This page is all about meeting members of the Greatest Generation, whether if they were members
of the greatest Artillery unit in the ETO, the 463rd Parachute Field Artillery,
or being veterans of any other unit, regardless of their branch or their country.
Among some other presents Bill was very pleased with his 'Nuts' cap and with his watch which inside has the inscription 'Bastogne' and the Airborne Eagle.
One of the best things In North Carolina is the good food, and top of the bill is a goooood pig pick.
Absolutely fabulous !
Jody, Bill's grandson and Pistol's son,
checks to see if the pig is ready. Oh yeah, it's ready !!
Mother and daughter
Bill, Pistol's sons Jamie and Jodie and Pistol.
Maryanne and her husband Edward
Madeleine's brother Philip and Jodie
Without knowing anything Pistol arranged for a marvelous cake, with on top of it the scanned medal, Charter and his picture, all in sugar !
WHAT A CAKE !
Edward, Jamie, Pistol and Bill cutting the cake
Jodie, Bonnie, Mildred and Bill
admiring the master piece...
Bill, Madeleine and Pistol
Madeleine's brother Philip brought these beautiful flowers
At the end of the day : One happy couple
The Bastogne Medal and Charter
With Mr. Gary DIXON, HQ Special Forces, Fort Bragg
This meeting was possible thanks to Clancy Lyall
Inside the 82nd Airborne Museum
The 82nd Airborne Museum in Bragg.
Bill with the Howitzer 75 mm,
the picture we used on our Main Page
The Douglas C47 Skytrain, also known as Dakota.
It was the workhorse of the Army Air Corps transport units.
One of it's "passengers" in 1943-45...
Inside the museum we met in person Dr John Duvall
Director of Education and Programming
Airborne and Special Operations Museum.
In the past the museum provided us with Airborne material (stories, pictures) for our sites.
Bill reading his own history :
'Airborne Assault Into Southern France'
'The Forgotten Front'
Surrounded by Troopers !
Bill making an "Exit"
Bill remembers very well,
about the German demand for surrender
at Bastogne on December 22nd, 1944...
... and General Anthony Mc. Auliffe's response:
"To the German commander "
"The American commander."
Visiting the Greenville Fire Department
Friendly visit from the Pitt County Police Dpt.
Bill, Lt B. PRICE and Sgt. M. L. BURROUGHS
They said it's better being in the front
of this car, than in the back...
The PITT COUNTY Police Patches
On my way back to Belgium I tried to have a short trip inside Washington D.C. Just a pity I hadn't more time for the visit.
I had 3 hours for the trip :
from Dulles Int. Airport to the City, a short Tour and then back, and it's also a half hour drive from the Airport to the City....
The Pentagon, the Potomac river and the Washington Monument
The WHITE HOUSE
The Smithsonian Institute
Washington Dulles Airport
The Washington Monument
by Kim Grizzard, The Daily Reflector
Bastogne gave Bill Tingen the worst Christmas he'd ever had.
He was only 20 when he endured the miserable holiday in this Belgian city in 1944. The Pitt County soldier was cold, scared, surrounded by the enemy and almost certain he would never live to see 21.
Last month, Tingen turned 80. He celebrated the occasion at his home in Greenville, surrounded by family and friends. Among them was a 40-year-old Belgian man bearing gifts from the town Tingen had helped save.
Bastogne gave him the best birthday he'd ever had. Nearly 60 years later, the city liberated by the Americans during World War II had not forgotten.
"I didn't realize people cared as much as they do," Tingen said. "I know now that they did."
Bastogne resident Filip Willems thanked Tingen on behalf of the city that thousands of Americans died to defend.
"It was a dream of mine, since I was a kid," Willems said, "to come over to the United States and shake hands with one of my liberators."
The handshake symbolized a friendship between the two men that began a year and a half ago on the Internet. Tingen, a retired auto repairman, had gone online to look for members of his unit, the 463rd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion. Willems, a computer support technician for a steel production factory in Belgium, was looking for men who had served in Bastogne during the war.
"I was in Bastogne during World War II," Tingen recalled. "So I sent him an e-mail, and it started from that."
Hundreds of e-mails followed. Tingen wrote about the draft notice he received at age 18 and sent photos and a copy of a newspaper clipping about his paratrooper training. He wrote about the cold winter of 1944 in Bastogne and how a soldier buddy captured a German tank and gave it to the Battalion commander as a Christmas present.
Tingen had learned to use a computer after flooding from 1999's Hurricane Floyd forced him to move in with his son, Pistol, for several months. Using two fingers to type, he began to relay war stories that had gone untold for decades. Willems learned things that Tingen had never even shared with Mildred, his wife of 57 years.
"With him it's not hard to talk," Tingen said. "He can get things out of you that you don't tell anybody else. I trust the fellow."
Willems, a history buff who served for more than a decade in the Belgian army, liked reading the American veteran's stories. Seldom pressing for details, he let Tingen share whatever he wanted.
As stories began to unfold, Willems saved nearly every note. Using the photos and information his new friend had sent, he began putting together a Web site to honor Tingen and other members of the 463rd.
"Sixty years after, you don't have a lot of (World War II veterans) anymore," Willems said. "So it's a now-or-never thing.
"Receiving all these pictures and this story, I thought ... well it's not only me that has to know this. So I felt it ... as an obligation to let the world know what these men did for us and what they did for our country."
In Belgium, people know what the Americans did. Six decades later, reminders of the Battle of Bastogne remain. A statue of American Gen. Anthony McAuliffe stands in a main square in the city, which also bears his name. Nearby is a restaurant known as the "Nuts" Cafe.
It is named for McAuliffe's response to the German demand that he surrender the city of Bastogne. He simply wrote the one-word reply: Nuts.
"They wanted to know what the word 'Nuts' meant," Tingen recalled, laughing, "and it was just simply 'Go to hell.' That was Gen. McAuliffe. He meant what he said. Gen. McAuliffe wasn't about to surrender."
The general's message wasn't the only one that required some translation. Tingen remembers how, as a young soldier, he didn't completely understand the threats issued by the Germans.
"When they said, 'If you don't surrender ... we're going to annihilate all of you,'" Tingen said, "well, I didn't have too much schooling. I asked, 'What does the word 'annihilate' mean? They said, 'Just kill us.' I said, 'Oh.' That changed the whole outlook."
For American troops, the outlook changed when infantry and armored divisions reached Bastogne. Though encircled by a number of German divisions, McAuliffe's troops, mostly paratroopers, had managed to prevent the city from being captured.
"That's a story that is living still today in Belgium," said Willems. "You can ask every one of them what the word 'nuts' means and where it was used, and every Belgian can tell you."
During his visit to Pitt County last month, Willems brought Tingen a hat from Belgium with the word "Nuts" embroidered on the front. When Tingen wore the hat on a few outings, Willems was surprised to find the story was foreign to many Americans.
"They just think I'm nuts," Tingen said.
Tingen's son, Pistol, said it has been difficult to find anyone under age 50 who knows the story of the Battle of Bastogne.
"They had no clue as to what that was," he said. "They don't understand the sacrifice. So many of the younger generation, especially here in America, they just take that for granted.
"You've got somebody from a different world, from a different culture, and he (Willems) appreciates it," Pistol Tingen said. "So when he started reaching out and my father responded, a friendship began."
The friends who bonded over history have found other things in common, despite the fact that Willems lives on the other side of the Atlantic and is half of Bill Tingen's age. Nowadays, they may write about shared interests like fishing or cars, sometimes sending e-mail two or three times a day. When Tingen had heart surgery last year, Pistol Tingen and other family members assumed the task of e-mailing Willems updates on Tingen's condition several times a day.
"I got more out of it than I ever expected," Willems said. "In the beginning, I was most interested in the historical part, but I never thought we could have become so close."
So close that Willems traveled miles — his first trip to the United States — to meet his friend. After a trip to Normandy to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, Willems flew to North Carolina to surprise Tingen for his birthday June 13. He brought along a medal and a certificate of appreciation from the mayor of Bastogne.
"Coming over here and presenting the medal and the certificate is not only a kind of present from me to Bill," Willems said, "it's also a matter of saying that Belgians say thank you to the United States for what you did during World War II for our country."
Tingen, who has not been to Europe since the war, is considering a return to Bastogne to visit Willems and his family. He expects the city is beautiful in springtime, not at all like the place it was in December 1944.
"Snow, you wouldn't believe it," Tingen said, describing the Bastogne he remembers from 60 years ago. "Scared, you wouldn't believe.
"I wouldn't want to go through it again. But knowing him, for him (Filip) I would go through it," he said. "They're wonderful people. Although I didn't meet any of them at the time, I realize now what it meant to them."
To view the Web site honoring Bill Tingen, visit http://www.ww2airborne.net/463pfa/
Kim Grizzard can be reached at email@example.com or 329-9578
The text says :
"Not all veterans could make the trip towards Bastogne.
Thanks to civilians the Medal of the 60th Anniversary could have been handed over.
Here Filip Willems giving the Charter of the 60th Anniversary to William Bill Tingen, veteran who fought in Bastogne."
We have a project at work called 'Twinning' which is - simply stated - induced to adjust our way of producing steel with the way our 'sister' in Burns Harbor, Indiana makes 'her' steel and vice versa. The plant in Indiana Harbor is also involved. This means a lot of traveling, meeting, training, etc... for our employees and the Burns Harbor colleagues involved, and I am one of them, lucky me!
So, when 'duty called' and a trip to Indiana was in the making, the idea of staying a bit longer became more concrete and making phone calls and sending mails forth and back started to increase. The trip was first planned for mid June, but due to some maintenance and other issues, the trip was to be postponed to end of July.
I stayed a week in Indiana working at the Burns Harbor plant and I must say this was overwhelming.
I found a nice place to stay, and terrific colleagues who showed me around and showed me all kinds of good food and spots in-between after work. I was in a hotel in Portage IN, the 'Country Suites and Inn', just one hour drive from Chicago.
The idea was, while I was in the States, was that I would try to visit some 'old' friends from the 463rd PFA and the 506th PIR, and also friends in New -York and New Jersey.
Looking back now, the trip was more than a success, from the business part and especially on the personal part.
I had been in seven states, starting with Illinois and Indiana, towards Michigan, then a flight to North Carolina, a quick forth and back to Virginia, ending with another flight to New Jersey and a visit to New -York City. A great deal of new memories to cherish an entire lifetime...
Below are some impressions of the trip.
Visiting FRANK PERCONTE - 101AB - 506PIR - E CO
Later that week I was lucky to pay a visit to the city of Chicago (after work hours!), with a friend and colleague of Indiana Harbor.
A view from the Hancock Tower.
We went upstairs with the fastest elevator in the world : 1500 feet in 40 seconds, 94 floors...
View towards the "Navy Pier" of Chicago
http://www.navypier.com says it all :
Navy Pier is the place where all of Chicagoland and tourists from around the world have come together
since 1995 to enjoy the beauty and the thrills of a day on Lake Michigan.
From rides to restaurants, exhibitions to entertainment, shopping to dining cruises and tour boats
Navy Pier has it all - in a location unlike any other!
View of the City, Ol' Blue Eyes was right :
"This is my kind of town, Chicago is
My kind of town, Chicago is
My kind of people too
People who smile at you !"
Later that week, just before finishing the job at the steel plant, my colleagues took me to a nice little museum in Michigan City, where they have very interesting Historical material. I spent some amount of time in there. You can imagine !
The Great Lakes Museum of Military History is located just 60 miles East of Chicago, IL. (360 Dunes Plaza, W. US Hwy. 20, Michigan City, Indiana 46360 (219) 872-2702 or 1-800-726-5912)
World War I scene
Things we don't find often in Europe :
material related to the War in the Pacific.
Once my job was done in Indiana, I drove a couple of hours towards Howell in Michigan to pay a visit to Don and Twyla Burgett. Don is a well known WW2 veteran of the 101st Airborne Division, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion, Able Company, and also a famous writer. He is the author of the book "Seven Roads to Hell", about the Battle for Bastogne in the Bulge.
I had a very warm welcome at their home. Don showed me the room where he writes his books and a lot of other interesting stuff, including one of his guns. Nice thing is that we practiced some shooting in the garden. Twyla made a delicious dinner and I had a taste of some of the most famous Michigan melon. After that we chatted all evening long. Their dog Charley seemed to like me very quickly. He is a very cute doggie.
Don lives in a very fine quiet place where one can see deer occasionally, wild turkey running around in the garden, many humming birds and squirrels, and firefly in the evening (I had never seen that before).
LEFT: Don's gun
Above: I had the honor to try it myself. Thanks, Don !
Right : a wonderful couple : Don and Twyla in front of their Smoke Tree. Don is holding Charley on his arm.
This is a copy of the 463rd PFA Memorial on the wall of the Bastogne-Hemroulle Chapel
The Caisson Cup of the 463rd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion
was fashioned from the casing of the first shell fired by the 463rd inside Germany in the spring of 1945.
Bill holding the Caisson-Cup.
Bill Tingen, Mr. and Mrs. Stuart Seaton
Me, Bill and Mr. Stuart Seaton
We drove back from Virginia back to North Carolina in the late afternoon and got caught in traffic because of some road work on the 95 close to Enfield. This was not a major problem since we had a lot to talk about, so we didn't feel sorry for the 30 to 45 minutes extra...
Back home we discussed our day with the family and after that, we had a good night sleep.
In the morning it was time to pack my bags again, unfortunately, but Pistol brought me some good fruit and candy bars to eat on my trip to Raleigh-Durham while I was waiting in the airport terminal for my flight to Newark, NJ.
I was only 5 minutes from their home and started to miss them already. It's difficult to imagine maybe or to explain, but the Tingens are such nice people that it is a real honor and a true blessing to be their friend! Every minute spent with them is real joy.
On my way from Winterville to Raleigh I noticed this road sign.
Reminded me of another good friend and veteran of the 463rd....
Another opportunity of this trip was the possibility to meet some good friends again, who live in Weehawken, New Jersey.
Initially, I had to choose whether to fly back to Chicago and so on to Europe, or fly to New York.
After a chat with our good friends, Kevin and Beth, who we celebrated New Year's Eve with in 2006 in Bruges, Belgium, it was clear that they would like me to 'jump in' and pay them a visit. It was a short one, because I arrived late afternoon and I had a plane to catch the next day at JFK Airport, but nevertheless, it was a fine opportunity to spend some time together and have a glimpse of the Big City.
Kevin is also a true history buff and friend of Don Burgett, Mark Bando, Stan and many others.
I met Kevin in Bastogne for the first time and again in Normandy, when he was there with Beth.
To Kevin and Beth, I want to say Thank You again for everything you've done for me that evening and in the morning and day after.
It was nice to see the City and we had a great tasty pizza over there.
That same evening I was lucky to see Steve again, who lives in the City, and who was also in Bruges with his wife Therese in 2006.
Back to early January 2007, just after New Year, while visiting Bastogne together.
From left : Kevin, Reg's wife Anne, Reg, Steve and Beth.
A drive trough the City, here a view on Times Square
New York City and the Hudson River, picture taken from Weehawken, where Kevin and Beth live.
River Hudson that is.
I think Sully landed his plane close to here...
Back to Weehawken at night, view on New York again
The day after this, Kevin and I took a bus to the City and he showed me Bryant Park. Then I had a little walk here and there around Broadway and too soon it was time to catch the bus towards JFK Airport and fly back to Europe....
Well, a bunch of memories to cherish a lifetime!
Thanks to everyone for receiving me at your homes and letting me feel very welcome. I will never ever forget any one of you, my friends!
[Thank you Tess , for editing this page]
At Bill's hotel, the Melba, talking about Bill's friend Clancy LYALL
and our meeting in Normandy.
Babe, resting a bit in the centre of Bastogne,
after the long trip from Normandy.
Everyone is most interested in the explanations of Col. (Ret.) Steve Bowman. On the picture are Mr. Ray Pfeiffer (Tour Organization), Bill, and with the yellow jacket George Luz Jr.
Outside, at the General McAuliffe square,
where we spent some time together until 2:00 AM,
thanks to the fine warm weather...
Mr. Frederic Crucq (photo) also took some nice pictures.
A picture was taken of all Tour members for their magazine.
At the same time a picture was taken for a Belgian newspaper.
"Just had a look at our foxholes..."
Just after the Medal Presentation at the City Hall, Babe is showing the Remembrance Medal.
"Phil and Babe" in the Bois Jacques...
Bill was interviewed by the Luxemburg (province) Television,
here inside the Bastogne Historical Centre.
Buck and Goody at their Medal Presentation.
Forrest in the Peace Woods telling about the tree that has his name, in front of the tree you see a plate with Forrest's name and unit.
Having a break, in the Bastogne centre, with Buck...
...and a break with Goody.
Speaking for Buck and Goody at the City Hall...
A view of Foy seen from the outskirts of the Bois Jacques,
just near the foxholes...
The Bastogne Information Desk :
Forrest is signing his own, full-scale picture,
from the time he was in the Airborne
A last picture in front of the tank on General Mc Auliffe square, before saying good-bye....
Ken pointing at the B Btty positions
Mr. Hesler is a very nice friendly gentleman, who likes to talk. I am more the listening kind of person, not really a talker so the connection is 100% OK. We talk about the article in the WW2 magazine, December issue and I ask if we can visit the Hemroulle area (again, but now with Ken, who was there in 1944). Ken agrees. First I ask him to drop in at the City Hall, I tell him I have something for him over there…
We enter the Veterans Department at the 2nd floor. I see some new faces in the office but I don’t ask for details. Most important is to introduce me to the new personal. They seem to know who I am, no problem to present the Official Medal of the 60th Anniversary to Ken. The replacing Mayor enters the Office. He shakes hand with Ken and me and is glad to see us. “Un grand merci pour votre visite, thanks for coming”.
When we leave we take the car and go to Hemroulle and we take a look at different positions.
“We took the Germans tanks out of combat right here”, Ken says, and “Baker Battery was here, at the Grand Fountain Creek”, and then, a bit further, at the Chapel of Hemroulle : “The Chapel was the first Aid Station”. I say “Yeah, Doug told me he was waiting here for a med-evac on Christmas day”.
The farm at the other side of the street was the 463 PFA CP. I am enjoying every minute of this sightseeing.
Ken in front of Rolle(y) castle, 502nd CP in 1944.
We drive back to Bastogne but take a little turn round Foy and the Bois Jacques. Ken tells me that in January the 463rd has moved in the direction of Foy. That’s after they had a pass to go to Paris for three days… the trip was in the back of a truck without a windshield.
“We kept us warm in sleeping bags”, Ken says… About Foy, Ken remembers the positions of a part of the 506th PIR. “I think it was 3rd Battalion, not sure”. We drive through Bizory. “Hard fighting also here in Bizory”, he remembers. Ken's memory is fantastic.
From right to left : Ken's daughter, Ken's wife,
Marvin's daughter, Ken and Marvin.
Being with 6 people now, there is a whole conversation going on about everything, really pleasant. At a certain moment I say to Marvin “Marvin, do you have 20 minutes for me? I got a surprise”, “Sure, he says”. I take Marvin to the City Hall and we go back to the 2nd floor. “Hi”, I say, “could you also do something for Mr. Marsh please”. Of course they can! Marvin is so happy with this… He planned to be in Bastogne earlier, but he missed the Medal Presentation.
He never thought he would ever see the medal… I am glad I could arrange this for the both of them… Everybody seems happy, I sure am happy, and because of the snow and ice we decide not to wait to long to turn home, so I leave at about 4:30 PM.
Marvin D. Marsh, I Co, 506 PIR
Christmas Play rehearse in the City Hall with children
On September 22nd, 2005, I had the honor to meet Veteran and writer of the famous book "Seven Roads to Hell", mister Donald Burgett, who was a member of A Co of the 506th PIR.
This company and the whole 1st Battalion of the 506th PIR, together with the team of Major Desobry fought tough battles at Noville, north of Bastogne, to stop the advance of the German troops and thus deny them a free entrance into the city.
In Don's book one can learn in detail what it must have been to fight at Bastogne end of 1944, early 1945.
I can absolutely recommend this book.
Donald was accompanied by another famous writer, mister Mark Bando, who wrote several books about the 101st Airborne Division. Mark has also a extraordinary website.
Don Burgett in front of a German tank at Houffalize.
He had to run very quickly having one of those
on his tail while defending Noville as part of Major Desobry's team.
Don at the Bastogne Mardasson Monument,
just before receiving his Remembrance Medal.
Left is the Alderman Mr. J.C. Cremer,
Don at right, I am translating here.
After the Ceremony : Don and his friends : Brandon, the Alderman, Kevin, Mark, Don himself, Anne, Stan, Reg (Lennon) en Phil (Fiwi)
Our very friendly visit to the Military Base,
home of the 1st Artillery Regiment,
here at the entrance of the Nuts Cave...
The military gave us a very warm welcome.
THANKS, COLLEAGUES !
Inside the Nuts Cave:
Reg and Mark.
A last trip around Bastogne.
Mark leads us to the
101st Airborne Command Postat Isle-La-Hesse, after it was moved out of the city
(> December 26th, 1944)
Mark has an exceptional knowledge
A last picture before saying thanks to Don,
and returning home.
Until early 2007 the City of Bastogne, Belgium, conducted an OFFICIAL Medal Presentation at the City Hall of BASTOGNE, for any WWII veteran and accompanying group of friends and family.
The City is always willing to receive any visiting veterans and families in an official and appropriate way.
Please contact the City at http://www.bastogne.be or contact me to help you to connect with the right service/person.
In September 2005, a medal was conducted to :
- Donald 'Don' BURGETT (506 PI/A Co).
This was witnessed by his friend Mark Bando, writer of several Airborne Books.
Don also has written several famous books, the one about his history at Bastogne is 'Seven Roads to Hell'.
In December 2004, medals were conducted to :
- Ken HESLER (463 PFA/D Btty)
- Marvin D. MARSH (506 PI/I Co)
In September 2004, medals were conducted to several veterans :
- William 'Wild Bill' GUARNERE (506 PI/E Co)
- Edward 'Babe' HEFFRON (506 PI/E Co)
- Forrest 'Goody' GUTH (506 PI/E Co)
- Amos 'Buck' TAYLOR (506 PI/E Co)
In June 2004, medals were conducted to :
- Clarence 'Clancy' Lyall (506 PI/E Co), I brought the Medal to Normandy where we met.
- William 'Bill' Tingen (463 PFA/B Btty), I brought the medal to Greenville, NC.
Whenever possible I try to attend at these Medal Presentations, and then I sometimes speech.
Here beneath the words I spoke when Bill and Babe were in Bastogne on September 16th, 2004.
Mr. Guarnere and Mr. Heffron, dear Veterans, dear family members and friends, dear tour members and organizers, fellow Americans; dear City Council, ladies and gentlemen: It is a high honor for me to speak to our American liberators and the American people here at Bastogne today.
Although my expressions of gratitude towards you are never-ending, I will try to keep it short. Most of the time I leave the speeches to politicians or managers which I am not…
Since I was a 10 year old kid I had two big wishes: to be in the military and to shake hands with at least one of my liberators. My first wish became reality at 16. I enlisted for the Non-Commissioned Officers School and studied there for three years, and at 19, I became a tank commander.
My second wish came true just recently in 2004 when I had the honor to shake hands with your friend, Clancy Lyall, in Normandy on June the 5th, close to Ste Marie du Mont while watching a parachute jump out the well known C47 Skytrain, with troopers in the original M1942 jumpsuits.
The week after that, I flew to Greenville in North Carolina where I shook hands with Bill Tingen on his 80th birthday. Bill was a member of the 463rd Parachute Field Artillery, 101st Airborne Division, here in Bastogne in 1944.
And now I have the privilege of meeting you here, Bill and Babe, with accompanying veterans and all your relatives and friends. I am really blessed.
The reason I have tried to organize this event today with the City Council is that we want each of you to understand, that you will be honored forever and always by the nation you freed. Generations to come must know what happened here and we can only do so by keeping the memory alive and by educating them that freedom did not come automatically, but was restored by the efforts and sacrifices of hundreds of thousands of patriots and soldiers during World War II.
To Bill and Babe, to the entire 506th Parachute Infantry, to the whole 101st Airborne Division, to all American liberators, to all Allied troops and patriots in World War 2 : THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for liberating our country and defeating the enemy !
We will always honor all the liberators who fought here in the noblest of causes, and I am sure America would do it again for us, any day.
If you allow me I would like now to read a part of Laurence Binyon's poem “For the Fallen”, used as the Canadian Act of Remembrance. It seemed appropriate to read these words now in memory of all fallen comrades :
They shall not grow old, as we who are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
Thank you and may God bless you!
FILIP WILLEMS, BASTOGNE, BELGIUM, SEPTEMBER 16TH 2004.
On September 15th and 16th, 2006, we had the tremendous honor to receive our good friends William 'Wild Bill' Guarnere and Edward 'Babe' Heffron again.
I was informed early 2006 about their itinerary and their stay at Bastogne, which made it possible to think about an appropriate welcome. I immediately contacted Reg to participate in the project, and a bit later we asked Roby and Dominique to join our team. Brainstorming about what to do for them whilst here in Belgium brought many ideas and proposals on the table, some were good, other were excellent, but none at all were inaccurate.
This was the team: from left to right Filip, Reg, Erik, Roby, Dominique
So far for the idea's, then came the time to make some contacts and decisions. At the start we were putting out our feelers to see and hear what WW2Tour leaders Cristy and Ray would find interesting, and what could fit or not fit into their schedule.
There was of course a lot of e-mailing, and a lot of phone calls were made, but little by little the whole operation got into its final shape. Change of plans were little, and what changed became even better. One example is a proposal made by Reg. He suggested to have some F16 fighter planes doing a 'missing man' formation.
We never thought, or maybe I should be honest : I didn't think it would ever be approved. However, Reg's friend Erik came with a counter proposal : a flight with the vets in an Agusta A109 chopper. Wow, not bad, we thought. Only problem : there was a lot of work to do : an official request had to be made, thus a very very detailed file with all needed information about the vets, the reason for the flight, etcetera. Reg did a fabulous job here with help from Erik, Reg made the file all by himself and sent it to the right bureau at the DOD for approval, and Erik did the follow-up after that.
Then, we could only wait, until that special phone call came, it was Reg : "We got a YES!" Unbelievable, wow, that was fantastic news.
Ray and Cristy and the other members of our team were speechless and happy at the same time, it sounded like a fairy tale.
Other contacts had already been made to help in organizing this marvelous event, for instance : with Dominique, to help us with the visit to the Nuts Cave inside the Military Base plus granting access, also to the Heli Port for the flight with the A109. He also helped us providing the Mortars for the 21 gun salute we were to perform (thanks to his colleagues of the 285th FA Obsn Bn Reenacting Group), he scheduled the whole itinerary - from the Base to the Monument for the Ceremony, and the trip to the Mardasson after that. He also made contacts with the ABC of Bastogne asking to provide ancient military vehicles for a ride to the monument with Bill and Babe, and he made contacts with the 'Duty First' who were willing to deliver an Honor Guard
A bit further in town was Roby, he was organizing things with the City Administration and the Local Police Forces. That way we would get Security and most important : sound ! Makes life more comfortable when one has a microphone and of course a CD player for the Taps and National Anthems... Roby was also very friendly in placing the order for a wreath that Reg and I were going to buy. Finally I wrote a letter to the Mayor to invite him to the Ceremony.
Later in August I went to Bastogne and had a final meeting with Dominique and Roby at the Base, I was introduced to and thanked the EXO of the 1st Artillery Regiment for all they did for us.
Everything OK, we were on schedule. OK !
These were our partners in the event :
We also would like to thank:
The final itinerary looked like this
On Friday :
- meeting Bill & Babe, Ray & Cristy plus Sue, family and Tour Members at the 4th AD Monument in Chaumont,
- keeping them company whilst making a stop in Assenois at the 'Fortin Devèze', where Lt Boggess broke trough the encirclement on December 26th, 1944,
- picking up our wreath,
- checking in at the hotels,
- a last meeting with Ray and Cristy
- and a meal and a drink (...) with our friends in town.
On Saturday :
- at the Base : visit to the Nuts Cave and the Heli flight over the former battlefield,
- a ride in ancient vehicles for our 2 friends from the Base to the Monument, through Luzery and Foy,
- Ceremony at the Easy Co Monument,
- a ride to the Mardasson Monument, time to take pictures and sign books,
- back to the town center for a sandwich
- end of the 'Rendezvous', Tour continues in direction of Holland.
2 maps made by Dominique showing the itinerary :
- Parking bus
- Honor Guard 'Duty First'
- Personal vehicles Honor Guard
- Parking WW2 vehicles ABC
yellow : itinerary towards E Co Monument
blue : itinerary towards the Mardasson Monument
We meet up with our friends in front of the 4th Armored Division Monument.
The Monument + tree
Our heroes and the visitors listening to the explanations
Babe is glad to see me again
View of the bus and the tree behind the Monument
We make a stop at what is called 'Le fortin Devèze', a kind of pillbox named after the Secretary of War in the 30's. At this spot Lt Boggess made contact with the 326th Engineers of the 101st Airborne, on 26th December 1944, thus breaking the encirclement.
Babe pointing to the Remembrance Plate on the pillbox
Ray Pfeiffer (WW2Tours) showing us pictures
and drawings of that timeframe
Ray next to the pillbox
The 'Cobra King' crew -- 1st Lt. Charles Boggess, Cpl. Milton Dickerman and Pvts. James G. Murphy, Hubert S. Smith and Harold Hafner -- pose for a celebratory photo in the vicinity of Bastogne, Belgium shortly after the tankers led the armor and infantry column that liberated the city in December 1944. (Photo Credit: U.S. ARMY PHOTO)
First we headed to the shop to collect our wreath for the next day. Then we checked in at our hotels and we had a meeting with Ray and Cristy to make a last update, and then off to McAuliffe Square to fill the bellies...
Bjorn Granvang, came all the way from Norway to salute his heroes. We had quite a few laughs seeing him passing the terrace not daring to approach Bill and Babe, for about 7-8 times, then grabbing all his courage together, coming in and introducing himself. Nice fellow !
Some 'wild bunch': Bill, Reg, Babe, Filip and Frederic.
After a night with not much sleep, worrying over what would come, asking myself if I hadn't forgotten anything, how would the weather be, etc., I woke up and had breakfast. At 10:00 AM we entered the Base and visited the Nuts Cave and helped our friends to get onto the helicopter for their flight. Everything was perfect, the weather couldn't have been better.
On the bus towards the Base
Meeting an 'old' friend, Brandon, from Texas.
(I guess you already noticed that...by the hat!)
Babe having a ball whilst driving him to the LZ.
Fasten seatbelts please
Everybody is comfortable ?
Ready to go Airborne, first time above Bastogne !
I hear you, loud and clear !
Almost ready !
A109's take-off !
View from the inside...
With the A109 crew. Thanks for the flight !!
Visit to the NUTS CAVE in the Base.
On our way to the Ceremony
THE CEREMONY AT THE EASY CO MONUMENT consisted in
The HONOR GUARD 'Duty First'
Leading the Ceremony
My welcome word:
Mr. Guarnere and Mr. Heffron, dear Veterans, dear family members and friends, Monsieur le Député Bourgmèstre, dear Tour Members and Tour Organizers, fellow Americans; ladies and gentlemen, mesdames et messieurs : it is a high honor for me to speak to our American liberators and the American people here at Bastogne today, Saturday 16th September 2006.
We stand here on historical ground, in a place engraved forever in our memories for the role it has played in our history against the dark night of evil. We are gathered here today to pay homage, to pay tribute to the soldiers of freedom, to the legendary heroes of Bastogne and the Battle of the Bulge.
We will never forget. We will never forget that hard winter of 1944/45. We will never forget those men who made the ultimate sacrifice to liberate our soil, our native land, our continent from the yolk of Nazi barbarity and its murderous folly. Our hearts are indeed heavy as we behold their courage, their self-sacrifice, their generosity.
And our spirit is indeed uplifted by the absolute ideals of these youngsters who offered up their last breath to save the world. I salute the memory and the sacrifice of all these fighters.
Overcoming their fear, all fears, and by the morality of their struggle and the strength of their ideals, they raised the human conscience onto a higher plane.
Today, we honor Mr. Guarnere and Mr. Heffron,
today, we honor all the veterans of Bastogne and the Battle of the Bulge,
today, we honor all their comrades who never left.
Before starting the ceremony I wish to express my gratitude to everyone who helped in organizing this event :
I want to say THANK YOU to the Mayor of the City, to the Bastogne Administration and local Police Force for their support, I wish to say THANK YOU to the Belgian Military Forces for providing the helicopter flight and granting us access to the Military Base to visit the famous Nuts Cave. A special thanks to Roby Clam, local guide, to the Commander and members of the 1st Artillery Regiment here at Bastogne, and to Reg Jans, to all of you who have helped organize the Ceremony and the Heli flight.
I am so grateful to everyone joining us to make this a successful event : the members of the Honor Guard 'Duty First' whose members have traveled great distance to be here with us today, to the local WW2 reenacters of the association Amicale des Bastognards Collectionneurs, who were so gracious to be here with us with their ancient military vehicles and provide a ride for our 2 heroes and to the 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion Reenactors, for providing us with a mortar and performing the 21 gun salute during the Ceremony. Last but not least I wish to thank Ray and Cristy Pfeiffer for allowing us to perform this event.
We will now start the Ceremony with Reg who wants to say a few words.
This was Reg's speech :
To all gathered here at the monument for Easy-Company:
I shall try to keep this short because the last time I spoke here the veterans started to call for air support and mortar fire. One of them even yelled that my speech was more lethal than an 88 mm Howitzer! Well it wasn’t that bad… ha-ha!
I’d like to tell a little story.
There once was a person I really admired. I say, “was” because he passed away about 10 years ago.
I was only a boy, and every evening he told me bedtime stories; stories about fairies, knights, goblins, mothers-in-law, and dragons.
When I was 15 years old he suddenly began telling different kinds of stories, stories about teenagers signing in for duty, and how they were trained. About youngsters who fought for our freedom, about heroism, and about people like you and me who went into combat to liberate a continent they’d never been to or sometimes never heard of.
These weren’t fairytales anymore. These were actual stories that occurred 62 years ago.
I don’t know why but his words touched me so deeply, they went right into my heart and that’s where they still remain. He always ended the same way by saying, “Sweet dreams Reggie!” I always replied, “Thank you, Grandpa!”
All the great men who fought during the war, every soldier and every citizen in every city and on every battlefield were brave and did what they were supposed to do; what they had to do.
Now it’s time for all of us to play our part and do what we are supposed to do, by keeping the memories alive, and teaching our children, grandchildren and great grand children about what happened over six decades ago. They need to know. They deserve to know. We owe them. Now it’s up to all of us to pass on our stories, our memories and our knowledge to each successive generation.
WE SHALL NOT WITHDRAW!
Cristy and Ray, I truly admire your work, because what both of you are doing is so much more than just making a living. It’s a passion and it comes from the heart. Your contribution to keep the memories alive takes my breath away. I have one word for that; RESPECT.
I would like to thank all of you for coming here and for caring.
To end this speech; what, no air support yet?
To end this speech I say,
Thank you, Babe
Thank you, Bill
Thank you, Grandpa
God bless all of you,
While Reg was doing his speech the pilots came to salute with the helicopter... Air support for Bill and Babe ?
the Alderman - Mr. J.C. Cremer speeches...
... as well as Cristy
Laying of the wreaths...
Honor Guard saluting...
21 GUN SALUTE, TAPS and NATIONAL ANTHEMS...
End of the Ceremony - Taking a closer look at the E Co Monument
After the Ceremony we drove to the Mardasson, so the Tour Members could take a picture with the ancient vehicles or Honor Guard, and they had then also an opportunity to have a picture with their heroes.
With 'Duty First'
With the troopers of the ANPCV -
Luxemburg Province Section.
The story ends for us in the town center. A last chat and a lot of goodbyes...
We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when, but I know we'll meet again some sunny day !
Good friends, thus quite an honor...
Reg with Robert "Bob" Saxvik,
brother of Oscar Saxvik - G/506 !
Mission accomplished, more than a success.
Reg, Erik and Filip with
John "Jack" Cianfrani, son of Oscar Cianfrani - 508 PIR, 82nd Airborne