Posts Tagged ‘Post-war occupation Germany’

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.

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

Tom Sedlacek, son of 111th soldier Joe Sedlacek, has provided us with a treasure trove of artifacts and information about the unit—including the panorama photo of the company taken in 1943 and the European itinerary we posted recently, not to mention many photos. Now Tom has sent us copies of a few letters his dad wrote home to the family in Illinois, and he has agreed to let us share some sections of them here. If Joe’s wording sounds a little guarded, it is because the men’s mail was read and censored; see the stamp and signature (Lt. Errington, one of the 111th’s officers] on the envelope.

Tom dad Joe Sedlacek          sedlacek envelope

The first two letters were mailed from Normandy, France:

“Wednesday [June] 14 [1944], Somewhere in France

“Dearest Mother and Bros., Am very sorry I didn’t write sooner but I just didn’t have time. As now we are over here in France. I guess you all know what has taken place and I hope it doesn’t last long. Am just fine and tell Mother not to worry as I’ll take good care of myself. Hope you’re fine and in good health as I wouldn’t care or want to hear of anyone being ill.

“The weather is okay but nothing like back home….By the way, how are all of the boys and their families? Give them my regards and not to get mad if they don’t hear from me often….I haven’t received the package you sent me which contained the toilet articles. Sure hope I receive them as I’d  like to get some American articles. Boy, I could really go for some good meats and some good old beer. Tell everyone I said hello and please don’t worry too much, Mother. Good-bye, answer soon. Always love, Joe”

The next one is about three weeks later:

“Somewhere in France, Wednesday, July 5 [1944]

“Dear Mother and Bros., Sure good to hear from you as I received your letter yesterday (of June 19th).The first time I heard from you for over a month….We’re rather damp as it rains almost every day; otherwise I am just fine as much as possible. We get strafed nearly every day and have been also shelled. Have been over here for quite some time and the boys are doing just fine. We didn’t get over here for the fireworks, but we didn’t miss it by very far. The people seem to be okay but you just can’t trust any of them ‘cause some of them may be German as they have been over here for four years.

“We left [New York] about the first of November on a freighter and arrived in Liverpool about the 17th of November. Then we were stationed near Cardiff (largest city) till about the middle of February. We moved from there to Cardigan, Wales (western part) until we came over here.

“Guess what? Today at dinner we had white bread. The first time since we got off the boat on Nov. 17th; and what I mean is it really surprised us. In England all we had was rye bread. The rations aren’t good but we’ll make it. This country isn’t so bad for scenery but it’s no place for me as I can’t understand their language.

“Our artillery is still firing and the timber just rocks. The people have quite a few orchards and the crops aren’t so bad. Some [people] dress fairly nice while others are in rags and even wear wooden shoes. We give the kids our spare gum or candy if we have any. They held up our mail in England almost the whole month of May. That’s why you hadn’t heard sooner from me.” Joe ends the letter with the usual questions about weather and friends back home.

This one was written just three days after the war in Europe was over, from Germany:

“Tuesday, 11 May [1945]

“Dear Mother and Bros., Was sure glad to hear from you as I received three letters in the past five days. You all know about the good news so there’s no use in discussing it. Almost all of the company was on a jag for a day or so. Hello to Mother and all the rest and am in fine shape. Will be on the lookout for the package you sent….

“Guess you heard about the point system over the radio, well, I’ve only got 76 and you need 85 to get out. Got 22 months overseas, 39 months in the service, and three battle stars. Imagine by now you’ve got the place in fairly nice shape and only wish I could be there to help you….

“About ten days ago a few of us were up on the Elbe River and ran into a few Russians. Those Krauts are sure scared of the Russians. And almost all of them made for our lines. Those Russians don’t fool with them.

“Sent you two boxes today so be on the lookout. Good-bye, Love to all, Joe”

It turns out Roland Unangst had kept more photos than daughter Linda Campbell first thought. Her husband, Ken, just emailed these. Many names and places are unknown (although most seem to be of the Brake, Germany, area near Bremen), so we ask again for your help (click on photo to view it larger).

Roland Unansgt at far right, others unidentified

Roland Unangst at far right, others unidentified

Top row is cut off; bottom row: Hueni, Gene Karl, Unangst, Zito

Top row is cut off; bottom row: Hueni, Gene Karl, Unangst, Zito

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Unansgt on right, others unknown

Unangst on right, others unknown

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Red Cross girls, Heerlen, Holland

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Taken while on a march, note the local means of transport.

Taken while on a march, note the local means of transport.

Could this be Munchengladbach?

Their apartment building in Brake, Germany

Curtis Vosz, in Bremen, Germany?

Curtis Vosz, in Brake, Bremen enclave, Germany

Roland Unangst wrote, "Our swimming pool." Brake, Germany, 1945?

Roland Unangst wrote, “Our swimming pool.” Brake, Germany, 1945

Unknown

Unknown

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Who is this?

Who is this?

An Army "captain"! But who? Confiscated motorboat in Germany

An Army “captain”! But who? Confiscated motorboat in Germany

The above photo reminds me of a phone conversation we had with one of the five living members of the 111th, Roger Rickon, last month. He told us that while in Brake, Germany, in the Bremen enclave, in the summer of 1945,  his two buddies had confiscated a boat and put a Packard engine on it. They would go up and down the Weser River in it to play baseball games with other units nearby. They called it Gravel Gertie. One day they tied it up to a high dock, and because of tides the river would rise and fall. One night the boat got caught up under the dock and was crushed. Days later, they saw bits of wooden floating in the river, and one piece had the name of the boat on it! I will ask Roger if this was the boat.

Vosz and burned-out ship, Brake, Germany

Vosz and burned-out ship, Brake, Germany

"Inside our automotive shop," wrote Unangst

“Inside our automotive shop,” wrote Unangst

German children, after receiving candy treats from the men

German children, after receiving candy treats from the men