Archive for the ‘Men of the 111th Ordnance Company’ Category

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.

 

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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.

Tomorrow is the 97th birthday of 111th veteran Osborne Eastwood. He and his former company commander, Art Brooks, are now the only surviving members of what was once a 180-man unit during WW II.

Osborne Eastwood photo at VA hospital AR

Recent photo of Osborne in the lobby of the VA Hospital near his home in Arkansas

The other day Art’s daughter Louise came up with a terrific idea: to have her father call Osborne to wish him a happy birthday. So this past Tuesday evening, with help from Osborne’s niece Carolyn, the two men connected after 72 years. Although we don’t know exactly what was said, I heard this from Louise shortly after: “My father just spoke to Osborne, and what a lovely conversation and such a nice reunion they had.”

We spoke with Art yesterday morning, and he said he really enjoyed recounting war memories with Osborne. “I had to remind him that he didn’t need to call me ‘Captain Brooks’ anymore,” he laughed. Keep in mind that Art is 100 years old (see the October 2017 posting on this site about his milestone birthday).

Osborne and Art were in the 111th for almost the entire war, and then some. They both joined the unit in the summer of 1942, at Camp Bowie, Texas. Together, they shared the experiences of the unit’s journey through Maryland, Canada, New Jersey, and Virginia before boarding a ship in New York harbor in the fall of 1943 for a stormy and dangerous 12-day voyage to Great Britain. There they spent seven months preparing for the Normandy invasion in June 1944. Both men were finally able to return to the U.S. in the fall of 1945 from their last assignment near Bremen, Germany.

We are blessed to have these strong and wonderful men still with us. Happy birthday, Osborne!

Osborne Eastwood with wife 2016

Eva and Osborne Eastwood

osborne eastwood

Osborne Eastwood, in Germany, 1945

In past posts, we have mentioned some of the items the men brought home with them as souvenirs of the war. The other day, I heard from a reader, Peter Pauwels, whose wife’s grandfather knew some of the men in the 111th’s repair shops. Here’s what he said:

“Hello from Heerlen in The Netherlands!!! I was surprised at seeing the pictures of Heerlen in the winter of 1944/45. That was in the street where late my dad lived. He always told me about his friendship and adventures with the American soldiers at the stone factory nearby. The granddad of my wife was working at the LTM-remise. He was always trading Dutch souvenirs that he made himself , for food or equipment.”

Peter sent me photos of the items our men traded. It was a good thing the war was nearing an end, or they might have needed these items! (If any 111th family member has a handmade Dutch souvenir that might have been traded for these tools, I’d love to see it.) Thanks, Peter!

So, to revisit a few of the men’s souvenirs, here are some photos:

Ottea others with Nazi flag
Nazi flags were a popular souvenir, it seems. My dad sent one home to his mother in San Antonio. When she opened the package, the musty odor prompted her to air it out on the backyard clothesline. She soon heard from the neighbors!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

heerlen tea cup

111th daughter Linda Campbell showed us this tea cup and saucer given to her in the 1980s by Vickie Baggens, ,whose parents had been kind to Linda’s father, Roland Unangst, who used to drink from this very cup in the Baggens home in Heerlen, Holland, during the winter of 1944/45.

box with part

This Chevrolet truck part, carefully packed in wax, was left behind at Albro Castle, in Wales, where the 111th men lived and worked for several months before the Normandy Invasion. Owner Peter Newland found it and some other parts and gave it to me.

 

When the 111th left Alsdorf, Germany, on March 4, 1945, and moved 36 miles northwest to what was then called Munchen-Gladbach, Germany, the men took up quarters in several apartment buildings near their new shop area (a former local police complex that had recently been used by S.S. troops).

We learned a couple of years ago that the particular apartment building my father lived in is still there and is still an apartment building. The other day we heard from a new blog friend, Antonio, who lives in that city. He told us that he lived in that building until recently and offered to take a photo of it, from the same angle as my dad’s photo 72 years ago. Here is what he sent:

monchengladbach apt bdlg today

Here is my dad’s photo:

img210 Our home at Munchen Gladbach, Germany, Spring 1945

Thanks, Antonio! My dad and his buddies would be amazed.

Today is the 100th birthday of 111th company commander Art Brooks. This remarkable man is enjoying the day with his wife of 71 years, Judy, his daughters Louise and Lori, and other family members in the family home in Hudson, New York.Art 100th bday

This photo of Judy and Art, with daughter Lori, was taken two days ago by a photographer from their local newspaper, which ran this story about him yesterday, https://www.hudsonvalley360.com/article/family-work-are-keys-long-life

A few weeks ago, we asked family members and friends of the 111th to send Art birthday wishes, and we are happy that so many of you did. I want you all to know that it really made his day! This morning he asked me to send his thanks to you:

To the Families of the 111th: 

I was so moved to hear from the daughters, sons and grandchildren of the men of the 111th. I was deeply touched by your beautiful cards, emails, and warm birthday wishes. It meant a great deal to me. 

I especially want to take this opportunity to salute the memory of the men of 111th for their exemplary service to our country during the trying times we went through together in World II. 

Thank you all very much.

edited Art Brooks taken outside quarters Brake Germany summer 1945

Captain Brooks in Brake, Germany, at the end of the war.

 

Arthur T. Brooks, the young Army captain who led the 160 men of the 111th from war-torn Holland into war-torn Germany in the final months of WWII, will be celebrating his 100th birthday on October 29. This posting is a call to encourage the families of the 111th men and other blog followers to send him birthday wishes in October. (Details below.) I believe we all owe him a huge debt of gratitude for his leadership and for getting our fathers home safely. Not a single 111th soldier was lost during the war.

Last weekend, Ed and I drove up to New York State to pay a pre-birthday visit to Art and his family—Judy, his wife of 71 years, and their daughters, Lori and Louise.  Art is one of only two surviving members of the unit. (The other is Osborne Eastwood, age 98, in Arkansas.)

Brooks family photo sept 2017

Art, daughter Lori, Judy, daughter Louise, Andrea and Ed

Art and Judy recently decided that the time had come to move into an assisted living community, where, among other benefits, they are only a half-hour away from their daughters. On Saturday, I gave a short talk and slideshow about Art and the 111th to the residents there, as a way to introduce them to their new neighbor. It went well—and it turned out that five of the men in the audience were also WWII veterans! Art took over after my talk and regaled the audience with some war stories of his own—it was a memorable afternoon. Brooks Sept 2017 1

Art joined the 111th as a lieutenant in 1942, when he came to Camp Bowie, in Brownwood (middle of nowhere), Texas, from the Ordnance School in Aberdeen, Maryland. He was 24 years old. I’m sure you can imagine how well a Yankee officer was received by a bunch of Texas privates and sergeants, my dad included. But he soon won their trust and admiration. During his remarks last Saturday, he praised the hard work and dedication of those Texas soldiers. He added that when the unit was stationed in Germany for four months after V-E Day, he took a lot of heat from his superior officer for being too lax. “The men had just made it through many months of war and were ready to go home. I wasn’t going to be hard on them at that point,” he said. He then recalled how every week he sent a couple of men and a truck 80 miles to Dortmund to pick up kegs of beer for the unit.

To send best wishes by email, please write to me at sutcliff@shentel.net, and I will forward your email to the Brooks family. You may also use the “Leave a Reply” feature below and I will send along your comments to the family.