned in the Weser River in northern Germany in 1945) returned to the United States after the war.

But within the next couple of decades, we began losing them. 1952, 1960, 1972, 1987. Way too soon. My father turned out to be one of the longest lived, passing away in 2001. We continue to work our way through the list of the men, searching through online obituaries and death records. We have found a few who died just in the past two or three years, and we are sad to have missed talking with them.

But last Sunday was a very exciting day. I received a comment on this blog from a former member of the 111th, John Raisler, who happily is still with us. He is 93 and lives in Florida. That afternoon, he had asked his granddaughter to help him search the Internet for any information about the 111th and found our blog. He uses email and we have already had a couple of brief communications. I hope that soon I will be able to share some of his memories about his time in the war.

So on this day of national remembrance of our veterans, we honor and thank John Raisler and all his fellow soldiers in the 111th Ordnance Company, U.S. Army, for their service and sacrifices in World War II. They did their duty to their country and never asked for thanks.

Home from the War, So to Speak

Posted: November 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

Ed and I are back home in Virginia now, trying to absorb all we saw and learned in Europe while following the men of the 111th Ordnance Company. I will revise and add new posts as we learn more; the search will go on.

 In the meantime, I have entered the names, and death dates when known, of all 183 men on the page of this blog called “The Men of the 111th:  A Roster,” along with several photos. I will add more photos in the future. It’s my hope that these names will show up in Google searches, leading children and grandchildren of the soldiers to learn more about their fathers and grandfathers during the war. I also hope that relatives of these men will contact me with stories and photos of their own.

I have been in touch with the children of John Andrews and Harold Georges—my dad’s two best friends from the 111th—and will try to record their memories in this blog. Bobby Andrews sent me this a while back:

 “My son Craig had to write a report on WWII and part of that report was to interview someone who had been in the war; this was when Craig was in high school.  Dad had died when Craig was seven years old [in 1987], so he interviewed your dad.  I took him over to your mom and dad’s and I remember your dad telling Craig what a special time he had with his buddies and his grandfather and Harold.  They were the best of friends and remained that way after the war. He told Craig that the only person who died in their unit  fell out of a boat and drowned [we later learned there were two men who drowned]. He also told Craig about how awful war is and that nations should find other ways to resolve their disputes. He also mentioned that when they arrived on Omaha Beach they did not have to fight the Germans since the landing took place five days ahead of their landing. Craig remembers the interview to this day, and he received an A+ on his report.”

Bobby’s older brother, David Andrews, recalled something that sums up the men’s experiences perfectly:

“When I would ask my dad about the war, he would always say that he spent those five years of his life so that his sons wouldn’t have to. I remember him also saying that he ‘wouldn’t take a million dollars for the experience, but you couldn’t pay him a million to do it again.’ I think they all had mixed emotions about what they witnessed but took extreme pride in what they accomplished.  They weren’t called the Greatest Generation for nothing.“

img036 Edward Johnson and John Andrews, undated

John Andrews and Edward “Bill” Johnson