Posts Tagged ‘Monchengladbach’

Not much has been happening lately, but we do have a couple of things to share. Before we do, though, please join us in sending happy birthday wishes to one of the four living members of the 111th, John Raisler! He will be 95 tomorrow. We spoke with him last night, and he is doing very well. His family will be coming to help him celebrate this weekend. (See our last posting for more about John.)

Earlier this month, we received an email from Wolfgang Heyn, who lives in Moenchengladbach, Germany. He said that the building where some of the 111th men, including my father, lived while in that city in the early spring of 1945–in fact, exactly 70 years ago this month–still stands, at the end of Webschulstrasse, next to the police barracks that the unit took over and worked in. It is still an apartment building.img210 Our home at Munchen Gladbach, Germany, Spring 1945

Monchengladbach apartment building where some of the 111th men lived in spring 1945, still an apartment building today

Moenchengladbach apartment building where some of the 111th men lived in spring 1945, still an apartment building today

We sure wish we had known about it when we visited the city in 2013; we spent a few hours asking around as we looked for that building, unsuccessfully. We since learned that the men were based in the former police barracks in town, not on the outskirts of town as we first suspected.

UPDATE September 2018: Our new blog friend Craig, who lives in Holland, took these photos of Moenchengladbach recently and sent them along. He says there is a sport and wellness club in the building now, and the the building is in beautiful shape. The Europeans certainly know how to maintain their properties. Wouldn’t the men of the 111th been amazed? Here are the photos:

munchengladbach 2018 2munchegladbach 2018 1

We have been in touch with Sergio Gomez, son of the 111th’s Master Sergeant Frank Gomez, of San Antonio. We were sad to learn last fall of the death of Sergio’s mother (Frank’s widow), Carmen Gomez, at the age of 96. My parents were friends with Frank and Carmen after the war. While going through his mother’s things, Sergio found a tightly rolled up photo of the 111th taken at Fort Dix, NJ, in the summer of 1943—the same panoramic photo that Tom Sedlacek, son of Joe Sedlacek, sent us a copy of last year. If you double click on the photo below, it will open in a new window, and you can zoom in on it.

111th 10MB  partially autographed

Sergio had the 3-foot-long photo professionally mounted and scanned and sent us a copy. His copy is interesting because there are several autographs on it—including that of our birthday boy, John Raisler! Thanks so much, Sergio—this will help us identify a few more of the men in the old photos. If any of you see your father in this photo, please let us know.

Today we set out, in a warm drizzle, for Monchengladbach (spelled Munchen-Gladbach in the 1940s), where the 111th was based during the Dutch “Hunger Winter” of 1944-45. During that especially harsh winter, some 22,000 Dutch people died, thanks largely to German efforts to punish the local population for not cooperating with the Nazi effort.

All of Dad’s photos of those months showed snow on the ground. One photo shows their “home” in Monchengladbach, a three-story brick structure that looked sturdy enough to have survived the war. Our goal today was to find it.

img210 Our home at Munchen Gladbach, Germany, Spring 1945

NOTE: The following, written in 2013, is all wrong! We learned later from two men familiar with Munchengladbach that the apartment building in the above photo is still an apartment building in the city today! So disregard the next three paragraphs, please.

But where to start looking? Like Heerlen, there is no tourist information office in Monchengladbach. Both are large, modern cities that Dad and his buddies would never recognize today. But a clue from my Welsh cousin, Andy Philpin, set us looking for a British Army base on the outskirts of the city, a place called JHQ Rheindahlen. (The British troops left this base this year, closing it down and turning it back to the German government.) We thought it might contain barracks dating back to the war years.

This part of Holland was the scene of much fighting in the fall of 1944, and the loss of thousands of Allied troops. The Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, six miles east of Maastricht, contains the graves of 8,300 American soldiers who died in the Netherlands during the war.

After much driving around (MG, as it is called here, covers a lot of territory) and questioning the nice guard at a largely deserted place called Ayrshire Barracks, we found JHQ Rheindahlen. Ed went to talk to the guard, an American ex-pat who was intrigued with our search and went in to get his German cohort to answer Ed’s questions. Ed showed them the picture Dad took of the building he lived in during the spring of 1945. The German man told him that it was probably part of the old base, where many Americans were housed during the war. It had been torn down years ago to make way for a huge soccer stadium and parking lots, now the home of the local team in the German Bundesliga, their top soccer league. So, the last spot where we could say, “Dad was here” is now a popular sports complex.

We did continue to nearby Sittard, where Dad had photographed a windmill, but there was not a single one left, just another very modern city. However, modern-day turbine windmills are seen everywhere here; western Europeans seem committed to wind power. (NOTE: We found it the next day, still there.)

 

We decided not to continue our journey to points north, to see the area of the Rhine River in Krefeld and Dinslaken (north of Dusseldorf) where Dad had taken pictures of blown bridges, because we knew what we would find: traffic-clogged cities with modern bridges. We are heading home, with hopes of learning more later.