Heerlen, Holland—then and now

Posted: May 6, 2019 in 1944, 1945, Men of the 111th Ordnance Company

The men of the 111th suffered through a bitterly cold, busy, and often frightening winter in Heerlen, near the German border. They arrived in late October and left in early February, crossing the border into Alsdorf, Germany, as the Germans were being pushed east. The town suffered periodic shelling by the Germans from across the Roer River in November and December 1944.

The unit was under the Ninth Army here, supporting the XIX Corps and the 29th Division. In late December, with the Battle of the Bulge in full swing, they were given the added duty of supporting the 102nd Infantry Division.

On New Year’s Eve, the Luftwaffe strafed and dropped bombs over Heerlen from midnight to 4 am. It was not a great way to start the new year. The company clerk, Frank Sossi, wrote in his monthly history report, “This month [January] was a difficult one in every respect.” They were worried about a possible German breakthrough from the north and developed three evacuation plans. German paratroopers were landing in the area dressed in U.S. Army uniforms, hoping to infiltrate the lines. There was a severe shortage of parts with so many damaged vehicles and equipment coming from the front lines. And snow began to fall.

Today we are in Heerlen with our blog friend Peter Pauwels, who is showing us places around the town where the 111th worked and lived.

Heerlen Holland 1944

Same place, 75 years later. This was the entrance to the 111th’s work area, where they repaired vehicles and artillery. It was a former brickyard.The street name is Grasbroekerweg.
img172 Shop area at Heerlen, Holland

Shop area, Heerlen, winter 1944-45, and today, from the other side with Peter and Andrea. It’s a parking lot!

The Baggen meat market, near the 111th work area. Soldier Roland Unangst made life-long friends of the Baggen family, even naming a daughter after one of the Baggen daughters.

This vacant lot near the 111th work area was the location of the large house that was used by the 111th’s officers as their home and offices.

Thank you, Peter, for all your help! We couldn’t have learned all of this without you.

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Comments
  1. Wow, what a scary time it must’ve been for them. I can’t imagine how stressful it all was (and cold!). It really does make one appreciate the sacrifices they went through for our country and a miracle they came back. Love seeing the before/after photos, too. Hope you do more of those where you can!

  2. Tom Sedlacek says:

    Nice article!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    • Andrea says:

      Thanks, Tom. Your father’s careful note-taking of all the towns and villages the unit passed through is paying off after 75 years!

  3. Terry L Cross says:

    Andrea, Thanks for sharing this. My father (Ray Cross) said this was a cold place that winter and also somewhat threatening since the Germans came within 5 miles or so of this place. Shells were landing on various spots around the town. He remembered on that landed in a building with a large glass window in the front. It was located at a corner where the roads came together to form a triangular point. I think it may have been a bank–or a specialty shop. Anyway, the shell landed directly in the building through the glass window. I’ve always wanted to go there to see if I could find where those streets formed a triangle. Let me know if you find such a place. Keep the photos coming, please!

    • Andrea says:

      Terry, unfortunately we left Heerlen this morning as we continue to follow the route. We are now in Dinslaken for the night. I seem to recall seeing a shop window with some relic of the war in it when we were in Heerlen more than five years ago. In fact, I was thinking about it this morning as we walked through the center of town, but I couldn’t remember where it was. I do recall it was at a corner. Too bad we are now
      So far away.

  4. Kay McAnally says:

    Andy, you and Ed continue to amaze and inspire me. Thank you for all you do to remember the journey of your father and the other brave men who made this journey before you.

  5. Michael VanNess says:

    Well done. I appreciate all your work. Your mention of the 102d ID thrilled me. My grandfather Major General John B Anderson raised the division from a piece of paper to a capable unit in Paris, Texas, at Camp Maxey from July 1942 until Dec 1944 when he was given command of the US XVI Corps. The XVI Corps crossed the Roer and the Rhine near the area you describe. General Anderson’s story is told in the book GENERAL IN COMMAND.

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