Posts Tagged ‘Maastricht’

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.

 

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Last week we heard from the son and daughter-in-law of 111th Sergeant Frank Sossi: Phyllis and Frank Sossi, Jr. The other day, Frank Jr., opened up an old trunk of his dad’s and unearthed a treasure–a set of copies of the unit’s monthly history reports from January 1944 (when they were in Wales, UK) until the end of the war in May 1945 in Germany, covering almost all of the 111th’s time in Europe. Ed and I had searched but never could find the unit’s monthly reports in military archives, so we are quite excited to have them at last. They are a terrific supplement to the memoirs of Perry Witt and Roland Unangst, which we published on this site earlier. Thanks, Frank and Phyllis!

You will find images of each month’s report at the top of the home page, right next to the little box that says “HOME.”

Frank and Phyllis also sent us more photos. Remember, you can click on a photo to enlarge it:

Frank Sossi in Brake, Germany, summer 1945, giving Hildegard Schirmbeck a piggyback ride

Frank Sossi in Brake, Germany, summer 1945, giving Hildegard Schirmbeck a piggyback ride

Frank Sossi, Alsdorf, Germany, 1945

Frank Sossi, Alsdorf, Germany, 1945

Service section, right to left, Goessel, Cole, Hendon, Gardner, Apple, Dowling, Beckhusen, July 1944

Service section, right to left, Goessel, Cole, Hendon, Gardner, Apple, Dowling, Beckhusen, July 1944

Curt Vosz, Dragon's Teeth outside Aachen, Germany, Nov. 1944

Curt Vosz, Dragon’s Teeth outside Aachen, Germany, Nov. 1944

Matt Ottea, Maastricht, Oct. 1944

Matt Ottea, Maastricht, Oct. 1944

George Legg in Paris Aug 1944

George Legg in Paris Aug 1944

Bodiford, Driscoll, Ottea on VJ Day, Brake, Germany, August 1945

Bodiford, Driscoll, Ottea on VJ Day, Brake, Germany, August 1945

John Andrews and Pinky Johnson, Luchow, Germany, near Salzwedal, April 1945

John Andrews and Pinky Johnson, Dannenberg, Germany, near Salzwedal, April 1945

Lynn Adams and Alvin Hamburger, March 1945 in Germany

Lynn Adams and Alvin Hamburger, March 1945 in Germany

Matt Ottea, Alsdorf, Germany, March 1945

Matt Ottea, Alsdorf, Germany, March 1945

Walter Bradley next 88mm overlooking autobahn, April 1945

Walter Bradley next 88mm overlooking autobahn, April 1945

Walter Bradley in Flak Valley, Germany, April 1945

Walter Bradley in Flak Valley, Germany, April 1945

Murvel Saucier, Chiene, April 1945

Murvel Saucier, Chiene, April 1945

Loy Knasel, Alsdorf, Germany, March 1945

Loy Knasel, Alsdorf, Germany, March 1945

Cleveland Roy, working in the mud, Heerlen, Holland Feb 1945

Cleveland Roy, working in the mud, Heerlen, Holland Feb 1945

Andrew Schultz and Ray Buggert, Alsdorf, Germany Feb 1945

Andrew Schultz and Ray Buggert, Alsdorf, Germany Feb 1945

Pinky Johnson and Frank Sossi, in Paris, Aug. 1945

Pinky Johnson and Frank Sossi, in Paris, Aug. 1944

Hubert Mathis, Maastricht, 1944

Hubert Mathis, Maastricht, 1944

 

The discovery of the 111th’s European itinerary has already answered two questions we have had. The first involves the French boy the men picked up in Normandy–presumably an orphan. Last week, when we heard from the French student, Tristan, concerning the Falaise Gap, I asked him in an email if he had any idea as to how we might find out more about this lad of 1944. His first question was, “Do you know when and where the 111th picked him up?” And of course, I had no idea–just somewhere in Normandy.

Unidentified French boy the unit picked up in Normandy and took with them for six months.

Unidentified French boy the unit picked up in Normandy

Well, as luck would have it, the very next day Tom Sedlacek found his dad’s copy of the itinerary, and he faxed it to us. One line in it says “Picked up French kid 8-14-44”; they were camped in Vire, Normandy on that date. So I wrote back to Tristan with that information, and he has offered to sent the boy’s photo (I was able to send a better one than the one above) and this information to newspapers in Vire for us. Wouldn’t be amazing if the boy–now a man in his 80’s–is alive and we could find him? A long shot for sure, but stranger things have happened on this quest. Such as…

In my father’s stash of things, I found a box containing four painted Dutch tiles. I never could figure out where they came from or why he kept them or what to do with them, so I put them in a closet. In January, we got a phone call from Melissa Boaz, the granddaughter of 111th member Joseph Apple, Jr., and for some reason she brought up the fact that she had some Dutch tiles he had mailed home to her grandmother during the war–they were still in the original shipping box. I pulled out my tiles, took a picture of them with my iPad, and emailed it to her. Sure enough, same tiles, except for one. We laughed at the thought of the two men shopping for tiles while a war was going on. Here is one:

photo (37)

Then the other day we saw this on the itinerary: “…Maastricht (first inside quarters in tile factory” 9-27-44. Look carefully at the company (Ste Ceramique) and location (Maestricht) on the back of this tile:

photo (38)

I checked and it seems the company no longer exists. “Groningen” seems to refer to the girl’s village or perhaps her costume.

So, it looks like the men helped themselves to some souvenirs, something to send home to their wives and mothers. Have any other 111th families come across similar tiles?

We left France after spending a night in St. Quentin, and drove into Brussels, Belgium. I don’t think the 111th took this route, but we had never seen Brussels so we decided to arrive early, spend the night, and take a look at the city. Dad’s photos (and later confirmation from Arthur Brooks) indicate they took a more southern route through Belgium, through Charleroi and Liege, then crossing the border into Holland near Maastricht. This was probably in September  of 1944.

We stopped for a look at Fort Eben-Emael, on the Belgian border near Maastricht, Netherlands, just as the 111th did. This fort took seven years to build, yet the Germans took it in one day, in May 1940. By the time the 111th men saw it in 1944, this part of Belgium had been liberated and the Germans had left. When the fort, which lies along the Albert Canal, was completed after 5 years, in 1935, it was considered to be one of the strongest in the world, complete with 2-1/2 miles of underground galleries.

img153 Main entrance to Fort Eban Emmanuel, Belgium       20131024-161218.jpg

But it was a prime target for the Germans at the beginning of the war. Hitler himself approved the plan to take it using gliders. The Germans built a full-scale mock-up in occupied Czechoslovakia so they could practice the attack. In May 1940, the fort was taken by surprise when paratroopers in gliders landed silently on the roof of the fort, taking the troops within by surprise–the first time gliders were used in this way. The gliders were also fitted with hollow charge devices, used here–also for the first time–to destroy the gun cupolas. The Belgians surrendered within a day, a huge loss for them.

The fort is open to the public during the summer months most days, but only one weekend a month in the off season, so we were not able to go inside.

We arrived in Heerlen, Holland, this afternoon but had no luck finding any information about US military activities here in WW II. In fact, the city has no information office, and the library has nothing about the war. It is a large, traffic-filled, modern city these days.