Archive for the ‘Wales 1943-44’ Category

We have received a new batch of photos from Pat Macchiarolo, daughter of 111th soldier Bob Raymer, whose big friendly smile we’ve seen in previous posts. A while back, Pat’s sister discovered more of their dad’s old photos and negatives. Pat had the negatives developed and scanned and sent everything along to us. Some of the photos show men who weren’t named. If anyone can identify a father or grandfather here, please write to the blog and let us know, and we will add the name.

(Try clicking on the photo to see a larger version–this used to work, but it didn’t work for me just now; write to me if you’d like to see a larger image.)

Thanks very much, Pat!

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Bob Raymer

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Abner Boyd, Joe MacDonald, William J Quinn and Joe Wolfe, Camp Sully, Wales 1944

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Victor Jones and Bob Nelson at Camp Sully, Wales

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Pappy Patton, Doc Mason and Rubin Lee Koehl, Camp Sully, 1944

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Robert Pinkston and bride

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Harold Packebush and Bob Raymer

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Bob Raymer

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George Weiderhold

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Roy “Pop” Bowers

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Lt. Perry Witt, third from right; Bob Raymer, second from right; rest unknown

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Woodrow Corn, Camp Sully, Wales, 1944

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Floyd Wetterburg and Bill Strickland

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Bob Hax, Bill Stadler, Julius Turner

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Basil Dixon, Camp Sully

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Bob Nelson, Camp Sully, Wales

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Bob Raymer and Roger Rickon

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Roger Rickon

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Blankenship, Muehle, Stadler, Camp Sully, Wales 1944

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John Vargo and friend

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We have received many new photos in the past month, from former CO Captain Art Brooks; from Gene Karl’s daughter, Donna Leitzke; and from Leroy Brannon’s widow, Lillian. Here are a few–the rest we have posted in the “Photos” pages (at the top of this website) of “The Men” and “The Places.”

The new photos have given us some new information while also leading to new questions. We learned that the 111th had an earlier warrant officer we had not known about, Bill Hall; however, we have not been able to learn where he was from. We also now have photos of the men playing softball on the Poppit Sands near St Dogmaels, Wales, as well as more images of Albro Castle, where they lived for 4 months before Normandy; more photos of the men in Aberdeen, Maryland, in November 1942; and more photos taken in Europe. Sorry about the odd arrangement; WordPress doesn’t give much control over such things, at least as I have been able to learn.

Warrant Officer Hall, 1944

Warrant Officer Hall, 1944

Gen Karl in truck

Gen Karl in truck

Leroy Brannon

Leroy Brannon

Curt Vosz, Aberdeen, MD, Nov. 1942

Curt Vosz, Aberdeen, MD, Nov. 1942

CPT Malsbury

CPT Malsbury

Charles Burns, Bill Campbell, and Robert Mauer

Charles Burns, Bill Campbell, and Robert Mauer

Playing ball on Poppit Sands, near St Dogmaels, Wales, 1944

Playing ball on Poppit Sands, near St Dogmaels, Wales, 1944

Playing ball on the beach, Poppit

Playing ball on the beach, Poppit

George Legg and his D-Day beard

George Legg and his D-Day beard

Major Dante Vezzoli, May 1945; he had been a Lt. with the 111th in 1942-3

Major Dante Vezzoli, May 1945; he had been a Lt. with the 111th in 1942-3

Waiting for the train, Aberdeen, MD, 1942

Waiting for the train, Aberdeen, MD, 1942

Albro Castle, Wales, 1944

Albro Castle, Wales, 1944

Possibly the lane up to Albro Castle, St Dogmaels, Wales, 1944

Possibly the lane up to Albro Castle, St Dogmaels, Wales, 1944

Gene Karl in train, buddies below

Gene Karl in train, buddies below

Men working at Albro Castle, Wales, 1944

Men working at Albro Castle, Wales, 1944

MSG Frank Gomez

MSG Frank Gomez

Gene Karl in jeep

Gene Karl in jeep

St Dogmaels, Wales

St Dogmaels, Wales

Army tanks in Neath, Wales, 1943

Army tanks in Neath, Wales, 1943

Albro Castle courtyard

Albro Castle courtyard

Gene Karl at Albro Castle with gun

Gene Karl at Albro Castle with gun

CPT James Goode

CPT James Goode

Cherbourg, France, 1944

Cherbourg, France, 1944

Destroyed US tanks near Bastogne, Ardennes, July 1944

Destroyed US tanks near Bastogne, Ardennes, July 1944

Troop ship heading home, fall 1945

Troop ship heading home, fall 1945

Dortmund, Germany, May 1945

Dortmund, Germany, May 1945

We have located three more 111th family members this July: two sons of Ed Newmeyer, the daughter of Evert “Red” Clauson, and the daughter of Harrison “Mac” Gardner. But before we tell you about them, we have some sad news to report. One of our five surviving 111th veterans, Roger Rickon, passed away on July 7. We will miss talking to Roger; he was a great guy and a wonderful source of information.

Roger Rickon

Roger Rickon

You can read some of Roger’s memories of the war by entering his name in the “Search” feature of this blog; we also told some of his stories in our book about the 111th. He had turned 90 years old on V-E Day this past May. I know you will share in sending our condolences to his sons David, Russell, Glenn, and James. He was very proud of his four boys.

After listening to our favorite 111th company commander, Art Brooks, tell us last winter about the 111th’s terrific “artist-in residence,” we had been hoping to locate family members of Ed Newmeyer, who died in 1967. Then last month, when Pat Macchiarolo, daughter of 111th soldier Robert Raymer, sent us a couple of images of V-mail letters her dad had sent to her mom, we were thrilled to finally see examples of Newmeyer’s talents—Newmeyer had illustrated them! (Click on the images to enlarge them.)

Newmeyer V mail 1 Newmeyer Vmail 2

By the way, V-mail was used to save valuable space on cargo ships during the latter years of the war. Soldiers and families were urged to use this free service, which involved writing letters on specially designed forms, which were then opened, photographed, and put on microfilm. When the film reached its destination, the letters were printed out and delivered. One mail bag of film canisters took the place of 37 bags filled with regular mail, a huge savings in space and weight. You can read more about V-mail here: http://postalmuseum.si.edu/exhibits/2d2a_vmail.html

In early July, we talked with both Mike and Ed Newmeyer and made an interesting discovery: their mother, Patricia, was from Cardiff, Wales. She met their father in the fall of 1943 at a USO dance in Cardiff; the couple was married in February 1944, just as the 111th was leaving the Cardiff area for St. Dogmaels, in West Wales.

Ed Newmeyer Valentine

Ed Newmeyer Valentine

Ed Newmeyer's Christmas V-mail

Ed Newmeyer’s Christmas V-mail

Ed Newmeyer

Ed Newmeyer

Their son Ed was born in Cardiff in 1945, while Newmeyer was still with the unit in Europe, making Ed Jr. a dual citizen of the U.S. and the U.K. So now we know that there was at least one other war bride from the unit in addition to my mother, whom Dad (Bill “Pinky” Johnson) met in March 1944 at a YMCA dance in Cilgerran, Wales, not far from St. Dogmaels.

In mid-July, we heard from Bev Albright, whose father was Evert “Red” Clauson. Ed had tried to find a Clauson family member late last year, since we had a great photo of my dad’s taken in Barry, Wales, in 1943 with Clauson—he titled it “The Three Redheads”, showing Dad, Evert, and Charles Burns.

Evert Clauson, Charles Burns, Bill "Pinky" Johnson

L-R: Evert Clauson, Charles Burns, Bill “Pinky” Johnson

The reason we had no luck was because my father had spelled Clauson’s name wrong on the back of the photo, with a ‘w’ rather than a ‘u.’ Clauson died in 1984.

Mac Gardner

Mac Gardner

Mac Gardner

Mac Gardner

Finally, we heard from Nita Cross, whose father was Harrison “Mac” Gardner. We figure Mac must have known my Dad, since they both were from Macomb, Illinois. Sadly, Mac died in 1961, when Nita was only 8 years old. She then told us she lost her son in the Iraq war in 2004; his daughter was only 6 years old. When she saw our photo of the 111th men taken at Fort Dix, New Jersey, in 1943, she was a bit taken aback: her son was deployed from Fort Dix to Camp Ashraf, near Baghdad. Her father and her son left for war from the same place, 61 years apart.

In other news, by chance we learned a couple of weeks ago that the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, MO, which is part of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, holds what appears to be the entire set of morning reports for the 111th Ordnance Company. We were amazed that these have been kept. So in our effort to leave no stone unturned, Ed and I will travel to St. Louis in early October and spend two days in front of microfilm readers, gleaning whatever details we can about the unit’s day-to-day activities. We will start by focusing on the reports from late 1943 until the end of the war, then go to reports from the time of the unit’s beginnings in late 1940 if we have time. You can be sure we will let you know what we find! Here is an article about the place, in case you are interested: http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2011/fall/nprc.html

 

 

 

 

Last month, while visiting Albro Castle in St. Dogmaels, Wales—where the 111th men were billeted during the four months preceding D-Day—the gracious current owners, Tracy and Pete Newland, showed us a dusty old box containing automotive parts, which the men apparently left behind, perhaps in their rush to leave for Normandy at midnight on June 6-7, 1944. We thought they had forgotten to pack the items. But maybe not.

Box of left behind parts at Albro Castle

Box of left behind parts at Albro Castle

One of the parts

One of the parts

A master switch, encased in wax

A master switch, encased in wax

Pete gave us one of the parts to take home as a souvenir. It says “Master Switch, T-17-E-1 Armored Car G-103, Chevrolet.” Inside the box, the part is encased in a thick coating of wax, to protect it from rust and dirt. It is no doubt still good as new.

A quick Internet search turned up this Wikipedia entry: “The T17 and the T17E1 were two American armored car designs produced during the Second World War. Neither saw service with frontline US forces but the latter was supplied, via the United Kingdom, to British and Commonwealth forces during the war and received the service name Staghound. A number of countries used the Staghound after the war, with some of the vehicles continuing to serve into the 1980s.” You can read more about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T17_Armored_Car.

T17E1 Staghound Armored Car

T17E1 Staghound Armored Car

So it looks like the 111th mechanics didn’t need these parts for their vehicles and so left them behind, creating a bit of a mystery for 70 years.

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Angharad Stobbs, left, manager for the Hanes Llandoch world wars project, welcomes guests to tea at the Coach House, St Dogmaels, yesterday

Hanes Llandoch, the heritage group in St Dogmaels, hosted a special tea yesterday so Ed and I could meet the village residents who have memories of our GIs at Albro Castle. All but one, who is 94, were children or teenagers in the spring of 1944. Everyone had a great time, talking with us and with each other, remembering that important era in history. The event caught the attention of BBC Wales television, which sent a reporter and cameraman to interview me and the guests. The story was aired throughout Wales at the end of its news show last night. Here are snippets of what we were told yesterday, along with the usual memories of cadging chocolates and gum from the soldiers: “I always remember seeing the men come down from Albro to go into the village. They saluted us kids, and we always returned the salute!”

A few of the ladies who remember our "lads."

A few of the ladies who remember our “lads.”

“My friend and I–we were only five years old–once went to the old quarry near Albro where some of the Army trucks were parked. We started one up and it began moving, but it soon got stuck in the mud. The American lads heard the noise and came running down from Albro, and we two boys made a quick disappearance into the woods!” “I remember going up to Albro to try to get more chewing gum. We never had gum before the GIs came. One of soldiers, his name was Joe, always made sure I got my gum. I will never forget him.” (The 111th had several Joes; wish we knew which one this was.)

More of the ladies

More of the ladies

“The older girls who lived along the Poppit road [toward Albro Castle] had a better chance of meeting the soldiers. They would sit on the bridge and wait for them to pass by.”

The BBC interviewing one of the guests yesterday

The BBC interviewing one of the guests yesterday

“Me and my friends were only about 10 years old, and we would see the soldiers go by every day. They were so handsome and friendly. We wished we weren’t so young, we really envied the older girls.” “I attended the Baptist chapel in the village, and I can remember seeing some of the soldiers there in their uniforms on Sundays. My father asked one of the officers to come to our house for tea or supper once, maybe more than once. He had been in the military himself and knew what it felt like to be so far away from home.” (We have heard other stories of the men being invited into homes for tea and supper.) “My father was a baker in town. Since his drivers had to leave for the war, I had to take over driving the delivery truck. I made deliveries to shops all over the area. The soldiers called me the girl driving the cracker box! I was about 22 at the time. Sometimes I would give the GIs [from other Army units in the vicinity as well as Albro, presumably] rides in the back of the van. Since gas was rationed, the police would often stop vehicles to make sure their trips were essential. I always carried five loaves of bread on the front seat so it looked like I was making deliveries. The police never checked for the men in the back of the van. The Albro GIs loved my father’s cakes.” The same woman also told us, “My friends and I went to all the dances for the soldiers in the area–here, in Cilgerran, in Cardigan. But we were told to be careful. We would meet up and ride our bikes to the dance together. It was always a fun time. The bands were from the military units, Army and RAF. When the dance was over, we all rode home together in a group. The soldiers were driven to the dances in their trucks.”

Andrea talks to Trevor Griffiths, who remembers the GIs

Andrea talks to Trevor Griffiths, who remembers the GIs

“We were always so happy to be given chocolates by the GIs. We had been under severe rationing for several years by then, and sweets were really rare. But the American chocolate bars were dark and very hard. You couldn’t bite into it easily. I had to go home and grate it in order to eat it.”

The St. Dogmaels (Wales) Community Council put on a terrific reception for me and Ed Saturday night, welcoming us as the representatives of the 111th Ordnance Company to the village and kicking off a week of activities to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

If you recall, this was the village where the 180 men of the 111th were based for four months before D-Day in 1944. They left from here in two convoys for Southampton, England, at midnight of the night of June 6. They crossed the channel in LCTs and landed on Omaha Beach on D+5. Everyone here has been amazed to learn that some 200,000 American troops were based in Wales in the year or so prior to D-Day, preparing for that historic event.

The evening began with a real treat: the local Welsh men’s choir sang several beautiful old songs for us. The Welsh are fantastic singers, and their performance was amazing.

Then our hosts showed a video that Terry Cross, son of surviving 111th member Ray Cross, made of his dad a couple of months ago. In it, Ray describes the unit’s time in St. Dogmaels. As you can imagine, the local people were very interested in hearing what Ray had to say about their village 70 years ago. (When we get back to the U.S., Ed will figure out how to make Ray’s video available for you all to watch; Terry has been editing several more video interviews with his dad, and we hope to have those available as well.)

Ray Cross remembers St. Dogmaels in a video last night in Wales

111th survivor Ray Cross remembers St. Dogmaels in a video last night in Wales

Last night in St. Dogmaels, community council members and guests watching Ray Cross on video

Last night in St. Dogmaels, community council members and guests watching Ray Cross on video

Then I gave a short talk about the men and conveyed our thanks to the village for the many kindnesses shown to our fathers while they were here. I also thanked Tracy and Peter Newland, the current owners of Albro Castle, for uncovering and preserving graffiti left by two of the 111th men on a wall there, which we first saw a year ago on June 6 and which sparked this incredible year of discovery. See our very first blog post for more about that day. (Go to the Archives for September 2013 and scroll all the way down to the bottom.)

A delicious dinner followed, and we got to talk to many people who were quite interested in learning more about the Americans here. Several told us how their parents had often talked about how polite, kind, and generous the men were. Our fathers were invited into local homes for tea and for Saturday suppers; these kind people tried to make the “boys” feel at home. We also heard some good stories, which we are trying to recall this morning. We wish all of you could have been there.

More events are coming up this week. On Monday, June 2, one of the town councillors will show us places around the village where the men worked. Then he will take us to lunch at the Ferry Inn, a pub that was quite popular with some of the men.

On Tuesday, June 3, we will again be in St. Dogmaels for a tea, where we will get to meet village residents who were youngsters during the war years and who have memories of our men. We are really looking forward to hearing their stories and hope to record them on video.

On Thursday, June 5, Sue Goerges Higginbotham and her husband, Don, will arrive from Texas. We will pick them up at their B&B in Cardigan and take them directly to Albro Castle, so that Sue can see the writings her father left on a wall there almost exactly 70 years earlier. The owners of Albro, Tracy and Peter Newland, have invited the four of us to stay for dinner.

Sign in St Dogmaels for the June 6 Dinner dance

Sign in St Dogmaels for the June 6 Dinner dance

Finally, the big 1940s dinner/dance is Friday night, June 6, in the St. Dogmaels  Village Hall, a big affair with the public invited. I will give a short talk, and they organizers will again show the Ray Cross video. Prints of some of the photos of the 111th in Wales that some of you have sent to us will be on display. We will report on these events and more in future postings.

 

We are beginning to get details of the planning going on right now for a week-long (May 31-June 6) celebration of WWII and the 111th Ordnance Company in St. Dogmaels, Wales (next to the town of Cardigan), the village where the men of the 111th were billeted in the months preceding D-Day, 1944. They tell us that they would love to have family members of the men attend; they understand that the five surviving members who were there in 1944 are all in their 90s now and don’t travel that far any more, unfortunately. Ed and I will be there for sure. Please contact me via the comments section of this blog if you are thinking of coming, and I can give you more information about getting there, etc.

Here is the latest word I have from the organizer of the events there:

“Heather and I aren’t in a position to completely confirm everything we have planned as we are awaiting confirmation on one or two ideas and I wouldn’t want to give you any misinformation at this stage.

“What I can confirm however is that the community of St Dogmaels are planning a series of events during the week [May 31-June 6] commemorating the anniversary of the D-day landings including a special evening (dinner/dance supper) in one of our village halls to welcome the friends and families of the GI’s and if the GI’s themselves cannot make the long journey, we intend to video conference on that evening if this is something they would like.

“During the week we will programme in tours by minibus of certain sites of interest including: Some of the beaches that were re-created to be similar to the Normandy beaches that were used for practice prior to the invasion, e.g. Freshwater Beach; Carew airfield; Henllan Prisoner of War camp.

“When possible (no immediate rush) could you give us an indication of numbers that are interested in coming over.
It would be fantastic to have you here.

“As I say there a couple of other ideas in the pipeline, but we are awaiting confirmation on these. As soon as we know more, one of us will keep you in the loop.”