Archive for the ‘Liberation of Paris’ Category

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:

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Ed and I have been back home for more than two weeks now, and it is time to play catch-up on the blog. We have some good news—while we were in Wales, we heard from four more 111th family members.

Lillian Brannon called us after receiving Ed’s letter, not long after we left on our trip. She is the widow of Leroy Brannon and is 95 and doing well. I called her last week and had a nice chat. She said Leroy never talked about the war, so she was looking forward to seeing our book and sharing it with her daughter and grandchildren. I asked her to send any photos she has of Leroy so we can post them.

While were were away, Donna Leitzke called, also in response to Ed’s letter. She is the daughter of Gene Karl, who was one of Roland Unangst’s good buddies, as we learned in his memoirs posted on this site. We have not yet connected with Donna, but while we were gone we gave her number to Roland’s daughter, Linda Campbell, and the two had a good phone visit.

Around the D-Day timeframe, we heard from Laura Sass, who found her grandfather, Peter Patrick, Jr., on this blog while googling his name.

Peter Patrick, Jr.

Peter Patrick, Jr.

Bob Nelson, Peter Patrick Jr, James 'Doc' Mason, Everett Auten

Bob Nelson, Peter Patrick Jr, James ‘Doc’ Mason, Everett Auten

He appears in several of the blog photos, the most memorable, perhaps, being the one of him in his foxhole in Normandy. We had been trying to find one of his children or grandchildren since last December, so it was wonderful that she found us. Laura’s grandmother, Peter’s widow, will be 89 years old this year and still lives in the same house she and Peter bought in the 1950s. Laura sent her a copy of our book. Mrs. Patrick said that her husband talked about being in Wales and Holland but not much else. Laura will be visiting her next month.

Finally, in mid-June, we heard from Pat Macchiarolo, the daughter of Robert Raymer. 

Bob Raymer, Maastricht, Holland

Bob Raymer, Maastricht, Holland

She also found us through this blog. She told us she recalls that he told her a story about repairing a tank on a beach somewhere—Normandy? Wales? She says he was a mechanic on cars, jeeps, and trucks. She sent us these photos of her dad and promises to send more. She also sent us some she found in her father’s collection of a few of his 111th friends.

Bob Hax, Bill Stadler, Herbert Hyde

Bob Hax, Bill Stadler, Herbert Hyde

Bob Raymer and possibly Floyd Wterrburg

Floyd Wetterburg and Bill Strickland

 

Bob Raymer in front of the 111th building, January 1944, probably Barry, Wales

Bob Raymer in front of the 111th building, January 1944, probably Barry, Wales

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jim Roush, Basil Dixon, Bob Raymer Jan 1944

Jim Roush, Basil Dixon, Bob Raymer, Jan 1944

Bob Hax, Bill Stadler, Julius Turner

Bob Hax, Bill Stadler, Julius Turner

Bob Raymer and others in Paris, August 1944

Bob Raymer and others in Paris, August 1944

Paul Glynn, Roy E. 'Pop' Bower, Joe Kelly

Paul Glynn, Roy E. ‘Pop’ Bower, Joe Kelly

 

 

 

 

So, as of July 1, our 111th “family” now includes five survivors, seven widows, and children or grandchildren of 37 of the men. That means we have “found” (or been found by) nearly 30 percent of the approximately 180 soldiers in the unit since we began this quest last December.

 

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.