Monday, March 25, 2013

WWII history weekend

(Mardasson Memorial)
Along with the walk in the steps of the 82nd Airborne Division we also visited several sites of WWII history that weekend.  One such site was in Bastogne, Belgium.  Bastogne was critical to the success of the American forces in the Battle of the Bulge and it was here that the 101st division (famous in the Band of Brothers series) held off the advances of the German Army until relieved by General Patton.  There is a memorial set up in Bastogne (Mardasson Memorial) in honor the 76,890 American soldiers who were hurt or killed during the Battle of the Bulge. 

 (Sherman Tank "Thunderbolt" at the Mardasson Memorial)

We also found a memorial in honor of the 101st Airborne and more specifically "E" company. 

We then visited the forest on the outskirts of Foy where "E" company was camped and withstood the bombings of the German forces.  Many foxholes that were dug during the war are still present today and we heard if you take a metal detector you can even find some shrapnel left over. . . . we did not have a metal detector however, so Clayton took to digging with his hands . . hehe. . . the only bit of metal we were able to find was a can of Red Bull.

 (trees blow apart at Foy. . . not sure how much was original and how much was created for tourists) 

 (foxhole in the forest outside of Foy)
(our trek into the forest . . . you can tell we weren't the only ones to visit the site)
(another large foxhole we found)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

In the footsteps of the 82nd Airborne Division

On February 23rd Clayton and I decided to undertake a 13.6 mile walk through snow, mud, ice and treacherous terrain in retracing the steps of the 82nd Airborne during the Battle of the Bulge (more specifically the 505th parachute infantry regiment and the 551st parachute infantry battalion). Boy, what an experience it was!! The path we took lead us through the villages of Basse-Bodeux, Fosse, Grand-Halleux, Rochelinval, Dairomont and Reharmont. With nothing more than a few snacks packed in a backpack and a cup of vegetable soup for lunch, we proceeded to cover the same ground that these parachute infantries covered in a span of 4 days . . . only we did it in a total of 6 hours (of course we were not fighting for our lives at the time).

One of the highlights of the trip was a remembrance ceremony that took place in Fosse where we were able to meet two veterans of the 505th parachute infantry regiment who fought there.

The battle in Rochelinval cost the 551st more than half of its remaining men as the 551st were ordered to attack the village over open ground ant without artillery support. After this battle the 551st was absorbed into the 82nd Airborne Division as out of the initial strength of 800 officers and enlisted only 110 were left. The battalion was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation in 2001 recognizing its accomplishment. According to paratrooper Don Garrigues their first days in the Battle of the Bulge were miserable: "no sleep, frozen feet, trench foot, knee deep snot, cold food and hallucinations." The frozen feet and knee deep snow we were first hand witness to.


Arriving back to the mini we were thoroughly soaked, freezing, exhausted and convinced that we did not wish to experience any more "steps" in anyone’s division.


(Special thank you to my co-worker Ann Shields for posting the announcement at work and for the many handouts/books she gave me on the subject.  You Rock!!)